Happy Birthday Barbie. Eat Your Cake.
She’s about to turn 53, and her measurements are 39-19-33. Due to her low body weight — an emaciated 100 lbs. — she lost the ability to menstruate long ago. The aging “Teen-age Fashion Model,” first sported a black and white zebra striped swimsuit and clothing by fashion designer Charlotte Johnson. The blond (or sometimes brunette) vixen has often been spotted in an on again, off romance with her boyfriend, Ken. Meet Barbra Millicent Roberts, also known as Barbie. Is the doll, that Mattel claims sells at a rate of 3 every second, a wholesome toy or a perpetrator of extreme body image and negative messages about girls? You be the judge.
Barbie made her debut at the American International Toy Fair In New York on March 9, 1959. This is Barbie’s official birthday. From the start, she was a controversial figure. Her designer, Ruth Handler, attempted to give the doll “adult appearance.” Parents would have preferred a B-cup. But kids saw Barbie as a must-have.
Since her inception, Barbie’s unrealistic body has been questioned. Should kids strive to replicate measurements quoted above, they would need to be anorexic. The average woman is 5′ 4″, weighs 145 lbs., and wears between a size 11 and 14. Her measurements are approximately 36-30-41, a far cry from the Barbie body.
In addition to Barbie’s rep of promoting unrealistic body standards, the doll has come under fire from The American Association of University Women. In July 1992, Mattel released Teen Talk Barbie. The doll uttered phrases such as “Will we ever have enough clothes?” “I love shopping!” and “Math class is tough.” The latter phrase was deleted from Barbie’s vocabulary in October of that year, and the company and offered a swap to anyone who owned a doll with math phobia.
Mattel has also responded to concerns about Barbie’s body. In 1997 Barbie’s body mold was redesigned and given a wider waist, which would make her “better suited to contemporary fashion designs.” During the same year, the company also started a marketing campaign with Nabisco, launching Oreo Fun Barbie, marketed in Black and White (get it — oreos), and someone with whom little girls could play after school and share “America’s favorite cookie.” How many of those cookies she ate is questionable, as is its racial sensitivity.
So what can parents do about all of this? Perhaps they can take a cue from kids themselves. According to Dr. Agnes Nairn at the University of Bath in England, research indicates that girls often go through a stage where they hate their Barbie dolls and subject them to a range of punishments, including decapitating the dolls or placing them in the microwave. Dr. Nairn commented: “It’s as though disavowing Barbie is a rite of passage and a rejection of their past.”
Happy birthday Barbie.
*This guest post provided by Heidi_PsyD from The Examiner.com