Last week, one of the world’s most iconic dolls embraced a long overdue change: Mattel Inc. began online marketing for Barbies that break away from the previously used uniform female body model. Moving forward, “Barbie” will introduce three new body types into their line of dolls, with differentiating skin tones and
Well it’s about damn time.
Barbie or otherwise, when are we going to completely own up to the fact that giving children dolls to play with that don’t look like them can be deeply scarring? From the day we start playing with these dolls, we begin to cultivate a false understanding that the only people who are truly beautiful are white, blonde bombshells with an unrealistically perfect hourglass figure. Shaking up that image gives me more hope for the next generation of youth who will play with Barbies.
The lingering criticism of the dolls makes sense to me—that even though there is new differentiation in the image presented, Barbies still inoculate an overemphasis on the physical appearance of women. It does make a difference; playing with unrealistic dolls as children means unrealistic expectations for how we ourselves should look as adults. When we give kids toys, we can’t also be handing them deep-seated insecurities—and fortunately, there are ways to ensure that we don’t. While I definitely grew up playing with Barbies, I also grew up with fervently strong female role models who taught me to value what is in my head more than what’s on my face. (Special thank you to Mom, Hermione Granger.) And so while my hope of all hopes is that we one day we live in a world where less importance is placed on physical appearance, I also feel pleased with the developments for Barbie thus far. As more ethnicities and body types are represented, hopefully the next generation of women will grow up that much healthier.
Lena Beck is a freshman Humanities for Leadership major. She does best with ample access to coffee, and enjoys people-watching from the top of parking garages.