Barbies: Plastic Destruction of Identities or A Revolutionary?

Growing up, we’ve all either loved or hated the idolized doll ‘Barbie’. Yes, because there are two sides to every coin, and this debate too has different, contrasting and clashing opinions. The first being that Barbies have an unrealistic body and beauty standard, while the second most popular one being that it gives little girls the confidence to identify with adult Barbies rather than just baby dolls. It helps them aspire to be one of the hundreds of Barbies that have jobs and aspirations. Which side are you on? If you’ve already made a decision or have an open mind, this article will give you a broader perspective.

For instance, did you know there is a Barbie that’s dressed up in a presidential suit?

Or that there’s one installed with artificial intelligence called Hello Barbie?! The headline for the doll is quite literally “Now I have a Brain!”.

Were you aware that Barbies have almost 200 occupations ranging from pop singers to engineers, doctors to football coaches and even a McDonald’s cashier?

That there’s a Barbie without heels and yet another that’s an astronaut.

So, yes there’s a new wave of Barbies, but some how the debate of the body image seems to almost always steel the limelight. If we were to speculate, the reason for this is the initial unrealistic body propositions that the company had gone forward with. In the words of Galia Slayen, “If Barbie was a real woman, she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.” Before making such a statement, she built a life-sized Barbie doll for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. According to her calculations, if Barbie was an actual woman, she would be 5’9” tall, have a 39-inch bust, an 18-inch waist, 33-inch hips and a size three shoe (read – humanly impossible).

This observation stuck on and the fact that the Ruth Handler’s Barbie creation (named after her daughter Barbara) became a scandalous affair.

During the 60 plus years of her existence, Barbie has undergone a lot of changes, precisely why their popular campaign of #TheDollEvolves and slogan: “Imagination comes in all shapes and sizes. That’s why the world of Barbie is evolving.” Had attracted a lot of attention.

Now, the doll is available in a range of skin tones and adorns various clothes, depicts different occupations and also wears a hijab! There’s also a line of Barbies called Role Models that have famous woman entities like Frida Kahlo, Katherine Johnson and Amelia Earhart. But there are mixed feelings for this range as well. For instance, the Frida Kahlo Barbie doesn’t sport the unibrow and neither does it depict her in a wheelchair or show any signs of the scars. This is pretty disheartening for the thousands of little girls who could have related better with Frida; however, many are happy that Frida is being recognized as a role model for little girls.

The plastic pop-culture icon has her own pop song, a plastic boyfriend a house and set of friends who are pretty popular too. But we don’t care for all of that. What we care for is this wave of change where Barbies are depicted as real women, coming in three basic shapes and sizes of petite, curvy and tall. There’s a long way to go, but we need to acknowledge the attempt at all the changes over the past few years and encourage Mattel to create more realistic and relatable dolls, so that little girls all over the world will know that they can be anyone they work hard and wish to become!

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