Thursday, February 4, 2016

The New and Improved Barbie

Mattel revealed last week that Barbie, after 57 years, is getting an extreme makeover.  (Hallelujah!)  Yes, the iconic, yet highly disproportionate doll that millions of girls worldwide have played with over the course of six decades, myself included, will now be come in three new body types: tall, petite, and curvy.  (The original uber hourglass shape figure Barbie will still be available, too.) Barbie dolls will also be available in seven skin tones, twenty two different eye colors, and twenty four different hair styles.  Once they are all rolled out, there will be a total of thirty three distinctively different dolls.  I, myself, think it's about damn time.

As a kid, I loved my Barbies.  My room was a virtual Barbieville.  I had the Dream House, the swimming pool, the metallic pink Corvette, and at least two dozen Barbie dolls.  Of all my Barbies, my favorite was Malibu Barbie. Despite her blonde hair, blue eyes, and unrealistic body dimensions, I gravitated to her for several reasons.  First, she appeared to be a tomboy and wasn't all "glammed up," like the other Barbies,  which was something I could definitely relate to given that I was a tomboy.  During play, I portrayed her going to college, playing sports, and surfing, which were things that I envisioned I would do one day. The second reason, as crazy as this may sound, is because she had a tan. Of all the Barbie's in my collection, her skin tone most closely matched that of my own and I identified with her because of that.

The new Barbies are said to arrive in stores sometime in March.  Even though they haven't hit the shelves yet, they're already drawing criticism from those who think the whole Barbie body dimension/body image controversy is just a bunch of hooey.  

I'm a stocky, stout woman and I was a stocky, stout kid.  Even though I played with Barbies, I never aspired to look like her.  I may have been a kid, but even then I knew her proportions were seriously out of whack.  I can attest that playing with Barbies did not lower my self esteem or cause me to have a poor body image.  But, I also grew up in a time when girls weren't under a constant barrage from the media and society as to what the "ideal" female body should look like as girls are today.

I applaud Mattel for finally recognizing that people come in all different shapes and sizes and such a popular and influential toy such as Barbie should too.  And despite what the critics claim, Barbie may just be a doll, but she has been very influential in a positive nature in the lives of countless young girls.  Barbie has been portrayed in many careers, sometimes years before women broke through the glass ceiling and attained those positions in real life.  In 1965, Astronaut Barbie was released, inspiring young girls to dream of space exploration.  Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, did not do so until 1983.  I've always wondered if Sally Ride played with an astronaut Barbie when she was a child.
Over the years, Barbie has been a college graduate (1963), a surgeon (1973), doctor (1988), a pilot (1990), a police officer (1993), a firefighter (1995), a NASCAR driver (1998), a professional WNBA player (1999), and, one of my personal favorites, a pants-suit wearing Presidential Candidate (2004) - all careers and positions that have historically been dominated by men.
(On a side note, as a self-admitted tomboy, it's nice to see Barbie wearing something other than a dress or skirt.)  

In this day and age where children are exposed to so many adverse influences, positive role models, especially diverse role models, even if they are toys, should be welcomed and praised.

FYI...According to a 2013 Daily Mail article and a Get Real Barbie Fact Sheet, the dimensions of the traditional Barbie would equate to a real, living, breathing woman who is 5' 9 and who has a 16 -18 inch waist and a 22 inch head!  

What are you thoughts on the new Barbie?  As always, thanks for stopping by.

Linking up with Kristin @ See You in a Porridge 
and Gretchen @ Gretchen Runs.

Linking up with Kristin @ Stuff, Things, Etc. 
and Joey @ Hodgespodges.

Linking up with Mackenzie @ Reflections from Me 

and Janine @ Reflections from a Redhead. 


  1. LOVE the new Barbies! Applause ~ applause ~ applause. Did I feel like my body needed to look like Barbie when I grew up? No. But, I gotta admit. I was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed middle class child. Would I have wanted a Barbie to sorta look like me if I was Latina or if I had red curly hair and kids at school made fun of me for it? Yes. Yes. I would. Because let's face it, no matter hairstyle, skin color, body shape...the new Barbies are still all "pretty". So, as a girl playing, I'd want a "pretty" version of me. That's what I did have as a kid. I would also want pretty versions of other people. I can only hope and believe this would be a small pebble on the path to being more accepting of our differences.

  2. I like that they're recognizing all shapes and sizes...especially because the average woman is like 5'4" and Barbie is like 7 feet tall.
    But as a collector of Barbies as a kid, I never assumed that's what I had to look like. I think adults make a big deal about something kids don't notice. The media is worse at perpetuating body types than toys are.

  3. I think it's good to recognize all the shapes and sizes, I guess? I also had barbies as a kid and never thought that's what I should look like.

