Is Barbie The Ideal Role Model For Young Girls?

The other day I heard and saw a commercial that startled me. The commercial started describing someone who is a girl’s best friend, her support, and always there for her. At first, I thought this was going to be an inspiring message, reminding me of the importance of my mom and the women I look up to. However, to my utter horror, their answer was an object. BARBIE!

Shopping this past Black Friday, I was again startled at the Barbie dolls lining the shopping aisles at the stores. They all appeared anorexic and wore skimpy outfits. At eye level of little girls, to me these Barbie dolls were telling all the little girls who saw them that if they want to be pretty, they have to look, dress, and act like them.


(source)

This, as well as the Barbie movies I have grown up with, has gotten me thinking. There are many women I look up to, and they are all beautiful to me, nevertheless, NONE of them look like Barbie. But is that really the ideal for any of us? To look like Barbie? Girls look to Barbie as a role model.

Barbie is not real. She’s an image the media is trying to sell as “perfect” beauty, yet only 8 people OUT OF 3 BILLION people on this earth look anything like her! Using percentages, that is less than 0.000000002% of all the people in the world. How can that small percentage be the standard for all beauty?! Almost NO ONE looks like her, yet advertisers, magazines, and the media bomb girls with the deceptive messages, clearly trying to convince them that they can only be beautiful if they are thin — trying to sell them that they have to look like “Barbie.” Do we have to have a certain color of hair, be a certain weight, or be a certain size to be considered “beautiful”? Society pressures all of us into believing that we can only be beautiful if we are “xyz,” yet this xyz isn’t safe or reliable.

via Rehabs.com

Some other interesting facts I found on Barbie (through Google) include:

  • Barbie’s body would have room for only half of a liver and only a few inches of intestines, as opposed to the usual 26 feet. This would result in chronic diarrhea and death from malabsorption of nutrients and malnutrition.
  • Barbie’s neck is twice as long as the average human’s which would make it impossible to hold up her head.
  • If a woman had the same measurements as Barbie, she would not have enough body fat to both menstruate nor bear children.

“In 1965, Slumber Party Barbie came … with a set of pink bathroom scales, permanently set to a rather scrawny 110lbs (50kg), and a diet book instructing her on how to lose weight, with just one instruction: ‘DON’T EAT!'” (Source)

It’s not only Barbie dolls – it is only one little portion of the issue. Many other girl toys could be argued to have the same issue, which could include Bratz, Monster High dolls, Lalaloopsy, Polly Pockets, and perhaps even the Disney Pixi-Hollow Fairies. In a study conducted by a European hospital, the researchers considered mannequins from different decades, and even mannequins are dangerously thin. While female mannequins from the 5o’s had measurements that would allow for menstruation (if they were real people), modern day mannequins utilized today would not have enough body fat to menstruate. (source)What are we teaching our children? Is this really what we want our girls to think is the “perfect” body? Four out of every five 10-year-old girls are afraid of being “fat.” Forty-two percent of 3rd Grade children report they want to be thinner. (source) This scares me.

Furthermore, some young adults look to fashion models as their “figure of health” and strive with all their might to become and look just like them. Some take it to dire extremes. Magazines like to feature images of very thin models, and unfortunately many of these models go to dangerous limits to stay skinny. These kinds of habits can lead to eating disorders.

Many girls feel they have to look a certain way and fit a certain set “model” to have any beauty and be of any worth.

Many of the “plus-size” models wear sizes 6-12, which do not reflect the average costumer size, since most plus-size stores don’t even carry sizes below a 14 (source). Since when was a size 6 or 8 plus-sized? Is the media reducing the size of “plus” in order for us to focus on unreal expectations of thinness? Why do we even have to use the words “plus-sized” to describe sizes above 14?

