On the collegiate news blog HerCampus, Lexi Surunis posted an article called “Why I Am Not a Fan of the New Barbie.” In the article, Surunis talked about how much she loved playing with Barbie as a child and how she never worried about Barbie’s body shape. She argued that the dolls’ new shapes and sizes are making young children aware of body shapes in a negative way that they did not in the past.
“It becomes less about imagination, creativity and pure fun and more about figuring out which Barbie will or will not fit into an outfit,” Surunis wrote. “Then it can turn into girls feeling like they can’t play with a certain doll because Barbie doesn’t have the same body shape as her.”
Surunis’ argument, based on her own experiences, failed to acknowledge the experiences of others and recognize the positive and realistic effects of the new dolls.
When we think about the changes Mattel has made to Barbie’s design, it is necessary to consider why Barbie has such a significant impact on our culture. To me, the first question that comes to mind is, “Why do we think Barbie is beautiful?” Similarly, we can ask, “Why do we believe that celebrities and models are beautiful?”
It’s because they resemble society’s ideals of beauty. But that’s unrealistic. We need to teach children — both girls and boys — that these ideals are not something that we must strive to achieve. They shouldn’t even be “ideals.” They’re not real, and beauty is not measured by the size of our waist or the space between our thighs. Beauty is so much more profound than that.
We also need to remember that Barbie is an icon — a role model to young children. When we think of Barbie, we imagine a thin, white, blonde female. Growing up as a child of Filipino and Chinese descent, that is something that I personally struggled with: I wanted to be thin and white like the dolls I played with and the people I saw on TV. It was frustrating because I did not realize the value and reality of diversity. This is what Barbie lacked, until now.
If my doll can’t fit into your doll’s dress, it doesn’t make my doll any less fun or pretty than yours. It just means that our dolls are different, and that’s okay.
In such a diverse world, it is important to expose children to toys and other icons that reflect reality so they understand and respect one another. If my doll can’t fit into your doll’s dress, it doesn’t make my doll any less fun or pretty than yours. It just means that our dolls are different, and that’s okay. Just like in reality, clothes don’t come in “one size fits all.” If I don’t fit into your clothes, that doesn’t make me less of a person, less pretty or less healthy. It makes me different; it makes me unique.
This is what we need to teach children: No two people are the same. We all have different body types, heights and skin color. We need to celebrate that difference, encouraging acceptance rather than perpetuating false ideologies.
Whatever we offer children — toys, TV shows, books, etc. — becomes an archetype for their lives. They use these figures to navigate the world they live in. By offering more body shapes, Barbie is teaching young children that we really can “be whoever we want to be,” no matter our shape, size, gender or race.
So let’s stop talking about Barbie’s body. Let’s talk about reality. We are each special in our own way, and our physical appearance has nothing to do with it. If that is true for us, it should be true for Barbie, too.
Contact Forum director of social media Karissa Lim at email@example.com.