The human body comes in all different shapes and sizes. Now, Barbie will too. In addition to the original doll, there will also be tall, petite and curvy varieties. But does Barbie really have a supreme effect on children, or body image? Children’s toys are made to either teach children about the adult life (toy kitchens, cars, baby dolls) or they are made to fulfil the fantasies of the child (broomsticks, wings, magic wands). Through playing with these toys children learn about the world, the ideals and what they should want. Where does Barbie fit into these categories? I wholeheartedly believe that Mattel fits into the second category, producing Barbie and Ken to be the ideal, the goal.
Barbie’s are the starting point for body issues. Being sold as every girl’s role model in every aspect – her jobs, her boyfriend, her car and most importantly her looks. From an early age there is a pressure to conform to the gender norms – and this puts pressure on what a child should look like. Mattel is bringing out these new range of realistic Barbie’s so there will be “a better reflection of what girls see in the world around them”.
You see, when originally playing with Barbie the pressure of body image isn’t as easily forced. It is a silent and coercive pressure that takes a while to fully recognise. A child knows that Barbie’s stereotypical look is desired and appreciated, and it isn’t for a while that the sinking sensation of ‘If only I looked like that’ will come. If a child is still playing with dolls then aren’t they too young to be concerned about body image? Tell that to Primark, who in 2010 sold padded bikinis for children under 12, and the fact that you can find high heels for children in most clothing shops. Don’t even get me started on sexualised Halloween costumes that have now been passed onto the pre-pubescent members of our society. The pressure of being conventionally attractive will always be there no matter what the age. It is just when we notice how big businesses are being so viciously obvious with it.
The original Barbie was just the beginning of a downhill battle of accepting oneself. Bringing out these new diverse range of Barbie’s will be revolutionary, it is impossible to look like the original Barbie – but that doesn’t mean you aren’t beautiful. If it is taught that the shorter, the fatter, the darker, the taller Barbie are still desirable – it means you are too.
Throughout the history of Barbie, we celebrated her achievements of becoming a doctor, a vet, a race car driver. Such empowering jobs – making a better role model for children. Now it is time to celebrate Barbie in a size 16, or shorter, or black, or Asian. A child should have a role model in any job, and of any appearance. A child should be able to relate to their doll, and to realise there are no ‘bad’ looks, just different ways to look. This birth of the new Barbie will be revolutionary in the long run, it will lead to a day when you can be proud of being a size 6 or a size 20. Be them short or tall. To have their natural hair out or to have it straight. Mattel has taken a chance, and these new Barbie’s are diverse – still very similar and stereotypically attractive in their face. However, this is a revolution – a step in the right direction. I’m proud of Mattel and their new range of Barbie’s, I’m proud of their support for diversity. Now it’s just time for other companies to follow suit, to support diversity.