I’m A Barbie Girl

Set of 4 Barbie dolls in different outfits.

Set of 4 Barbie dolls in different outfits.

Barbie looks way different than she did when I was growing up.

Stop. Messing with. My childhood.

It has become en vogue to harangue the makers and manufacturers of Barbie for negatively affecting girls’ body image, and giving them unrealistic expectations about what they should look like.

That’s a lot of power to give an inanimate object.

I was a serious Barbie Girl growing up. My collection grew to over 160 dolls, along with all the clothes, shoes, accessories, cars, and sets to go with it. (Except for the Dreamhouse. Never got that.) For the record, I also played with GI Joe and his helicopter, Thundercats, My Little Pony (the original), and Jem. My imagination was fully stimulated.

And yet, I never thought I would grow up to look like Barbie. I might have wished it, but I never really believed I would get a Synergy of my very own. I didn’t expect horses to start coming rainbow colors with cute tattoos on their haunches.

Barbie doesn’t have the power to convince little girls that something is wrong with their bodies. So, who does have that power?

My body image was much more affected by my mom’s issues with her body and weight. And by overhearing the women in my extended family discussing who is or isn’t fat. And by being asked if I wouldn’t like to be able to wear the clothes my friends were wearing. Or, by going shopping with those friends and learning that even a size 00 didn’t fit them correctly.

Or, how about hearing that I could “walk my way to health” or “walk the weight away”? That always does wonders for one’s self-esteem when one cannot walk. So clearly, I can’t walk, so I’ll never be healthy or able to lose weight. That’s much more damaging to my body image, and whatever ideas I conjure about changing it.

The Lammily doll shown in 3 different outfits.

The Lammily Doll.

Now there is the Lammily doll: “The fashion doll with the realistic body shape”. Basically, Lammily is the “regular woman” equivalent to Barbie. You can add stickers that look like tattoos or Band-Aids or freckles. You can also add cellulite or acne stickers. These stickers, along with the doll, are meant to represent a more realistic outlook on what women look like. The makers of Lammily want the girls to feel like they’re playing with something that “looks like me.”

But, Barbie is a fantasy toy. It’s not meant to represent reality. When I was a kid, I didn’t want toys that represented my real life. The purpose of play is to stimulate imagination and creativity. How imaginative and creative can you get when you’re just repeating your daily life? How do you grow and dream and aspire to reach beyond “reality”?

Additionally, they say that Lammily (which, by the way, is the worst name this side of Renesme) has THE realistic body shape. According to whom? What about those tall, gangly girls with non-existent breasts and flat butts? Or how about me, who looks like Buddha on wheels?Or, if Lammily was overweight, would that encourage girls to strive for obesity?

Not to mention, Lammily is white. ONLY white. The only plus is that she’s brunette. Brunettes are best, we all know that.

I’m not down on Lammily. Not really. But Barbie isn’t the problem. The problem is the expectations ADULTS (not kids) put on Barbie. Grown women expect Barbie to make girls feel bad about the way they look, because Barbie makes grown women feel badly about the way they look. Girls only know that they are supposed to feel badly about the way they look in relation to Barbie because society spends so much time trying to convince them not to compare themselves to Barbie.

A wider variety of body types certainly need to be represented in the media; there is no doubt about that. But we have to be more realistic about where the negativity is coming from. Barbie is a child’s toy. Don’t give her more power than she deserves.

About Laura

Artist, writer, designer and nerdy creative based in Charlotte, NC. Loves Harry Potter, Firefly, Doctor Who, country music, and Nathan Fillion. Wheelchair-user, due to osteogenesis imperfecta aka brittle bone disease.