It’s Bigger than Barbies

Some of my favorite moments as a young girl were playing with my Barbies. Most of the time, they were marrying Ninja Turtles (thank you parents for exposing me to both female and male-marketed toys) and coming together to ward off Shredder. But looking back, did I ever actually *want* the body of a Barbie?

I’m not so sure.

Barbie’s lead designer Kim Culmone recently spoke with Fast Company about Barbie’s measurements and the impact of the unattainable body that has seemingly affected young girls all over the world. Culmone stands her ground, saying:

Barbie’s body was never designed to be realistic. She was designed for girls to easily dress and undress.

Ah, yes, true. And undress them we did! My Barbies went through dozens of wardrobe changes, and I must say I’m still really bitter at the thought of losing those tiny shoes that were a real bitch to put on. Culmone also noted that if they changed Barbie’s clothes, that would lose a lot of her other chic outfits!

Though there’s also the issue of heritage. This is a 55-year-old brand where moms are handing clothes down to their daughters, and so keeping the integrity of that is really important.

Hmmm, okay, so you’re not changing the clothes because maybe Barbie likes to shop vintage. I kind of get it. So will Barbie ever have a more realistic body?

There isn’t an objective to change the proportion of Barbie currently. And to little girls, they are putting themselves in that doll anyway. You have to remember that girls’ perceptions are so different than grown ups’ perceptions about what real is and what real isn’t, and what the influences are.

So basically, Mattel is saying Barbie’s not going to gain any weight any time soon. And while the body positive side of me is saying “that fucking sucks,” there’s an 8-year-old girl that is asking myself if Barbies were ever my “gateway drug” to thinking my own body sucks. In fact, no. They weren’t.

Here’s what made me hate my body when I was playing with Barbies:

  • The way Dani Gallagher’s thighs looked super skinny when we were sitting in the back of her mom’s minivan before soccer practice and mine were all wide and fat-looking.
  • My stepmom referring to her stomach as her “dunlap” because it “done laps all over her belt,” and then spending a ton of time asking myself if I had one too.
  • Getting my period before everyone else in my grade.
  • My soft lower jaw and its lack of a pronounced line, causing me to have a double chin in photos basically beginning at age 6.
  • Training bras.
  • Not Barbies.

I know society is constantly looking for something to blame when it comes to why women constantly feel so fat. I don’t discredit any woman who did feel the need to be skinnier when playing with the dolls, but it is *so* *much* *bigger* than Barbies. It’s how young girls interact with their peers, it’s how their moms talk about their own weight in passing, it’s how puberty comes in and basically fucks up your whole life and then you’re expected to feel the same way. My Barbies were my outlet from feeling like a fat kid. They weren’t the problem.

While I feel like Culmone’s comments were a bit harsh, I do think the problem with body image will never be sourced by one tangible thing. Making Barbie more “realistic” will not make me feel more skinny.

But it did make me want her shoes, and that, folks, is why I’m here.

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