Barbie Talks Her New Look and What It Means for Girls
February 11, 2016 § 1 Comment
We couldn’t believe it when Barbie stopped by to talk to us about her new curves. Was it Beyonce or Barbie? Oh well, her new dolls now strut four new body types and, even more skin tones and hairstyles. It seems her bosses at Mattel have been putting Barbie through a transformation in the past two years to make her more like real girls.
There has been a long-time criticism of dolls that do not portray accurate body images. Since her introduction in 1959, the Barbie doll has been at a center of debate because of her unattainable female image, seen as harmful to shaping children’s sense of ideal. Adult women still agonize over their shape and weight.
Barbie says Mattel has responded to create images of women that give girls and boys a better reflection of diversity and body types. She wants to move into a new era of body acceptance that is represented by not one but 33 different versions of Barbie – four different body types, 22 eye colors, seven different skin tones, different face shapes, and 24 hair styles. The original 11.5″ Barbie represents a woman whose figure measurements were 38-18-34.
The new debut is not solely a matter of cultural relevance. The once trendy Barbie powerhouse brand has suffered in recent years as girls have turned to other toys and electronic options. The brand has experienced double-digit declines in recent years. Yet, some 92% of American girls age 3-12 have owned a Barbie.
Children seem to understand and appreciate that the new Barbie dolls now look more like them with different types of hair and body shapes and feet that will fit into running shoes as well as runway shoes.
Mattel has been working to shape Barbie into realistic body standards including feet that are not perpetually shaped to fit into high heels.
Barbie told us the new shapes will be available for sale March 1, with some 33 new versions of the fashionista available.
Barbie says she hopes the new dolls will be a better reflection of what true beauty is. But Barbie says that even her new look is not without criticism. Some say that the doll is still focused only on appearance, fashion and stereotypical interests of women.
As I talked to Barbie, I thought about my own childhood. I never owned a Barbie doll but I did have lots of dolls, beautiful ones that did represent more normal shapes. Was my mother ahead of her time? I don’t know but I do know that self-esteem is shaped by more than a doll.