After 57 Years on the Market, a Average-Framed Barbie Prototype Has Finally Been Introduced
For more than five decades, Barbie has been an iconic toy for millions of youth around the world. She has maintained her position as one of the nation’s top-selling toys for young girls aged three to 12. Despite her popularity, many people have expressed concern over her unrealistic bodily proportions (if Barbie were human, she would stand at 5 feet 9 inches tall, have a 39-inch bust, an 18-inch waist and hips measuring 33 inches).
Artist Nickolay Lamm, recently changed Barbie’s barely-there proportions creating a 3-D image of a new Barbie prototype that would more accurately depict a 19-year-old’s body. Lamm created the image using Photoshop and the Centers for Disease Control’s measurements of an average 19-year old woman. The “new and improved” Barbie appears shorter and wider than the previous version, has bigger feet and has even come down off her tippy-toes to stand more comfortably flat-footed.
While there is yet to be academic research performed to link Barbie’s unrealistic body proportions to the development/onset of an eating disorder, it’s fair to say that as a popular American icon AND a young child’s toy, Barbie has served as some kind of a role model for girls. Youth falling within Barbie’s target age market (3-12) are at their most vulnerable with regards to the shaping of their beliefs and their realities. Even with parental guidance, young girls and boys can establish Barbie’s body appearance as what they believe to be accepted, which can ultimately lead to disordered eating habits.
“I created normal Barbie because I wanted to show that average is beautiful,’’ Lamm wrote in an email to TODAY.com. “If average-looking Barbie looks this good and if there’s even a chance of Barbie negatively influencing young girls, why not make one?”
If only everyone could have the mindset that Lamm has. With continued attacks on Barbie, Mattel released the following statement pushing the blame of “Barbie Syndrome” (the desire to look like Barbie), onto the parents of young girls.
“Girls see female body images everywhere today and it’s critical that parents and caregivers provide perspective on what they are seeing,” a Mattel Spokesperson said in an email to today.com. “It’s important to remember that Barbie is a doll who stands 11.5 inches tall and weighs 7.25 ounces — she was never modeled on the proportions of a real person.”
Mattel is right—Barbie isn’t real…but the affects that her appearance has on our younger generation are very real.
Instead of handing off the blame like Mattel did, we should look to greater role models like recovered anorexic student, Galia Slayen. A few years ago, when Hamilton College created the first Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Slayen introduced her own life-sized Barbie creation.
Slayen admitted that while Barbie was only a small environmental factor contributing to the onset of her eating disorder, she did suggest that Barbie had a negative effect on the way that she looked at her own body. “I’m blond and blue-eyed and I figured that
Slayen said that she created the doll in order to not only represent her own recovery (the skirt on the life-sized Barbie is a 00 and used to fall off her waist when deeply immersed in her eating disorder), but also to bring awareness to the too-often quieted disease.
“My Barbie’s role is simple,” Slayen said. “She grabs the attention of apathetic onlookers and makes them think and talk about an issue that thrives in silence.”
Hamm and Slayen are on the right path in creating the hope and the voice that is necessary to reach recovery and to bring awareness to eating disorders of all types. Developing a healthy body image at a young age can help to prevent such mental illnesses from occurring. If Mattel can help to address this issue simply by creating a bigger-framed Barbie, what is stopping them from doing so?
Hamm and Slayen are helping to create the paths of recovery to those who need it, what will you do today to help eliminate ED?
Natalie Cohen is a Marketing and Community Relations Associate for Walden Behavioral Care. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Maine in Orono. Her favorite part of working at Walden is being able to act as an advocate for clients suffering with mental illnesses through spreading knowledge and awareness of not only Walden’s programs and services, but eating disorders in general. Ms. Cohen’s passions include writing, social media and being able to converse with medical professionals, clients and her co-workers. In her spare time, Natalie enjoys spending time with her dog Bella, family and boyfriend.