The traditional Barbie doll is now a thing of the past, relegated to the back shelf and displaced by a more current and socially acceptable model. Now you will find many shapes, sizes, colors and body types to choose from.
As recently as February 2014, Barbie lead designer Kim Culmone said that the doll did not have a negative influence on young children. “Barbie’s body was never designed to be realistic. She was designed for girls to easily dress and undress. And she’s had many bodies over the years, ones that are pose-able, ones that are cut for princess cuts, ones that are more realistic.” She said at the time that there was no reason to change Barbie’s proportions.
However, reality won and imagination lost out on Thursday when Mattel announced three new body types to be added to the mix – curvy, tall and petite. In order to fit in, Barbie now comes in seven skin tones, with 22 eye colors and 24 different hairstyles. Michelle Chidoni, spokeswoman for Mattel indicates that there will be more choices to make “the line more reflective of the world girls see around them.”
Mattel seems to be having Barbie bend over backwards to please our expanded populace. This is probably due to a decrease in sales of the once popular doll by 14 percent in the last quarter, and a continuous slide in sales since 2012.
Will this change appease the critics of this once popular fashion doll? Unfortunately, it seems that some critics are still anti-Barbie.
Kris Macomber, a sociology teacher at Meredith College in Raleigh, N. C. said she’s “reluctant to celebrate Barbie’s new strategy because it doesn’t change the fact that Barbie dolls and other kinds of fashion dolls still over-emphasize female beauty. Sure, all body types should be valued. And, sure, all skin colors should be valued equally. But why must we keep sending girls the message that being beautiful is so important?”
According to Lorna Russell: “Why are grown-ups so afraid of Barbie? Because she represents some Western ideal? Because her figure, upgraded to “real” size is impossible to achieve? We are in danger of looking at a child’s toy through an adult’s microscope and, of course, seeing all the wrong things. To a child Barbie is just a delicious play thing that never says she can’t play with you, always smiles, will accompany her owner everywhere, and never shouts. Onto her can be projected wishes and dreams. Thank goodness little people are so much wiser than we are.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Barbie is a doll, a little child’s toy. Unlike adults, children still have imaginations, which allows them the capability to transform their Barbie into anyone they want her to be.
By changing our beloved Barbie to fit into our mold of what we think she should be is going against the very thing we have fought for years to avoid. We are pigeon-holing Barbie while preaching diversity. We are saying she is unacceptable the way she is. With her long legs, her too small torso and hips and her pretty face, she is less than perfect. Are we teaching our children that if you are different, less than perfect according to whatever culture you are in, you are not good enough?
So, if your child is black, or brown, and wants a white or oriental Barbie, are you going to tell her no, she must get the one that looks like she does?
Playing with dolls has been a tradition for little girls for many years. When left to her own resources, the shape or skin color of her doll did not matter. Now, we, in all of our great wisdom, are telling her it does. Isn’t that what’s really causing the harm here? We are subjecting our children to our own phobias, fears, and YES…. prejudices.
Now Barbie comes in all shapes, colors and sizes to choose from, in the name of diversity. That being the case, let’s encourage our children to decide which doll they would prefer. They might surprise you.