Tag: The New Barbie

Body Image Barbie: Doing More Harm than Good? by Keira C. Wingert

It seems like the only times I hear about Barbie anymore are in conversations about her body.

We’ve all heard the statistics that claim that Barbie, if she were a real person, would be six feet tall, weigh 100 pounds, and have the hips of a prepubescent boy (Olson, par. 1). Often, people will use these statistics against the Barbie brand as a way of blaming the doll for the prevalence of unhealthy body consciousness among girls and young women. In fact, competitors have been introduced to the market to address this issue, such as the Lammily doll, a Barbie rival proportionate to the body of an average 19-year-old woman. When the concept for the doll was introduced in 2014, it garnered the attention of many adult women, who loved the idea of an average-looking doll whose accessories include acne, scars, and cellulite (yes, really!).barbieombre

In January of this year, perhaps as a response to the Lammily doll’s release and the subsequent backlash against the Barbie brand, Mattel released a new line of Barbies that made headlines and sparked a huge conversation among the doll’s fans amd critics alike. This new line of Barbies features dolls with petite, curvy, and tall bodies—a revolutionary move for a brand that has featured only one (inhuman) body type since its conception in 1959 (Pearson & Mullins, 230).

One might think that the introduction of this line of dolls would be the be-all and end-all of conversations over Barbie’s body, but in reality, it may do more harm than good. The new curvy Barbie doll doesn’t fit into the clothes of the petite, tall, and classic Barbie dolls, which begs the question:  when two little girls are playing with their dolls together, what will bring more awareness to the doll’s body type than the realization that a curvy Barbie doll cannot wear the same clothes as a petite one?


Perhaps by giving Barbie three new looks, we could be diminishing children’s self-confidence rather than boosting it. In constantly turning the conversation to Barbie’s body rather than the wealth of careers, friends, and achievements her character seems to have, we are, in turn, sending the message to young girls that a woman’s body is more important than her personality or accomplishments. According to unofficial Barbie “biographer” M.G. Lord, Barbie is a toy “designed by women for women to teach women what—for better or worse—is expected of them by society” (Lord, 8). (Interestingly enough, artist Nickolay Lamm, a man, created the Lammily doll). Barbie can be a doctor, an artist, a surfer, a teacher, a babysitter, and more, and yet all anyone seems to care about is how she looks. In only focusing on her body, we are making it clear to little girls what is expected of them by society.

This is not to say that representing body diversity is unimportant or harmful, but why should we needlessly make children more frustratingly aware of the differences between women’s bodies when they themselves are hardly aware of their own bodies? Barbie isn’t the one telling girls to focus on their bodies from a young age; we are. If we want that to change, we have to stop turning the conversation toward Barbie’s measurements and instead focus on how Barbie can inspire girls to strive for something other than aesthetic beauty.


Lord, M.G. Forever Barbie:  The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. New York:  Morrow, 1994. Print.

Olsen, Samantha. “Why Are Barbie’s Body Measurements So Unrealistic? Little Girls Aren’t Buying It.” Medical Daily. IBT Media Inc., 31 Dec. 2014. 23 Mar. 2016.

Pearson, Marlys, and Paul R. Mullins. “Domesticating Barbie:  An Archaeology of Barbie Material Culture and Domestic Ideology.” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 3.4 (1999): p. 225-259. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

Shriver, Lionel. “Sorry Lammily, Your Dumpy Looks Won’t Fool Many Little Girls.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 21 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

Does the Barbie of the Past Represent the Barbie of Today? by William Kowalik

Thinking about Barbie for most people would conjure up the image of a ridiculously slender and un-proportional fashionable doll that lives in a pink mansion, drives a pink car and can do anything! Barbie as a children’s toy for girls (and boys) could be seen as a heroic inspirational figure that can inspire kids to do whatever they set their minds to. President Barbie? You can be President too! Perhaps Barbie…if she were real would be the most multitalented person, trying her hand at every career imaginable…or simply indecisive. Maybe she just hasn’t found the right one yet. That’s up for you to decide.

Barbie started off as a fashionable, independent career woman. Her relationship with domesticity has fluctuated with the changing tastes of the times over her fifty-seven year life (Pearson and Mullins 229). Although earlier on “Handler turned down a vacuum company’s offer to make a Barbie sized vacuum because Barbie didn’t do what Charlotte Johnson termed ‘rough housework’” (Lord 10). As the tumultuous Sixties pushed forward, the image of Barbie as an independent career woman changed to become more like Barbie the housewife. Ken, her boyfriend/husband/male-counterpart arrived on the scene at this time. M.G. Lord says of the original Barbie, “Barbie taught girls what was expected of women, and women in the fifties would have been a failure without a male consort” (Lord 11). By the late 1960’s Barbie began to return to work outside the home. In 1973, Barbie as a career woman returned, although quite clearly subservient to make coworkers and bosses, as evidenced by “Barbie the Stewardess” and “Ken the Pilot” (Pearson and Mullins 249).

Could one argue that the Barbie “brand” of today is so different today than when she was created? While I’m sure a convincing argument in favor of that could be made, Barbie in 1959 and Barbie in 2016 present a very similar idea, young women can do what they want with their lives and proudly and confidently do so. Putting aside the problematic nature of body image that Barbie has traditionally presented, it seems that she is a good role model, encouraging positive play that stimulates imagination and possibilities. The Barbie website appropriately sums up this vision well: “With more than 150 careers on her resume– from registered nurse to rock star, veterinarian to aerobics instructor, pilot to police officer– Barbie continues to take on aspirational and culturally relevant roles while also serving as a role model and agent of change for girls. She first broke the “plastic ceiling” in the 1960s when, as an astronaut, she went to the moon… four years before Neil Armstrong. In the 1980s she took to the boardroom as “Day to Night” CEO Barbie, just as women began to break into the C-suite. And in the 1990s, she ran for President, before any female candidate ever made it onto the presidential ballot” (“Barbie Careers”). Although the need for pushing this might seem irrelevant today when so many women do work, it is the image of “What’s Cookin? And “Leisure Hours” Barbie that seems irrelevant (Pearson and Mullins 238). Particularly in STEM fields, men still greatly outnumber women. This still leaves the opportunity for Barbie to continue to be a role model. “”Well before 1963, when Betty Friedan defined the ‘problem that has no name,’ a significant number of women were defying the Feminine Mystique and forging a place for themselves in the male-dominated workforce. Barbie was created in the image of these women…Consequently, the doll had revolutionary from the outset by even tacitly acknowledging women’s and power in a wide range of settings” (Pearson and Mullins 256).

Barbie has always been a sign of the times. Her careers, matched outfits, and lifestyle have all been representative of the time in which they were created. “Barbie is a direct reflection of the cultural impulses that formed us” (Lord 17). Barbie today might have an iPhone. A few of the dolls set to be released this spring, show the dolls in Yoga poses, it appears they’re health conscious. Another significant different is the introduction of different sizes: “Original”, “Tall”, “Petite”, and “Curvy”—for the first time making Barbie proportions at least somewhat like real women (“Barbie”). So can you say that the Barbie of the past represents the Barbie of today? Or is the Barbie of today something completely different. I’d say that while yes they have differences, but Barbie is still Barbie. That hasn’t changed. From her first progressive career choices in the 60’s, she’s always led the way for young girls to follow their dreams especially with the current branding “You Can Be Anything”.

Lord, M. G. Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. New York: William Morrow, (2004) Print.

Peason, Marlys, and Paul Mullins. “Domesticating Barbie: An Archaeology of Barbie Material Culture and Domestic Ideology.” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 3.4 (1999): 225-59. Print.