If Barbie Was So Popular, Why Did You Have to Buy All of Her Friends?

zara's picture

I was listening to the radio the other day and the DJ started talking about the 45th anniversary of the release of the Barbie doll. Instead of heralding the milestone, she used it as an opportunity to launch into a diatribe on how Barbie set a negative body image for young girls all across the nation.

Listing the stats, (and might I add, the ORIGINAL stats) of Barbie's figure, she explained that if Barbie was a human, she would be 7'2" with a 20" waist, 33" hips and a 42DD bra size. That Barbie would have needed to crawl around on all fours because she wouldn't have been able to stand and support her dimensions. Well, fuck that nonsense. Why?

NEWSFLASH: BARBIE ISN'T A REAL PERSON! SHE'S A FUCKING DOLL!

I played with Barbies during the late 70's and early 80's, when they were first trying to integrate the women's liberation ideals into the toy. I had a cowgirl Barbie, a lawyer Barbie, and an astronaut Barbie. All of my Barbies also still had their original dimensions. Big ass boobs, a tiny waist, uber high arches and no painted-on panties covering her non-existent vagina.

Midget now plays with Barbies who have more "realistic" dimensions. The boobs are smaller, approximately the size of a pre-pubescent girl's. The waist is thicker, the arches are flatter and the facial expressions are softer and not so Stepford Wife in appearance. And yes, someone thought Barbie's smooth, flesh colored crotch was too seductive, so now the dolls come with either painted on panties or ones molded into the plastic. Barbie has even ditched her old companion Ken and has a bevy of males to choose from, although something tells me that she'd still prefer to get her action from GI Joe.

I find it depressing that the industry caved to the watchdog groups and changed a classic toy in order to appease certain women who were still holding battle scars from their shitty mothers and fathers. Yeah, I said it. Most of the body image problems that we have come NOT from a doll or a Cosmo magazine. They don't come from watching too much crap TV either. They come from off-hand or blatant comments issued to us by those we are supposed to trust most.

My mother has image problems. She invests an obscene amount of money to go to a personal trainer, get every errant hair waxed from her body and even more money to keep coifed the hair that she does want to keep. Her nails are always annoying too long and too perfect and she's that woman who can't even run to the store for a carton of milk without first applying a full face of make-up.

She will also be the first person to tell you that it was my grandfather who made her feel crappy about her appearance when she was growing up. While my mom is barely scraping 5'2" and has topped out at a whopping 155 pounds (and that was when she was 9 months pregnant), every other female on my grandfather's side of the family was smaller than her. Most didn't reach 5 feet tall and had feet that could have worn children's shoes. She was called "The Giant" by her aunts and female cousins.

When she suffered from bad acne in high school, my grandfather would berate her for just not washing her face well enough. He would pull certain foods out of her hands and tell her she wasn't allowed to eat them because he didn't want her breaking the bathroom scale. He was verbally abusive in a time when people hadn't discovered that saying mean things equaled abuse. He never hit my mother, and I still think that he didn't know the damage that he was doing to her. He was just a part of a generation that felt if you were hard enough on your kids, they'd snap into shape and be model children.

While my mom grew to be a very loving and supportive parent, there are times when I see my grandfather's ugly head rear from within her. She tried the more subtle approach when attempting to get me to eat better. "You always eat such crap," she would say, then transition into a loving tone. "Don't you want a piece of fruit instead?" (I can almost see her batting her eyelashes at me now.)

While all of this eventually did have a slight effect on me, I'm just not the type of personality to take it to heart like she did. I need to be pushed and prodded into doing all of the insane maintenence that she does. I'd much rather buy a new book than a new tube of mascara. And I'm going to eat what tastes good to me, dammit!

I loved playing with my Barbies. I never once thought as a small child that when I grew up I needed to try to achieve her look. While I understand that there are girls out there who did, I think that's got way more to do with the girl's individual personality and familial influences than with the doll. Changing Barbie's dimensions isn't going to influence a girl in a more positive direction. They'll just find some other idol to worship.

I've also been a collector of Barbies. The ones that I have are worth a nice chunk of change, and at one point in my life when I was between jobs, the revenue that they generated for me from eBay supported me for a couple of months.

It was in that admission that I earned my nickname and a T-shirt design was born. Brandon laughed his ass off when I told him there were almost 100 Barbie dolls in my closet, all still mint in their boxes. "But, but, but," he gasped, "You're the ANTITHESIS of Barbie!"

Yeah, but doesn't mean I can't still like the doll. It's just a fucking toy for Awesome sakes!

I will tell you the one thing that's bothered me about Barbie over the years, aside from the unnecessary PC corrections. While they've managed to thicken up her features, they've shrunk her wardrobe. Barbie now has some of the SKANKIEST clothes in her little plastic closet.

But that might be because Mattel is trying to compete with the Bratz dolls. And when are we going to hear about little girls growing up and going to plastic surgeons asking to have their skulls enlarged?? Will MGA Entertainment ever cave to the pressure and reduce the size of those dolls' damn heads?? I mean, COME ON NOW!

Oh, wait. They're only a TOY. Sometimes I forget. When attempting to displace blame, I think we all forget.



Discussion of the Day:

Who or what was the most positive o
r negative influence on your body image/self-esteem when growing up?

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