Barbie: Should The Doll Be Modified?

Since Barbie was first launched by Mattel in 1959 over 10 million have been sold. “Somewhere in the world, a Barbie is sold ever half-second”(Dittmar, Halliwell, and Ive). Out of all Mattel profits, Barbie makes up approximately 80% of them. Barbie brings in such a high profit because she has always been seen as the ‘perfect woman’: perfect house, boyfriend, wardrobe, but most importantly a perfect body. However stated by Sakima Laksimi in ‘The Barbie Effect’, “the problem is little girls are growing up admiring this unrealistic icon.

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Barbie shows girls that to be perfect you need to be skinny. In today’s media being skinny is favored, but are these little girls any less because they don’t resemble this unrealistic doll? Of course not, but when skinny is all they see, that is what they want to be. The effects of being self conscious and unsatisfied with their body can follow a little girl even after childhood”. Many people do not see the underlying problem with Barbies, so it is important to bring awareness to her true message because it is extremely unhealthy for girls to follow. While young girls should be able to freely play with Barbie-dolls, it is sometimes necessary to make sure those dolls aren’t harmful to their self views.

Barbie provides young girls with stereotypical gender roles. Abramason says,“Significant results would mean that exposure to Barbie could lower self-perceived ability and makes female stereotypes more salient”. This put the idea in girls heads that they will never achieve the same status of knowledge as boys, and if they do it is not “cool”, and if you aren’t “cool” you certainly can’t be “perfect” like Barbie. Many girls look at Barbie as an idol, so seeing her lack the brains in math makes them want to pursue the same. Girls should not count themselves out of school because a doll teaches them otherwise. If parents don’t believe Barbies have a negative impact on their daughters academic skills they need to make sure they try their hardest in school rather than reciting after a Barbie, that was released in 1992, “Math is tough”, shown in ‘The Pros and Cons of Barbie’. If a girl is told that math is though she will live it. It is understood that Barbie provides a role model for young girls to express their beauty; however parents must realize that along with her horrifying stereotypical attributes she shows girls that prioritizing surface beauty is the only thing that matters.

Yes, if the dolls were modified girls might turn away, but once they realize it is still Barbie they will indulge it due to the strong bond girls have developed with her. Urla and Swedlund in ‘Barbie Blues’ discovered, “If Barbie were full size, her measurements would be 32-17-28, typical of a woman suffering from anorexia. Add to this anorexic frame her large gravity-defying breasts and you have a body ideal that is virtually impossible for a healthy, non-surgically altered woman to attain”. If young girls want to “grow up to be look like Barbie” there is a huge problem. There are so many anti-anorexia campaigns, yet we continue to sell a disproportionate doll for little girls to idolize. Gathered from The Pros and Cons of Barbie,“If Barbie were a real woman she would have a waistline 39 percent smaller than the average anorexic patient. Her fat-to-body-weight ratio would be below 17 percent, which is required for a woman to menstruate”.. Anorexia, the starving of oneself, forces the body to conserve energy because it lacks the energy it receives from food. Due to this, many systems in the body are slowed down, and one of these systems is the reproductive system, because without energy your body systems can not function properly. Also a result from the energy conservation and the size of Barbies waist, wouldn’t provide a structure that could be humanly possible to live in.

In, ‘The Pros and Cons of Barbie’, “Researchers generating a computer model of a woman with Barbie-doll proportions, for example, found that her back would be too weak to support the weight of her upper body, and her body would be too narrow to contain more than half a liver and a few centimeters of bowel. A real woman built that way would suffer from chronic diarrhea and eventually die from malnutrition”. This means a women with these measurements simply could not exist, but girls are still trying to achieve “Barbies look” because she is portrayed as “perfect”. Barbies should not continue to be sold with the current structure, as it is dwindling to a girls health.

Many mothers argue that they turned out just fine playing with Barbie, so why wouldn’t there daughters? However, many mothers were born into a time where media advertised how to gain weight rather than lose it, for example “Wate-On”, which was advertised in newspapers during the 1960s! This caused them to be indirectly taught the idea of “more meat than bones”, so by the time they played with Barbies they dropped them when it was time to eat what was on the dinner table but even then, girls began to look at themselves negatively when Mattel came out with “the 1965 Slumber Party Barbie. She came with a book titled ‘How to Lose Weight’ which advised, ‘Don’t eat.’” (“The Pros and Cons”), this introduced the idea of wanting to look like Barbie.

So, as these mothers who argue against modifying Barbies figure may not have become anorexic, they still suffered from negative body image when they were younger because of the barbies which were produce during their times. Girls now a days are surrounded by teeny women in spotlights, so they indirectly taught the importance of being thin, so with two sources of media hypnotizing them into becoming unhealthy and skinny these girls are at risk for a much higher chance for anorexia. While television, music, newspapers, and other types of “adult” media can not be regulated to be in favor of young girls, Barbies can be.

Adding on to young girls becoming more and more self conscious of their bodies, in 2006 research was conducted by The American Physiological Association comparing the Barbie-doll to the Emme-doll, which is a British toy that has realistic body measurements. It was discovered that the girls who played with Barbie had more body dissatisfaction. Dittmar, Halliwell, and Ive’s research explained:

This demonstrates that it is not body-related information conveyed by dolls per se that has a direct impact on young girls’ body image, but by Barbie dolls specifically, which represent a distortedly thin body ideal. These ultra thin images not only lowered young girls’ body esteem but also decreased their satisfaction with their actual body size, making them desire a thinner body. This detrimental effect was evident already for girls from age 5 ½ to age 6 ½ but was more pronounced among 6 ½- to 7 ½- year-olds.

At such a young age girls should not be worrying about what they look like, if at all. The bond that little girls have with Barbie is the cause of their low self-esteem. In conclusion, it is understood that little girls are expected to play with dolls, but they do not need to be exposed to a toy that takes a toll on their health in the long run. Girls should not base their body on a disproportionate doll, and if Barbie is going to continue to be the doll girls idolize it should be made into a realistic structured doll that promotes good health.

Works Cited

Abramson, Elise. Barbie Brains: The Effect of Barbie Dolls on Girls’ Perception of Male and Female Jobs. Oregon State University, 2009. Oregon State University Library. Web. 25 January 2014.

Dittmar, Helga, Emma Halliwell, and Suzanne Ive. “Does Barbie Make Girls Want
to Be Thin? The Effect of Experimental Exposure to Images of Dolls on the Body Image of 5- to 8-Year-Old Girls.” Developmental Psychology 47.2, 2006. Web. 25 January 2014.

Sakina Laksimi.”The Barbie Effect.”Media Ecology. Mercy College, 2012. Web. 20 January 2014.

Urla and Swedlund.“The Barbie Blues?” The Body Project. Bradley University, 2001.Web. 20 January 2014.

“The Pros and Cons of Barbie and their Extreme Effect on Society .” Body Image, 2011. Web. 22 January 2014.

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