The Barbie Body Image
From their perfectly-kept hair to their exquisite fashion style, Barbie dolls have quickly gained attention as the stereotypically ideal toys for girls. These dolls, produced by Mattel Inc., have become one of the most favourable and influential toys among young girls in our modern society. The company recently announced a change to the doll inspired by the desire to encourage positive body esteem among young children: "Imagination comes in all shapes and sizes. That's why the world of Barbie is evolving."
Stores across the world have sold Barbie dolls in the same skinny and thin bodies, but have excluded any other shapes and sizes. In 2016, Mattel Inc. introduced three new body sizes for Barbie dolls: Curvy Barbie, Tall Barbie and Petite Barbie. The motivation behind this change was to encourage young girls to accept their unique selves.
Curvy Barbie has a more realistic body shape based on the women in our culture. Meanwhile, the Tall and Petite Barbie dolls represent women in our culture who are taller or shorter than the average height. Many girls feel a complex for either being taller or shorter than other girls their age, which further compels them to assume that they are not beautiful as per the society’s stereotypical standards. Mattel’s senior vice president, Evelyn Mazzocco, believes, “...[that] these new dolls represent a line that is more reflective of the world girls see around them…”
By introducing these unique and different body sizes, Mattel Inc. has shone light on the various aspects of a beautiful body.
Although this may be viewed as a trivial pursuit, Barbie’s original body proportions have been scientifically proven to influence young girls to feel more pressured to conform their body size to the doll’s. In 2006, a number of researchers in the United Kingdom published a study wherein they handed picture books featuring Barbie or Emme (a more realistic looking doll) to 162 young girls aged five to eight. After the girls viewed the books, they were asked questions regarding their body image. The research concluded that the dolls were indeed influencing girls’ body esteems: “younger girls who read the Barbie books were more dissatisfied with their bodies than those who read the Emme...books.”
As a society, it is important to understand that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Since Barbie dolls have been famous and iconic toys for young girls for decades, introducing a variety of body sizes for Barbie can now positively influence and encourage girls to embrace their own size.