After years of taking hits about how Barbie is an unhealthy body-image role model for girls, Mattel finally gave in. They introduced new Barbie’s with fuller figures, skinnier figures, shorter heights, taller heights, and more variety in skin tones, facial features, and overall personal style.
One would assume Mattel did this is because Barbie sales have dropped considerably over the last several years and so — at last — we had a makeover.
The new dolls themselves look great, and it’s going to be wonderful for little girls to have a wider variation of dolls to choose from. More variety, of course, will also equal more money in doll clothes, shoes, etc.
But there’s an interesting part of this story which surprised me. Based on the reactions I gathered from (mainly) women, they didn’t even have a problem with the old Barbie. In fact, many women I spoke to seemed to echo the same sentiment — that they all played with Barbie dolls when they were young and never once imagined that they were supposed to look like her.
And that’s the whole idea, right? That we needed to change Barbie because little girls might think they have to look just like that when they grow up.
Granted, I’m sure there’s the the odd little girl out there who thought she wanted or needed to look like Barbie — and there are indeed women out there in the news who have even gone so far as to have plastic surgery to look like Barbie.
There’s always going to be a few nuts in the bag.
Let’s take boys for example. The classic super hero action figures are a boyhood staple, right? Does that mean all boys think they are supposed to look exactly like Superman or Batman? Do they all think they’re supposed to grow up to be superbly muscular and fly through the air?
Maybe we should take all the “boy” toys like action heroes off the shelves so that boys don’t go jumping off of roofs thinking they can really fly, or having poor body image issues because they don’t have muscular bodies.
I think the point people are missing is that when children play with toys, the toys are simply a vehicle with which they can channel their own imaginations with.
Perhaps it’s us adults who have grown up and lost much of our own innocence and imagination who are simply spoiling a party that was just fine to begin with.
If girls in general have lost interest in Barbie over the years, maybe that’s just because there are so many more dolls and toys on the market to choose from. There’s also a lot of kids who are on their tablets and phones and don’t even play with toys as much as they used to.
But you have to hand it to Barbie — and the Barbie makers — they’ve had a great run over the last several decades. Barbie has had just about every career you can think of and maintained herself rather impressively in playrooms and bedrooms all over the world for decades.
I’m not sure exactly who the body-image police are as far as Barbie is concerned. They may be just a small group of mothers who were worried about their daughters growing up with poor self-esteem. That’s fine. All of us mothers worry about that stuff.
But Barbie has been put up there on the blame pedestal for too long now.
Time for the real people to start taking some responsibility for our children’s self-image.
That’s us parents. In the real world. Leading by example.
I think it’s obvious that the fuss over Barbie is really about something else. All of us women have insecurities, even the most “beautiful” of us. It’s normal. But it was going on way before Barbie came along.
Barbie has had an amazing amount of careers and has tried to be diverse enough over the years to please everyone, whether she had brown hair and green eyes, or black hair and dark skin. But it still wasn’t good enough for some people.
Give your children more credit. The stories played out through Barbie over the last 60 years by imaginative little girls (and boys!) all over the world are filled with joy and adventure. It’s never really been about Barbie’s body for little girls. It’s about pretend play, which is healthy.
Nevertheless, we now have some really cool new editions to the Barbie family and they are truly awesome. Let’s just remember to instill the positive body-image and self-esteem into our kids on our own without blaming it on the toys.
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