Are Barbie’s Really Bad For Children?


Recently my sister sent me an article about a child sized Barbie Dreamhouse in Berlin which had become the subject of controversy amongst feminists who wanted it banned.

http://www.dailymercury.com.au/news/pretty-pink-dolls-or-naked-angry-blonde/1871662/

This made me rather angry. I’ve often heard the arguments about Barbie not being a good role model for girls because of her figure and supposed attitude so at the risk of annoying people I’m going to put in my five cents worth.

First of all let me say that I have no children or grandchildren and that my nieces are now adults so I don’t pretend to be an expert on child development but surely children are more influenced by the adults in their own lives than by a toy. Apart from the careers suggested by Mattel I’m sure there are lots of children whose Barbie has a job just like mum or dad, or maybe has marvellous adventures that came straight from their own imaginations.

I believe that if adults teach their children the right values they will grow up understanding that they don’t have to conform to an artificial ideal to be attractive. Certainly there are some individuals who have spent their lives and savings to make themselves into real life Barbie dolls but these people are surely in the minority. Most girls who play with Barbie or similar dolls do not grow up wanting to look like them. It never crossed my mind to want to be like Barbie or any of my own fashion dolls.

Yes Barbie has an impossible figure but that’s not new or unusual. Have a look at some types of antique dolls undressed and you will see that their bodies are very strangely shaped. Why? So that their clothes look better on them; just like Barbie. I am sure that the designer, whether it be Mattel or some long ago doll maker, did not do this with the idea of encouraging girls not to eat but to make their design pleasing to the eye.

thumb_370595005241

In fact while doing some online research for this post I came across this article suggesting that Barbie is not too skinny at all. It’s all in the maths!

Proportionate Barbie (or, Barbie is not skinny) by Julian D. A. Wiseman

Abstract: scaling Barbie such that the ratio of weight to strength is preserved suggests that Barbie is not skinny.

www.jdawiseman.com/papers/barbie/proportionate_barbie.html.

90s Barbie
Barbie with twist waist from the 90s.
Model Muse body
Barbie with the more recent Model Muse body.

 

The other thing that I feel very strongly is that the Barbie bashers are taking the fun out of childhood. Why can’t we just let children be children? They grow up fast enough. Personally I think that the Berlin Dreamhouse and its counterpart in the USA look garish and are overpriced but I’m not six. Little girls like to dress up and be princesses and fairies and pop stars and what is wrong with that really? It’s a game to them. We adults are the ones that read too much into things.

I have previously written about my dislike for the modern Barbie playline and my feeling that the dolls of today are not as nice as the ones I played with in the 1960s. I still think that but while I would like to see Mattel and other companies make better dolls and lose the candy pink and glitter I believe that playing with Barbie is an important part of childhood that should not be spoiled.

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4 comments

  1. Wow, I think I’ve set out to write an article along these lines about twenty times and failed every time – there’s so many different pieces of research (and pseudo-research) out there, and a lot of historical background to Barbie-bashing that I find fascinating. It’s great to hear your opinions and I agree with a lot of what you say. I’ll try to restrain myself from going on and on now! But one thing I will say – I think it’s telling that the bodies of girl’s dolls are constantly scrutinised and written about and demonised – yet boy’s fighting toys go mostly unremarked. My own four year old boy owns a plastic sword (the Sword of Omens from Thundercats) a replica lightsabre (from Starwars) and countless little figures that punch when you flick a switch – no friend or relative has ever called me out on it and rightly so because my boy is gentle as a (slightly boisterous) lamb … But if I’d had a daughter instead, I’d be open to criticism if I bought her a toy whose offensive properties involve looking slim in a dress? Seems unbalanced to me …

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    • Good point about the boys toys. There is nowhere near the outcry about the things that boys play with. This is a subject that we could discuss endlessly so may be worth another post one day.

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