If you were a child growing up in the 80’s or 90’s, there’s a chance that Barbie dolls were a staple in your playtime activities. Personally, I always had an affinity for Barbie, especially the black ones with “poofy” hair to which I felt I could relate because I was black with curly “poofy” hair. I remember driving my dolls around in their Barbie car back around the house, picking up other dolls along the way. I remember playing with my neighbors Barbie Dream house, which was the most magical thing I could ever imagine. Barbie and I have some fond memories, and it was only until I got older that I realized how problematic she was.
There has been much debate, over the years, about Barbie’s influence over young girls and the correlation between girls who play with/potentially idolize Barbie and girls with low self-esteem and eating disorders. I think many of us have probably seen the articles and studies that show if that Barbie were a real person, her proportions would be so out of alignment that she wouldn’t be able to stand up and would probably spend most of her life in the hospital. Studies have also shown that girls who view Barbie dolls versus girls who view more “average-sized” dolls have lower self-esteem and poor body image. In my own experience growing up, I never looked at Barbie and said, “Oh that’s the type of body that I want” because I wasn’t necessarily that type of child, but that doesn’t apply to everyone. Plenty of girls idolized and idealized Barbie as the epitome of physical perfection, and some adults have even gone to extensive and expensive lengths to duplicate themselves into a real life Barbie through plastic surgery. I’m not typically one to judge, but I am concerned for those that go through measures to try to become something that literally is not real. She’s a doll.
Okay Gigi so why are you on this Barbie-hate rant? Well if you’ve been keeping up with the news, you may have seen that Barbie recently revamped their company by including Barbies of different shapes, sizes, and shades. (http://www.barbie.com/en-us?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=Barbie_Pure+Brand_Exact_Q4+Dawn&gclid=CLCshKDG_coCFVQ2gQod2MYIcg&dclid=CMWPkqDG_coCFcoKNwodcuINNw) I could not be more excited! A new generation of girls (and boys) are going to grow up seeing representation of themselves in dolls. Obviously Mattel still has a long way to go, as they have not yet included dolls with disabilities, unlike Makies, a British company that manufactured dolls with differences, but it’s a step in the right direction, I believe. Barbie has been around for nearly 60 years, and although the majority of those years have not been very inclusive, it is clear that Barbie’s creators are trying to spruce her up a bit. Society is changing, and change starts with our children. It is important for them to have a clear and positive sense of self. Children crave representation whether they consciously know it or not, and they benefit from seeing themselves in their television shows and toys. There’s still much work to be done in the toy department, but I’m happy to see small improvements such as these.