In Defense of Barbie

SUC50899 This past week Huffington Post contributor Dominique Mosbergen published the headline, “Barbie Designer Defends Dolls Strange Proportions, Dismisses Body Image Concern” on Twitter. I was very curious to finally hear what Mattel had to say to the many criticism’s of Barbie’s body and image, so I immediately bit and clicked on the link … and was very disappointed. Mosbergen gave Mattel lead Barbie Designer Kim Culmone, exactly one paragraph to explain Mattel’s stance on the matter while devoting the rest of the full-page piece to elaborate on just how strange Barbie’s proportions really are. She provided links and pictures to prove her point. Mosbergen also provided a link to the original interview with Culmone; however, the intent of the piece was self-evident: Barbie is a bad role model for young girls. I Googled “Barbie is” and the first result was “a bad role model.” I had to search a little further to find anything good about Barbie. When I finally did find positive things it cemented my stance on Barbie. I think Barbie is great and here’s why:

Barbie is Possibility: Barbie represents possibility to me both now and when I was young. Never once did I think of Barbie as someone that was to be actualized in a literal sense. Never once did I think I would  find myself cruising down Jasper Ave  in one of my elaborate, pink, sparkly ball gowns looking for the next high fashion party to attend. Never once did I think of her as some image that was impossible to obtain. Instead I found myself dreaming about possibility every time I picked her up. Barbie represents a woman who lives her life her way with no boundaries – and I love that.

Barbie is a Career Woman: Barbie has held many positions in her life, and many of them broke gender barriers. She has been an Astronaut, Nascar Driver, Pilot, President. Most, with the exception of President, have been actualized for women – maybe it’s because Barbie did it first! Barbie opens up the idea that a girl can become anything she wants to be.

Barbie is talented, and interested in Health and Fitness:  And what’s wrong with that. Shouldn’t little girls be exposed and opened to the idea that talent, health, and fitness are both attainable and desirable traits in a woman. Instead of focusing on the negative “I’ll never be exactly like her” mind-set, shouldn’t we be telling little girls that they should be celebrating their accomplishments, and making an effort to attain the best possible life and level of fitness for themselves?

1986Astronaut_BarbiesCareers_V_18May2010_PR_320x480_1

img-thing .out=jpg&size=l&tid=35196523Barbie is educated and involved in the political process: She is a scholar of both the Humanities (educator, caregiver, child care worker) and the Sciences (Doctor, Dentist, Vet), and is involved in the political process (UN Worker, President). Barbie does what she wants and lets no one hold her back, and this is awesome! Let’s stop complaining about what girls don’t have and focus on what we can have through Barbie.

And lastly:

Barbie is self-sufficient: This is perhaps the best lesson little girls can learn from Barbie if we take our blinders off and see Barbie for who she really is. Barbie is a valuable member of society, self-sufficient, equally important, and capable – all without a man. All that Barbie has accomplished over the years has been done by her own determination and hard work. She holds the title to the pink palace, pink convertible, and wide array of pink accessories we find her in. She has earned them for herself and we need to stress this to all of the little girls who pick up Barbie in awe and wonder.

As a woman’s right advocate, I think that we should be empowering little girls with positive stories and messages about possibility rather than focusing on comparison, unattainability, and impossibility. Barbie’s image should be turned around to represent accomplishment and we should be okay with all that Barbie has attained. Instead of being jealous and  totally ignoring Barbie’s accomplishments, let’s celebrate her and hold her up proudly as an image worthy of our respect.

Let me know what you think. Do you agree that Barbie’s image can be turned into good for girls, or do you think Barbie is just a reminder of impossible standards?

~Joan

Sources: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/barbie

                 http://www.fastcodesign.com/3025620/barbies-lead-designer-defends-barbies-crazy-proportions

                 http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070926165808AA54DrD

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9 thoughts on “In Defense of Barbie

  1. It’s definitely a complex issue and I often wonder what side I stand on. While Barbie does set an unrealistic beauty expectation for young girls, I always think back to Barbie’s motto: “you can be who you wanna be”. And it’s unfortunate that something as positive as that statement gets overshadowed by the way she looks. I think that by saying Barbie doesn’t “look right”, we’re just furthering this belief that physical appearance is everything. Barbie is too thin, too pretty, too tall, therefore she can’t be a police officer, or an astronaut, or a teacher. People focus too much attention on how she looks, rather than her message, which is just a reflection on our culture.

    Great post! Definitely an interesting read.

    1. Agree! The focus should be on Barbie’s accomplishments not her looks. And so what if she happens to look her best while doing it. Since when is self-care in terms of health and fitness a bad thing. We should be teaching all little girls to try and maintain their healthiest body possible, and, more importantly, to stop the comparison game.

  2. I loved what you had to say about Barbie. I never realized how much of a positive impact she can have on young girls. I think she can be a great role model if people focus on promoting her ability to be an inspiration instead of her unrealistic body.

    1. Yes, Jill! I would also point out how we tend to put celebrities on a pedestal, yet many of them have had plastic surgery or are suffering from eating disorders (sometimes just to stay relevant in the business). They have unattainable and unrealistic bodies as well. I would love to hear your take on the fitness industry with regards to body image!

  3. I think the fitness industry is very similar to Barbie. There are fitness professionals that try to motivate everyday people, but they usually have bodies that are extremely hard to attain and that may make people feel like their efforts aren’t good enough if they don’t end up looking “perfect”. A lot of the “perfect” bodies we see have been achieved through steroids or plastic surgery and that gives people the wrong idea about what fitness does. That being said, there are many everyday people that have become fit and healthy naturally but are not perfect, and those are the people I look to for motivation.

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