The scale, our dress size, and the models’ runway photos don’t portray the whole and true picture. Images are photo-shopped. Commercials are biased. Listen to the voice inside you. Stay in-tuned with yourself and how you feel. Regardless of how the media and advertising might try to make us feel insignificant, we are more than sexual objects–their play-things–their sources of mere profit. We are beautiful. We are loved. We are divine. We can make a difference.

Let’s begin with one little step. Let’s change our focus away from the lies magazines and TV ads to the potential we have as women and individuals. One little pebble can make one big ripple.

That one compliment, that one smile, that one pebble — we can change the way girls see themselves and help them see themselves for who they truly are. We can change the course of history.

Do you think Barbie is the ideal role model for young girls?

With lots of hugs,

Kathleen

If you want to read more on this subject, here are a few other articles I found interesting.

  1. http://www.nycastings.com/dmxreadyv2/blogmanager/v3_blogmanager.asp?post=that’s-a-plus!
  2. http://www.rehabs.com/explore/dying-to-be-barbie/#.UpplFMRDvaj
  3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/galia-slayen/the-scary-reality-of-a-re_b_845239.html
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17 thoughts on “Is Barbie The Ideal Role Model For Young Girls?

  1. I suppose I have mixed feelings on the whole Barbie debate, and I think this is a great post with lots of helpful information! One the one hand, I definitely agree that Barbie (and other related dolls) has a completely unrealistic body shape, and I had no idea about the “Slumber Party Barbie” and the diet book she came with–that is simply ridiculous. Their skimpy outfits, narrow waist, large bust, and fake looking features are VERY far from what a normal, healthy female usually looks like. On the other hand, I played with Barbies and Polly Pockets when I was younger because I loved to make up elaborate stories with them, bring them outside and make them become explorers, or create strange and crazy outfits for them. My siblings (even my brothers sometimes!) would also enjoy playing with them. However, playing with these toys never made me feel uncomfortable or insecure in my body, and I never really paid much attention to their face, tiny waist, or other physical features. To me, they were simply characters whom I could insert into whatever story I was thinking of at the moment. Still, perhaps this was because (1) I rarely watched TV and wasn’t exposed to countless images of flawless women in advertisements and TV shows, and (2) my parents were incredible role models in the sense that they always taught us that your physical appearance is insignificant compared to your character and moral values. However, even though Barbie dolls never had a negative impact on me, I completely agree that they could have a damaging effect on some children, and are certainly not representative of the female population. I hate seeing the overly-sexual and unrealistic images of women in advertisements, fashion magazines, TV shows, movies, and other media-related channels. Though Barbie dolls are not the CAUSE of our obsession with being slim, sexy, and physically flawless, they aren’t exactly making the situation better. Thank you for such a thought-provoking and informative post!!

    • Thanks, Sunnie. I really like Jennifer Lawrence’s quote as well — it really got me thinking and pondering and reminded me that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. :)

    • I like your perspective on this — I agree, I do believe Barbie has some good qualities. As a child I loved playing dress-up with the dolls (and I still play dress-up, just now with my own wardrobe — I love mixing and matching different outfits I can wear throughout the week). I also appreciate Barbie’s focus on art, being a good friend, helping animals, teaching and serving each other,showing girls it’s fun to try new things and develop their talents– those are very positive. I also agree with how parents’ role model and example in how they view their own bodies can have one of the greatest influences on their children and through it they help their children remember what is real and healthy.Thank YOU for such a thought-provoking response. :)

    • Thanks, Liz. 🙂 They are some crazy facts about the dolls. Since so many young (and older) girls adore Barbie dolls, I wish the manufacturers would make the dolls more realistic and healthy. Their unhealthy example and influence on girls can be detrimental to their own self esteem and self worth.

  2. I loved reading all of these interesting facts about Barbie, and wish I could pass them along to every young girl I know! I certainly agree with you that manufacturers need to make more realistic and healthy dolls. I wonder if anyone has ever started a petition to get Mattel to do so? That would be interesting!

