Barbie's not responsible for girls' body-image issues.
- Elena V., Toca Magazine Guest Writer
Mattel has unveiled a new line of Barbie dolls: The Fashionistas. These dolls come in different skin tones and different hairstyles, but the change everyone is talking about is Barbie’s three new body types: curvy, tall and petite.
While this step might be a step in the right direction, it sure isn’t a big one. These new Barbies still set unrealistic expectations, if girls don’t think about Barbies as unrealistic. Growing up, I knew some of original Barbie’s features were unrealistic. She is so perfect that I knew that only something of plastic could be that perfect — we were made to have flaws. Barbie showed me that no one can be perfect unless you were created in a factory by a flaw-proof machine.
I think they are sending the wrong message and are setting even more unrealistic expectations of the girls today to feel like they must fit in a category, of which there are only four — and if they don’t then they don’t belong. Now any “curvy” girl is going to compare herself to the curvy Barbie, who doesn’t have very realistic proportions either.
My life with Barbie
My Barbie collection was huge. I probably had 20 or more: Four were Ken dolls, three were young girls, one was a baby, one was a teen, and all the rest were the women Barbies. I have one Barbie, from India, who came dressed in beautiful Indian clothes, one who was African-American, two with brown hair and the rest were blonde. I took it upon myself to change them, because I thought having what looked like the same Barbies was boring, I wanted to make them different. I cut some of their hair halfway or all the way off, others I braided and some I even tried to re-do their make up. I thought dolls should be diverse because in my life I saw many different people and my Barbie games mostly reflected my real-life situations.
Barbie was the toy of my generation. All of my friends had her. We can all relate to each other more because of her. She has almost become a movement of our generation. Barbie is a determined woman who goes for her dreams. In my world, she’s been president, a doctor, a musician, a fashion designer and more. She was beautiful and always got what she wanted. She was fierce and I liked that.
I knew nobody would be as perfect as Barbie. I knew Barbie was the only one who could have it all.
Growing up, I did identify with Barbie. When I played with Barbie I made her me and the other characters were people in my life. This gave me the option to redo a situation I did not like how it went. And while she was me when I played with her, I knew I could never be as perfect as her which made me feel okay when I messed up in real life because I knew nobody would be as perfect as Barbie. I knew Barbie was the only one who could have it all.
Barbie isn’t responsible for body image issues
Some girls my age have body image issues, but I do not think Barbie causes these issues. All of the famous women we see on Instagram, in magazines, everywhere who get plastic surgery and wear tons of makeup do. Even though we know that’s what they do, we still think we should look like that naturally.
This is a very big problem because we never truly feel good about our bodies. There’s always something we could do better, or get bigger, we never think we look good enough, or are skinny enough. I used to not care about what people think, but in middle school you start to get more self-conscious and compare yourself to other girls. This is a huge problem in middle school, but I think it’s a natural thing that eventually gets better as girls grow up.
People think if we make Barbie more diverse in size we will be more accepting, but in reality it’s just a front. Mean people will still be mean, and changing Barbie won’t change that. If they really want to make a change, new Barbies should be based on real girls. Not famous people or a set body type, but real girls. I think it would be cool for a girl to send in a picture of herself and the Barbie could be made exactly like her in body dimensions.
Mean people will still be mean, and changing Barbie won’t change that.
What I’ve learned from Barbie
Barbie will forever be in my life. I still have my Barbie dolls and plan on keeping them for my future daughters to play with. She allowed me to go into a perfect world that I created. I owe my creativity in part to her because she helped me to express my ideas, fashion designs, building designs, and other inventions constantly.
When I played with Barbies it was like I had gone into another universe, where I made the rules, I made the jobs, I controlled everything. Through Barbie, I was able to fly to Hawaii, own my own hotel, live in the wilderness, have a family, be a princess. Through Barbie, I became a doctor, a vet, a fashion designer. Through Barbie, I achieved my imaginary dreams, which made me now be more confident that I can achieve these dreams in real life. I saw Barbie more for her abilities than for her looks and this made me a bigger dreamer in the end.
Elena V. is an eighth-grade student in Florida.