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Barbie Designer Defends Proportions, But I’m Not Buying It

1983 Sun Gold Malibu Barbie for your 7-year-old's enjoyment?

1983 Sun Gold Malibu Barbie

I have never purchased a Barbie for my daughter, and I never will. We’ve made it to age five without her wanting one, and if she asks for one in the next five years I plan to say, “No Barbies allowed,” and explain why.

Barbie’s silly body is inappropriate for little girls, simple as that. I’m against the way television, movies, and magazines portray unrealistic, Photoshopped bodies for women… so why would I hand her the same thing to play with?

Barbie’s body is freakishly out of proportion, and I don’t want my beautiful daughter handling the doll every day, letting that “womanly” image seep into her subconscious. She’s going to see enough super thin women on television and in magazines; I don’t need to be the one to present her with a toy that embodies the same unrealistic ideal.

A new interview wherein Mattel Barbie designer, Kim Culmone, defends Barbie’s proportions confirms that I’m doing the right thing. In the interview with Fast Company Design Culmone confirms that, “Barbie’s body was never designed to be realistic.”

Ya think?

Clearly, Barbie was designed to be a symbol of perfection, although Culmone claims Barbie was designed that way in the name of fashion. “Primarily it’s for function for the little girl, for real life fabrics to be able to be turned and sewn, and have the outfit still fall properly on her body.”

Oh, I see. So Barbie was designed to emulate stick-thin supermodels in haute couture? You know, because clothing hangs better on bodies that mimic hangers.

Regardless of Culmone’s sad justifications for Barbie’s ridiculous proportions, the end result is still the same: an unattainable body. Call me crazy, but I can’t get on-board with a doll that has proportions befitting the very images I try so hard to shield my daughter from, even if it is iconic and loved by millions of little girls and their mothers.

Culmone takes it a step further and says she doesn’t think there’s a body comparison going on between little girls and Barbie:

“Girls view the world completely differently than grown-ups do. They don’t come at it with the same angles and baggage and all that stuff that we do. Clearly, the influences for girls on those types of issues, whether it’s body image or anything else, it’s proven, it’s peers, moms, parents, it’s their social circles…When they’re playing, they’re playing. It’s a princess-fairy-fashionista-doctor-astronaut, and that’s all one girl. She’s taking her Corvette to the moon, and her spaceship to the grocery store. That is literally how girls play.”

I disagree. That’s where it starts! Girls look at their Barbie doll with her big blue eyes, long blonde hair and impossible body and think, “This is beautiful.” They don’t come at it with the baggage we do, because Barbie is the first one loading up their suitcases with issues. Then it’s their peers and the media. And please stop already with the Barbie-cum-feminist notion. Dressing up that damaging, disproportionate body in a sexy doctor costume does not a feminist make.

It’s worth noting a 2006 University of Sussex study shows thin dolls like Barbie “may damage girls’ body image, which would contribute to an increased risk of disordered eating and weight cycling.” In fact, in the 1960s “Slumber Party Barbie” hit shelves and included a scale permanently stuck at 110 lbs, and a small book titled “How To Lose Weight.” As Rehabs.com notes, the only words in the book were, “DON’T EAT!”

As mothers, we constantly bemoan how much we (and our daughters) are inundated with highly unrealistic images of female bodies. And yet every time I write about my Barbie dislike, I get bombarded with comments defending her. “It’s just a doll,” I’m told. “You’re overreacting!”

But if you don’t want your daughter trying to live up to Photoshopped images of women in magazines, why hand her a Barbie to play with? Until Barbie is made with more realistic proportions, I don’t see the difference.

Image: Flickr.com

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