  3. I like your new profile picture! 😀 Off topic though…

    I do think that Barbie can be a role model for young girls, just not when it comes to looks. Growing up I was always inspired to be whatever I want to be… by Barbie’s thousands of careers. I mean, if Barbie can be a dentist, or an astronaut, or a teacher, then I can too! THAT is the part of Barbie that I think we should keep.

    You found a great infographic about these Barbie statistics. I actually laughed out loud at the explanation that Barbie doesn’t even have enough room to fit all of her vital organs. The thing is that I always thought of dolls being unrealistic. Barbies, Bratz dolls (hello- Big heads and feet!), Polly Pockets (plastic hair?)- to me none of them were ever REAL or meant to portray anything real. I just found them fun and incredibly entertaining on long car rides 🙂

    When did they become a source of an ideal body image? I don’t know, but I would argue that it wasn’t always that way. Or maybe it was and I just never realized it? Either way, this is definitely something to chew over. But I have to ask… What do you propose as a solution? To make dolls with more realistic measurements? That would certainly be an interesting idea to promote. If you couldn’t get this change to happen would you still buy Barbies for your future kids?

    I guess it’s all how you present it. Instead of saying “Do you want to play with the pretty dolls?” or “Look how nice Barbie looks in her new dress!” maybe it would be better to focus on other attributes by saying “What is Barbie going to do today?” or “Do you want to play school or doctor with Barbie?”

    • Awwwhhh, thanks, Madison. I really like my new picture too! 🙂

      I don’t know if I could buy Barbie dolls for my girls. They aren’t even made very well anyways… But if I allow my children to play with them, I know I’ll need to make sure they don’t become an issue. I don’t want my girls to be so deceived my the media. As a mother I’ll need to encourage my girls (and boys) to have a healthy self esteem, reminding them of their value and worth and showing them beauty comes in all different forms. I definitely agree on focusing on their talents, careers, imagination, etc. Life is more than what we look like — it’s also what we make it, what we learn and develop with our skills/talents, and how we serve and uplift others.

      • That’s a great perspective to take on it and while I’m surprised that your girls may grow up without Barbies (not because that’s such a bad thing, they were just such a large part of my childhood), I think that’s really great that you are sticking with your beliefs.

        • Oh, I didn’t mean I’d absolutely NOT allow my girls to play with them — if I do, I just want to make sure my girls don’t become obsessed with looking like her, since she isn’t real. That’s my issue with them. Other than that (and their skimpy clothes) I’m okay with them. I think they can be a positive influence in some areas, but not with body shape and such. I don’t think Barbies are “evil.” I feel they have their place, and parents have to be aware of their children, keeping an eye on them, encouraging within them a positive self esteem and healthy body image, and watching for those signs that could be troublesome (like thinking they are “fat,” going to extreme measures, trying to look like Barbie, who is unrealistic and dangerous.). I think body image, self esteem and self worth are the greater issues here.If girls begin looking to Barbies as a body shape role model, I would just hope we can show them how that part of them is not ideal nor safe. We can remind them that they are beautiful just the way they are and encourage healthy habits throughout their life.If parents do a good job at addressing those issues (especially on a day-to-day basis while at the store, when they watch a television program, see images in magazines, etc), they can help their girls have healthy views on life. That would be my solution. (Does that make any sense? I hope I’m not confusing.)

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  6. I totally LOVE LOVE LOVE what you have written here!
    And I must admit that as a mother I have had to be cautious of my self-talk that my own daughter is listening too, because if our daughters hear us mothers bringing ourselves down due to societies unrealistic standard then they are going to think that is what we are supposed to do!
    Its such a shame that woman often feel their only worth is in appearance! Though I must say I think it is something that the large amount of people ‘grow out of’. I notice that less and less as we get ‘older’ is it really a concern! Sure we want to be a bit more slender, or a bit of a different shape but its not the obsession that it was in our teens and twenties!
    (Now I’m showing my age) lol 😉

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