Some girls idolize athletes. Some girls idolize jailbait teen singers. Some girls idolize female astronauts, engineers, actresses, teachers, mothers, sisters, and roller derby stars!
Barbie was created by Mattel in 1959 to replace paper dolls. She is a toy. She promotes living a fantasy life for children. Let that be the first point I make.
Barbie sought to do anything while remaining absolutely stunning, even if it was an unattainable beauty. She wore heels as she delivered her baby. Her lipstick was perfect when she was busy working in the lab. Her waistline never fluctuated regardless of how many groceries she bought.
I grew into a woman who is rather insecure in her physical appearance, but it has nothing to do with the dolls with which I played. I had an American Girl doll. I never felt that she was more “realistic” than a Barbie. I never felt like I needed my Samantha doll because she was closer to what I looked like (though I am not white, and during my childhood there were no Asian/Latin dolls, nor the option to create custom looks). That is another point: I never once felt like Asians and Latinas did not matter because of the lack of dolls that looked like me. My parents instilled in me that I matter just as much as anyone else, and if I wanted people to see that, I had to have the voice and poise to accomplish that.
But I digress. I will admit that my insecurity stems more so from the real women around me, television, movies, and advertisements. Not so much for telling us that being skinny, being white, or having perfectly defined collarbones– though, I do– is sexy, but that being short isn’t sexy. At five-feet-tall, 108 pounds, and having a decent face, I do not find myself physically undesirable, but the world has told me that the girl whose legs are five feet long are better suited to find a suitor. This I learned, long after I stopped playing with Barbies.
Today more than any other period, girls growing up are being bombarded with stories about the unrealistic pressure of a plastic doll via television, internet, and parents alike. If anything, these will make young girls look at the doll and think: “I will never look like that.” Barbie, herself, is not teaching the girls this lesson.
This infuriates me.
Designer Nickolay Lamm has designed “The first fashion doll made according to typical human body proportions to promote realistic beauty standards.”
I believe Barbie was perfect. So what does Lamm find to be more realistic? Because, you know, there can never be unrealistic implications in the sweeping generalization of what is “realistic.” Apparently, it is this:
This will be more of a problem than the “old” Barbie. Mattel’s Barbie was the embodiment of an ideal, much like the statues in ancient civilizations like Greece and countless others. They promoted an ideal, not a median.
This “normal” doll tells a large group of girls that they are not normal or typical. A lot of girls do not share these body proportions. Oh! And guess what? This doll comes in one color. There is not black, Asian, Hispanic, or racially ambiguous doll. This “realistic” doll is white with a narrow nose, borderline duck lips, and pin straight hair. In addition, her clothing and accessories are indicative of a very specific socio-economic standing.
What makes her more realistic is the Lammily Marks. Because nothing says realistic like cellulite, hipster glasses, and tattoos on a typical 19-year-old.
Barbie wasn’t a problem. At least no more than G.I. Joe, Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman, American Dolls, Disney Princesses, the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon as entire networks, and other cartoon children. These all promoted a social status, physical and “super” ability, lifestyle, and physical characteristics that are unattainable by millions of children. Most children do not look at these characters and programs, though, with thoughts of what is realistic in terms of money, sex, relationships, and body! I mean, The Little Mermaid really tells girls to go ahead and change species for a man and you don’t have to say anything if you’re pretty because you can just float on looks, then live as a princess forever! Also, who cares about family!
This “normal” doll that has been created to be more approachable by children is alienating everyone who isn’t white and middle class.
I loved my Barbie, with her tiny waist and impossibly long legs. I loved her yacht, campers, apartment building, furniture, pets, babies, degrees, and endless shoe collection, all of which I had.
If there is one lesson that I learned from Barbie it was that I can do anything in life, and I can look gorgeous doing it.