The toy company Mattel is now making its Barbie doll in three different body types. It’s a welcome step, but there’s still further to go, says Fiona Longmuir.
When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with Barbie dolls. I’d dress them up, I’d brush their hair. As I got older, I’d make them kiss. They lived out the lives that my friends and I dreamed of for ourselves: fame, fortune, dream houses in dreamy locations. For all intents and purposes, Barbie was who I saw myself growing up to be.
My Barbies were never blonde bimbos: sure, they talked to their gorgeous boyfriends in horrendous faux-American accents and went through 57 outfit changes a day but in-between this, they were writers and vets and inventors. I was a geeky kid and my Barbies’ beauty never stopped me from assuming that they were geeky too.
The body was inescapable though, inextricably tied up with my image of how I was going to grow up. I remember standing in my cousin’s bedroom in front of her mirror, straining up on my tiptoes and sucking in my stomach. I wasn’t just trying to make myself thinner. I was pretending that the bulge of my ribcage was a pair of boobs. Too young to even know what breasts actually were, I had already learned what shape I was supposed to be. And given the shape of that shape and the shape of me, I was doomed.
I was thrilled at the news that Barbie is getting a host of brand new looks. Following on from the addition of new skin tones and hair textures last year, Barbies will now be available in three new body shapes: Tall, Petite and Curvy.
“On being shown the doll, a few kids declared the new Barbie to be ‘fat’; coming from a child, this word is usually brandished like a weapon.”
The new Curvy shape is probably the biggest news, depicting Barbie with broader hips, bigger legs and even the hint of a tummy. And she is gorgeous. The Curvy shape looks like almost all of the women I know, myself included (although I’ll still never have those boobs).
This actually, is one of my biggest issues with the range. Not the boobs. The other thing. Barbie taught me what shape a woman was supposed to be, so having a wider range and showing girls that women come in different shapes and sizes is absolutely a great thing. But I’m a little worried that we’re going to be showing our daughters this new shape and branding it ‘curvy’.
The sizes still skew heavily towards the slim, with even the Curvy doll looking like she hits below average proportions. On being shown the doll, a few kids declared the new Barbie to be “fat”; coming from a child, this word is usually brandished like a weapon. We need to be careful with exactly what we are telling girls about their bodies, about what is average sized. After all, if they think Curvy Barbie is fat, what is to stop them looking at their own bodies in the same way?
Wouldn’t it be nice if the average sized doll became the norm and the Curvy and Petite dolls were designed in relation to that? Wouldn’t it be great to have a really fat Barbie, to teach our girls that it’s completely possible to be fat and beautiful? But given the choice between a doll based on the proportions of a German sex doll (I’m not being facetious here, she actually is) and a doll based on achievable human proportions, I know which one I’m rooting for.
Curvy Barbie might not be breaking down body image barriers just yet but at least she looks human. And with that adjustment, her freakishly tiny feet have taken a big step in the right direction.1991 Views
Fiona Longmuir is a professional storyteller, reluctant adult and aspiring funny girl. When not getting naked in tube stations and binge-watching inappropriate TV shows, she can be found scribbling at the Escapologist's Daughter.