Barbie has long been condemned for the unrealistic expectations the doll presents to children. However, Barbie recently released a new collection called “Fashionista” that included much more than trendy accessories. This new line debuted three new body types, eight skin tones, 14 facial structures, 23 hairstyles, and 18 different eye colors.
Critics have, for a long time, scrutinized the classically perfect, blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauties that in no way represent the average human being’s characteristics. In fact, the original Barbie body type would be 5 foot 9 inches tall, have a 39-inch bust, an 18-inch waist, 33-inch hips, and a size three shoe if she was an actual woman. This figure is disproportionate, impossible, and unhealthy. If a woman was made with Barbie’s proportions, the doll would have a neck twice as long and six inches thinner than the average person, leaving Barbie unable to lift her own head. Her 16-inch waist would leave her without sufficient room for even the most basic internal organs, nevermind an inch of muscle or fat.
The target market for Barbie doll sales is young girls ages three through 12, a crucial time in a child’s development. When we allow our children to play with a doll that would be too frail to hold her own weight, confined to crawling on all fours, we also allow our children to play with the idea that this is what it takes to be beautiful. The danger comes when children grow up with these misconceptions, feeding into future eating disorders and confidence issues that children, especially teenagers, may face.
Barbie’s recent release of the “curvy, petite, and tall” figures allows children to relate to their dolls. This is very important in a child’s development because the less time young girls spend thinking about how they can emulate Barbies, the more time they can spend trying to imagine what they want to accomplish in their future. Barbie dolls represent young women that girls look up to, and presenting this new line of Barbies allows more girls to identify with them. With the debut of a realistic Barbie, girls may now spend less time combing their doll’s flawless hair and more time playing doctor, and it is this part of a child’s imagination that we should feed.
The new Barbie has seen only positive feedback from children who recognize the diversity in the dolls as relatable to women they know. When asked what career choice they thought their Fashionista Barbie might have, children often reported more diverse answers than the typical “model” or “fashion designer.” Answers ranged from “teacher” to “computer tech,” and this was not by accident. The diversity in this line was meant to expand the reach of every child, not just the ones who fit the classic Barbie mold.
“This is radical because we’re saying that there isn’t this narrow standard of what a beautiful body looks like,” Senior Director of product design Robert Best said.
The first ethnically diverse line of dolls did not debut until the 1980 “Barbies of the World” collection. While girls of all races and body types have been playing with Barbies for quite some time, only within the last 36 years have these differences been celebrated. With this new collection, the company hopes to “let girls know it doesn’t matter what shape you come in, anything is possible.” Barbie now boasts the slogan “#YouCanBeAnything” and has come a long way since their 1959 debut into the toy market.