I want to start by saying that I love Barbie. I think she’s a great childhood plaything that can really help young girls and boys develop their imagination. In fact, playing with Barbie, Ken, and their friends pushed me in the direction of being a writer because I loved coming up with story lines. I also think it’s great that Mattel wants to diversify but adding more skin tones and shape etc. But despite how much I like Barbie, I don’t like what Barbie has turned into: A political statement. I want to make it clear that I have no problem with the toy itself nor do I have any issue with any women of any size. However, at the risk of having shit thrown at me I’m going to openly admit that I don’t like “curvy” Barbie. Here’s why:
1. Pushing Barbie as a role model. I’ve never understood the insistence to have Barbie be some kind of ideal woman that little girls should strive to be. She’s a piece of plastic. Her value comes from the child’s ability to imaginatively interact with her. She’s NOT a real person and she should NOT be expected to be a role model for girls.
In my entire childhood, I can’t remember once thinking or hearing any girl say “I want to look like Barbie” because our childlike minds understood she was a toy the same way my toy truck and kite were toys. Why are adults having trouble understanding this? Why are they making her out to be more important than she is?
2. The issue goes right back to body image: I know Mattel had a positive agenda. I applaud them for trying but the fact is you can’t create a doll that is supposed to represent body image and then tell kids not to think about body image. I don’t understand why adults are constantly pushing their issues on kids.
Most kids in the age range that Barbie is meant to target (4-10) do not think that seriously about how they look…not unless another real life person makes them self conscious.
I have seen and heard grown adults call little girls chubby or fat. I have heard adults tell kids their skin is too dark, their hair is so course. Adults are usually the ones with magazines of skinny models lying around and following some dangerous diet in order to look like those models. Kids for the most part don’t care. They don’t care until you make them care.
Barbie has inspired me not because of the way she looked but because of all the things you could make her do. She had all sorts of careers that reinforced the message that you can be anything! Her height, bust size, or skin color had nothing to do with her accomplishments. If you wanted your Barbie to be vet by day and bartender by night you could do that. She was meant to help children play pretend.
3. Barbie is far from the first doll to have diversity among its product line. Lammily Dolls have been “more realistic” for a while. So parents can’t exactly complain that there were no positive representations of women. They just didn’t look around evidently.
4. Little girls don’t need a doll to help them feel beautiful. They need their parents for that. Healthy body talks needs to come from parents not companies that manufacture toys. It’s up to parents to promote self esteem and confidence in their kids.
Let’s not pretend Barbie is going to save the world just because she has hips. Because after all, she is just pretend.