The infamous doll that has sparked imaginations for more than 50 years has been criticized for being the tall, slender and appearance-oriented since 1959. Mattel and Barbie have been condemned for setting unrealistic standards of beauty and body image and hyper-sexualizing women’s bodies all while sending these messages through young girls about body image.
Alas, never fear! Mattel recently announced its release of a more diverse Barbie that we all grew up familiar with. This new Barbie evolution includes four body types, seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles.
Now that Barbie claims for every child to be able to find “its own Barbie,” I took it upon myself to ask several girls across the UWA campus their thoughts on the new body types.
“I like it, they are just trying to make a point that a size zero isn’t the only size that appeals to every girl who is playing with their dolls,” Laura Mancin, a senior cross-country runner said.
According to Mattel, this movement has been hailed as a rebuke to the impossible beauty standards that the original Barbie depicts.
“I’m a little indifferent about the new Barbie doll body types,” said Brianna Champion, a sister of ASA sorority. “In a way, I like them because it creates more of a sense of body positivity, but it doesn’t encompass every body type. The tall one is only tall and skinny; the short one is only short and bigger. It’s not exactly realistic.”
Michelle Chidoni from Mattel told Glamour that the Barbie doll was “never designed to replicate the female body,” but instead was intended for a “vehicle to play with.”
However, the original intention of Barbie seems to have been pushed to the side as Mattel hopes to better connect with its target market. According to Mattel, this movement is being described as “radical.” The company is aiming to expand the narrow standards of what a beautiful body looks like.
Dr. Nicole Farris, a Sociology professor and director of The Center for the Study of Gender and Social Sciences worries that this movement may be too little too late.
“It’s really good that Mattel is finally rolling out the variation in body type and skin color among the Barbies,” Farris said. “I mean Barbie has been around since 1959, my opinion is more like ‘uh, finally,’ Mattel should not get a pat on the back for finally doing what is right.”
This movement is great. I agree with Farris in the sense that this movement should have taken place ages ago, though.
What I truly fear now is that America will once again find the youth looking at body image as a mechanism for defining beauty. This movement is only placing more importance on body types.
For example, Susie and Sally play with their Barbies and Susie finds “her Barbie” to be the tall and slender while Sally finds hers in the curvy Barbie.
What happens when Sally wants to borrow Susie’s Barbie clothes and they do not fit her Barbie?
What happens when Sally and Susie’s other friend, Samantha never finds “her Barbie” that fits the four different body types?
Samantha is left wondering what is wrong with her body and why she can’t find a doll to fit her body type. Sally is left wondering why her curvy Barbie can’t wear what the tall and slender Barbie can.
The solution to this is not one that Barbie or Mattel can produce. The solution comes from our media and image-obsessed culture. Our society is responsible for the preoccupation of our bodies, and Barbie is just a product of that notion.
Mattel and Barbie can make as many changes to their dolls, but until society’s body-image obsession is fixed, the problem with Barbie’s body types will still stand.