Are Bigger and Smaller Barbies Better for the Self-Image of Girls?

By Suhay, Lisa | The Christian Science Monitor, January 28, 2016 | Go to article overview

Are Bigger and Smaller Barbies Better for the Self-Image of Girls?


Suhay, Lisa, The Christian Science Monitor


Like many women, Barbie was so tired of hearing people talk about her weight that Mattel decided to change it dramatically.

Mattel actually expanded more than Barbie's waistline by introducing dolls that strive to mitigate the impact of body and ethnic labels with dolls that are more diverse in height, skin tone, and hair texture as well as realistic proportions.

Some say the change is aimed at helping redefine beauty, and help free future generations of women from self-loathing. Others see it as a simple business model shift that now allows Mattel to make money on accessory and clothing lines as little girls buy into the new dolls that have different body shapes.

The dolls received a mostly celebratory response on Twitter.

New body types for Barbie - Can't imagine what I'd thought if there'd been a petite Barbie way back when. https://t.co/Mefst0IDNE- - Dana Perino (@DanaPerino) January 28, 2016

There are new, more diverse Barbies in town. But that doesn't make her a feminist. https://t.co/4RXA0Rmibu-- Jill Filipovic (@JillFilipovic) January 28, 2016

Oprah is in love with her new @AVAETC Barbie doll and now we want our own even more: https://t.co/BxYcmO7Y2E pic.twitter.com/ 5TTF6Cv3rN-- The Cut (@TheCut) January 27, 2016

"Not being a soothsayer I can't say how this will affect future generations," says Adrienne Ressler, a Florida body image expert at the Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders in a phone interview. "But this is not new. Dove soap had a beautiful campaign about body image that was very well done. However, from the article I read this [Barbie] is different in that it came about because Mattel was losing money. So it's more than about seeing the good about helping girls with self-image and diversity. Mattel also wants to make some money on this."

Ms. Ressler says, "I don't like to sound like a cynic, but for Mattel this is a chance to sell a whole lot of doll clothes because traditional Barbie dresses won't fit on a curvy Barbie and tall Barbie clothes are too long for short Barbie and so on. Parents are going to be shelling out a lot more money."

"I think the basic idea is very well intentioned, but I think that the message that goes along with it is very important," she says. "There's more to body image than a doll."

Ressler adds: "The doll we play with, the friends we have - are just one dimension of body image .... Body image boils down to the way we perceive ourselves. The way others perceive us and how we feel living in our bodies."

For those considering buying one of these new Barbies for a child, Ressler urges them to consider "the delivery system. …

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