Living in a Barbie World

Living in a Barbie World

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Living in a Barbie World

She took the world by storm with her luxurious blond hair, blue eyes, and long legs. Soon, little girls all over the world were emulating and praising this eleven-and-a-half-inch-tall plastic doll (Napier). Throughout the decades, she has become an icon to little girls, so much that some are wondering whether the stereotypical ideals for women exemplified by Barbie have affected females in regards to body image.

When Barbie first appeared, she bore her trademark black and white swimsuit and swirling ponytail. Over the years as fashion and teenage lifestyle trends have shifted, so has Barbie. She has evolved from having bendable legs, a twisting waist, long hair, and sophisticated look in the 1960s to the athletically inclined Barbie with bendable wrists, elbows, and ankles in the 1970s. In the 1980s, a new friendlier, open-mouthed smiling, and bright-eyed Barbie emerged on the scene (Riddick). Her wardrobe took on a bit of pizzazz in the 1990s when she started sporting clothes created by famous fashion designers such as Calvin Klein and Vera Wang (Fashion). Not only has this doll transformed into an internationally known fashion savvy doll, she has left psychologists and parents wondering if she may be at fault for many female body image problems because of her overly slender stature.

It is incredibly amazing that anyone could consider the body measurements of 5'6", 110 pounds, and 39-18-33 attainable or at all a realistic womanly figure (Napier). These are Barbie's measurements in proportion to the size of a real woman and also the spark that started the fire of controversy concerning gender stereotyping in the nation. The accusations by feminists and doctors alike are that Mattel, the manufacturer of the doll, has projected harmful body images onto our female youth by subtly placing these stereotypes into the media and into little girls hands. The psychologists insist that the young girls notice the body shapes of the doll and translate them into what a female should physically look like thus creating a problem down the road such as low self-esteem or an eating disorder (Langley).

Although the Barbie manufacturer's prime intention for the doll was to inspire self-esteem, glamour, and friendship, society's stereotypes have caused her much media strife. There has been so much controversy that in 1998 she underwent plastic surgery to reduce her breast size, liposuction her hips, and inject the fat into her waist.

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Her new post-operative measurements are around 36-27-38 (Salon). The question now remains as to whether these measurements will satisfy the feminists and psychologists, promote a suitable body image for young girls, and erase some of the gender stereotypes in society? Only time will tell if their attitudes will change. No matter how the company changes the physical aspects of Barbie, there will always be some sort of "Barbie-hater" out there to pull out the gender stereotyping card and create a commotion.

More than simple playthings, dolls like Barbie were meant to be tools that could stimulate young girl's minds, emotions, and imaginations. They contribute to how these young girls relate to and understand other individuals, other times, and other places.
Although given a bad reputation for portraying an impractical image for girls, Barbie has been a positive role model in encouraging their capacity to love others and themselves. She has remained a superior influence in her years, drawing her identity from current fashion trends and social issues beginning in a decade of modesty to the millennium of over-the-top glamour. Barbie has indeed progressed into an appropriate-for-the-times, you-can-do-anything type of independent woman. Eventhough this is so, Mattel and the role of Barbie - and of toys more generally - in constructing young girls' sense of appropriate gender roles remains hotly debated to date.

Works Cited

Fashion Windows. "Barbie in Burberry." 21 May 2001. 05 Feb. 2002

Langley, Jeff. "Plastic surgery will make Barbie fatter and flatter." 1997. 05 Feb. 2002

Napier, Mark. "The Distorted Barbie." 15 April 1997. 05 Feb. 2002

Riddick, Kristin. "Barbie: The Image of Us All." 05 Feb. 2002

Salon. "The Littlest Harlot." 1997 Nov. 26. 05 Feb. 2002
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