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Is it Time for a New, ‘Normal’ Barbie?

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This evening, as a picked up one of Bubble’s discarded Barbie dolls that had been contorted into a shape that would make the eyes of even an acrobat of Spiegletent-calibre water, I thought back to an image that I had seen early in the day on Facebook.

The debate over the disproportionate body dimensions of arguably the world’s most famous doll, Barbie, has taken a new twist. Artist Nickolay Lamm has produced images of Barbie based on the measurements of an average 19 year old woman in America.

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So why the big hoo-haa?

Barbie, who celebrated her 50th birthday in 2009, is, it seems, a woman of many talents, holding a pilots license, (flying commercially no-less ,as well as a stint as a flight attendant), and has been a Doctor, Astronaut and Nascar driver in her time. Mattel’s intention, is presumably to show young girl’s that woman can take a variety of roles in life (and let’s be honest, she would need to in order to keep up the repayments on the Mansion, pink Corvette convertible, jeeps and airplanes etc that she owns!)

So, if they are so keen to promote healthy role models for women, why is Barbie still being produced with such an unrealistic body frame, and if our children do consider her a role model, will they try to emulate her body as well as her wide and varied career options?

I’m not sure, but it seems that many research hours have gone into thinking about this very issue.

For example, according to research by University Central Hospital Helsinki, Finland, Barbie would lack the 17-22% body fat required for a woman to menstruate.

In an infograhic produced by Rehab, (which deals with the anorexia epidemic amongst even very young girls) it is clear just how unrealistic the Barbie ‘ideal’ is:

  • Her 16 inch waist, which is smaller than her head (which by the way she wouldn’t be able to actually hold up with that long think neck of hers if it were real) would only have room for half a liver and 1 inch of intestines.
  • Those never-ending legs of hers (50% longer than her arms) are 30% longer than the average US woman’s, and those itsy-bitsy sixe 3 feet would be so inadequate at carrying her 5ft 9″ frame that she would have to walk on all fours!
  • You can see the full infographic here

I’ll admit, as I child, I was not a lover of Barbie or any other doll for that matter. It just wasn’t my thing, and I have very clear recollections of girlfriends coming over to play at my house, and becoming bored with my 9 year old wit and charisma (and my Commodore 64 that took an hour to load a bloody game on that clucky cassette thing) and disappearing into my sisters room next door to play Barbie’s with her!

The only truly memorable time I can remember ever handling a Barbie with any kind of enthusiasm was after coming home form the schoolyard at the age of 9 ,after hearing for the first time was sex was. (Or a very immature recount of what it was at least). It is a sad but true fact that I proceeded to tell my sister to imagine that one of the Barbie’s was a boy and then rubbed their naked plastic torsos together, but in my defence, we had no brother’s so to my knowledge, the whole thing could have been anatomically correct. It is also true that said sister then blackmailed me for nigh-on 3 years, threatening “I’ll tell Mum you told me what sex is,” if I didn’t meet her demands to take her with me everywhere, and share my lollies too.

So although I don’t have first hand knowledge of having a ‘desire to want to be Barbie’ (if that is what some girls may have), I am the mother of a 3 year old that is a bit of a fan. Does she look at Barbie’s body and want to be like her? At her age, I seriously don’t think that it would even enter her head. Could she emulate her more as she grows older? I would hope that I can provide her with a healthy view of women’s abilities (not just thier appearance), and I try hard to show a healthy pride in my own body in front of all of my children…but honestly, how can I say whether it will, one way or another.

So…I’d like to err on the side of caution. Sure, I agree, she is just a doll but in the words of artist Lamm:

“If there’s even a small chance of Barbie in its present form negatively influencing girls, and if Barbie looks good as an average-sized woman in America, what’s stopping Mattel from making one?”

What are your thoughts on Lamm’s ‘normal’ Barbie? Would you like to see Barbie with more l healthy, realistic body dimensions or does everyone need to lighten up?



Jolene enjoys writing, sharing and connecting with other like-minded women online – it also gives her the perfect excuse to ignore Mount-Washmore until it threatens to bury her family in an avalanche of Skylander T-shirts and Frozen Pyjama pants. (No one ever knows where the matching top is!) Likes: Reading, cooking, sketching, dancing (preferably with a Sav Blanc in one hand), social media, and sitting down on a toilet seat that one of her children hasn’t dripped, splashed or sprayed on. Dislikes: Writing pretentious crap about herself in online bio’s and refereeing arguments amongst her offspring.

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