  4. thank you for linking up with Gretch and I!

    i think this is awesome that barbie / mattel is doing this. i mean, i am 5'9 but my waist is definitely not that small LOL.

    i loved barbies growing up - who didnt?! - we didn't have a lot of the extras like the house and cars and such, as they were expensive and as my mum would say 'we weren't made of money' but i still had a great time... i feel like it fueled my imagination as much as books. i loved my barbies. i also chewed their feet, which is as weird as it sounds hahahaha. anyway. but like you said, i never thought i had to look like barbie. i thought she was a doll that i played with. but also, the media etc etc and if this is one thing that society can take away and not stress out little girls, that is great. you know?

  5. If I am totally honest here - I never thought much about her body when I was a kid playing Barbies. As a child I never gave attention to that type of thing - I guess it is called innocence. Also, my daughter plays with Barbies but she doesn't stare them down and fathom ideas of looking like the doll. To her it is a toy that she can dress up and talk silly with while playing with friends. So I guess I'm just very confused on all this. Having worked with children for 16 years I just wonder if this is more an adult issue than a child issue. Great thought provoking post!

  6. I go back and forth on this one so much. On one hand, super happy to see more bodies represented (even ones that look like mine!). On the other hand, she's just a doll and the way she looks is iconic. I don't necessarily think she needs an overhaul. It's not because I look like Barbie (ha!), but in the same way that I hate when beloved things from childhood or shows, etc. are modified to keep up with the times. I think she's kinda classic as she was, praying mantis limbs and all! But then I also celebrate all the cool new bodies and how they mimic real girls. I guess I'm not sure on my final thoughts on this one. I can adamantly see both sides.

  7. I love Barbie's new image.. so cool!! Though I definitely agree that I didn't aspire to look like her. Though I did want the blonde straight hair.. haha We got halloween wigs once that were long and blonde.. I remember thinking it looked so wrong on! :) hehe I LOVED Barbies as a kid. Loved them. My favorites was probably the "working woman barbie" She worked at a magazine company I think... and she had a suit and a cell phone.. a lap top and bag. She even had a reversible skirt that was business on one side and date night on the other. It had a CD rom where you could make your own magazine. It was a blast. ;) XO -Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  8. I used to LOVE playing with Barbies! I have to agree with the others that I didn't see anything wrong with her body when I was growing never affected my body image at all or made me feel worse about myself. I'm all for making everyone feel better though, so if that helps a little girl not develop an eating disorder then it's a great addition to the line. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and linking up with us today!

  9. I played with Barbies and so did my daughter and neither of us seem to have been psychologically damaged by their impossible body shape. The memory that still makes me smile is my sister-in-law and me combing our town looking for a Ken with "real" hair because my daughter didn't like the plastic haired ones. We eventually found John Smith (Pocohontas was all the rage at the time) and snapped him up - that story still gets told!

  10. I do appreciate that Mattel is doing this, but, like many others have said, I never felt like Barbie represented what I was supposed to look like. I just thought, "Hey, this is a cool doll with fun clothes and accessories."

    I have admittedly dealt with some body image issues throughout my life, but I've never blamed Barbie. I've also never blamed the media. While I can agree that, as women, we're often presented with certain "standards" for beauty that can potentially make us feel bad about ourselves, I've never felt an intense pressure to look just like a Victoria's Secret model (or anyone else, for that matter). All of my issues come from other, more personal sources.

    But, on the other hand, that's me. That's my experience. Another woman may struggle with her self image because she feels a constant need to compare herself with actresses, supermodels, musicians, etc. It's definitely different for everyone, and if the new line of Barbies helps even one little girl feel comfortable in her own skin, I say it's a good thing.

  11. I'm excited there's a redhead one myself!

  12. I love Barbies until today. Maybe because I never thought about looking like one either, I don't really have an opinion about all these changes.
    I'd still stick to the good and old look, but if the new ones can support self-love in young girls, so be it.

    Thanks for the update. I had no clue of it.

  13. I love that even Barbies are being reinvented and are evolving with time. It's important so that we don't give a distorted image of beauty and perfection to our little girls.

  14. I was truly Barbie obsessed, my mum was a stay at home mum and the type that loved cleaning and did everything for her husband and kids, so as I child that is all I made Barbie too. As I got older and after my Barbie playing days were over I started to see that women could be much more than a stay at home mum. I realised I could be whatever I wanted! My mum is still the same but she insists she is happy and has no desire to be anything but the devoted wife she still is. I decided I wanted to show my girls they can follow their dreams so I always follow mine. I am a stay at home/ work from home mum, but I am so much more and as they play with Barbies I can only hope they are making them play strong roles. I love my mum and we are very close, I am grateful for all she did for us, but I do feel she held us back, we weren't encouraged to be independent or follow our dreams. Anyway I am off topic a bit. Barbie gave me many great hours of fun, and no matter what shape she is I don't think she is the biggest influence in a girls life. Great post! Sure got me thinking. #Fridayreflections

  15. I never knew that Barbie historically came with various careers. That is surprisingly progressive and makes me feel a little warmer towards Barbie. I also had Barbie dolls growing up and never aspired to be like her or felt that she represented any kind of 'ideal woman', she was just a doll like any other. Good on Mattel though for keeping up with the times...


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