Our intern, a former Barbie enthusiast, weighs in with thoughts on the news that the iconic doll now comes in new sizes, shapes and skin colours.
Barbie. A staple piece in the Follett family household when I was a child. I was your typical girly-girl and was very much drawn to the fashion savvy, career oriented dolls. Birthdays and Christmases were the best days because they meant I would be getting a new Barbie. I personally never questioned why Barbie was so skinny or wallowed over the colour of her hair, so much lighter than mine. I was more concerned about why her hair couldn’t grow back after I cut it all off. Honestly, I was just happy to have them and spent countless hours using the girls to act out the stories in my head.
Not until I got older did I realize how homogeneous Barbie is—or, I guess, was. I do believe now that classic Barbie could be detrimental to the many young girls who grow up thinking that they need to look like her in order to be considered pretty. When I look back now, I remember asking why there wasn’t a Mulan doll because she happened to be my favourite Disney character. My mom replied, “They just don’t have any at this store.” I simply accepted my mom’s answer and moved on. There is indeed a Mulan doll, but she’s not nearly as popular or promoted as the classic Barbie or even the other Disney princesses. (Just think of how crazy girls have gone for Elsa, the ice-blonde princess of Frozen.)
Come 2016 and Mattel have unveiled their new line of Barbies in three new shapes: tall, curvy, and petite. You can now also choose from 22 different eye colours and seven skin tones. The incredible popularity of American Girl and Maplelea Dolls, which come in all skin tones and hair colours, may have contributed to Mattel coming to the decision to change the product line’s image after all this time. While I do think this is an important step towards better diversity in the realm of what is considered “girls” toys, I also don’t think this is going to solve any body image issues that these girls might have. Today’s mainstream media is all about Photoshop and size-zero models, so there needs to be much bigger changes made in our society before a noticeable impact is seen.
Overall, good for Mattel for finally realizing that even though Barbie is technically one person, she can now become a different person for all the different little girls in the world. Let’s make it so the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Barbie is not the norm but rather an option among many of beautiful and strong young women.
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