Anorexia, bulimia, self-harm, self-loathing, materialistic tendencies, encouraging torture- all of these have been blamed on a hunk of plastic marketed as “Barbie.” Played with by generations of young girls, Barbie is now under attack by moms for her “perfect” looks and figure. Barbie may not look like a real person, as she is just a doll, but she can be a good role model for young girls to look up to.
Barbie has been under fire recently for skewing young girl’s expectations for their bodies. Her blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty and tiny measurements that are unattainable for 99% of women have made her the poster doll of anorexia, skewed body image and everything that is wrong with America’s daughters. If Barbie were life sized, she would have the very not-live-sized measurements of 5’9” tall, 39” bust, 18” waist, 33” hips and a size three shoe, according to an article in the Huffington post. With such a large bust, Barbie would be unable to walk upright comfortably and may be forced to crawl or slide elegantly along the ground in her sparkly pink ball gowns. She would also likely not be cursed with menstruation because of her lack of any body fat whatsoever, the article says. Barbie is blamed for her body. Barbie is thin because she exercises and takes care of herself. That is not a reason to despise or hate her. She appears to have some sort of birth defect causing abnormally long limbs, and yet people blame her for her looks. Barbie is bullied and made fun of for her “perfect” body as much as any person is. She is blamed for problems that she does not, intentionally at least, cause. But some girls do decide that Barbie embodies the ideal of beauty, and harm their physical and emotional health to look like her. Girls starve themselves, following weight loss instructions in one of Barbie’s books, stored in the bathroom of one of her first houses, that reads simply “do not eat.”
However, Barbie can enrich and encourage young girl’s dreams as well. She can be thought of as a quality female role model, telling girls they can be anything they want to be. Barbie is a doctor, astronaut, lawyer, engineer, veterinarian and volunteer firefighter who tells young girls to dream big. Although she does appear to spend a large amount of money on material objects, working over twenty full time jobs makes that reasonable. Barbie also never lets gender stereotypes define her. She is an independent woman who doesn’t rely on on-again off-again boyfriend Ken for income, and is always “sold separately” from her male counterpart. All of her possessions; dream house, dream car, dream pool, and dream cruise ship are in her name. Barbie is not the ditzy rich girl, spoiled by her daddy and bf. No career is off limits, and Barbie has crossed the gender line to become a NASCAR driver, pilot, and even President. Now, some may say that this is also setting young girls up for disappointment. The five-year-olds playing with Barbie now will not likely all grow up to be extremely successful and well payed members of society, fighting fires and saving lives with nary a long blond hair out of place. But they are also not likely to live in a plastic pink house, eat plastic food or switch between being a fairy, princess and mermaid in their own series of magical adventure movies. Barbie is always happy and does her best to help the world (she has a Recycling Time accessory pack and fights for world peace), and makes news friends where ever she goes. Little girls can look up to her as much as they can look up to any one of their other dolls.
That is one important thing to remember about Barbie. She isn’t real. Barbie is a doll made of plastic with painted eyes and lips and a head that pops off. She isn’t a real person and no one should make her out to be one. Children realize this. Barbie spends more time with her blond hair in the dirt or matted into a wad as she dives for treasure in the bath tub than intimidating girls with her utter perfection. Barbie is something of a dying breed- a toy that is nothing but a toy. She doesn’t talk back and isn’t only online. In her purest form she is simply a hunk of plastic with a shock of straight blond hair. Girls get to make her what they want her to be, dress her up and play with her and use their imaginations. They can be veterinarians too, or run for President! Maybe Barbie will spend hours drinking tea with Mr. Bear and Mrs. Rabbit, her perfect smile never slipping. Some children have a different take on play. Barbie is often subjected to torture, mostly by brothers or groups of male children. They burn her, tear off her limbs and cut off her carefully conditioned golden locks. Barbie has been cut in half, had her fingers slowly melted and been flung from moving vehicles or from great heights. Perhaps this is sexism at its roots- boys lashing out and trying to knock a successful and beautiful women down out of intimidation and fear. Maybe Barbie is just a martyr for successful females everywhere.
Whatever Barbie is, she is to the individual. She may look different than any other human, but just because she looks different is no reason to take her from the loving arms of young girls. Barbie has a story to share and a lesson to teach. Be anything you want to be, she says. And she means it. Barbie has done everything she can, and all for the little girls who love her. Parents need to realize that this piece of plastic with her blond hair and sparkly attitude and wardrobe is no threat to girls. As long as children have other role models and see real people every day, they will be fine. They must teach girls that, just as no dog looks like Scooby and no train looks like Thomas, no girl looks like Barbie. And that’s just fine.