Dear Barbie: Why I Never Talked About Your Body 

7 Feb

 *** DISCLAIMER TIME! BELOW YOU WILL FIND A (very long – sorry) ESSAY ON WHAT I THINK ABOUT BARBIE’S BODY AND THE DRAMA, TEARS AND TANTRUMS THAT SURROUND IT. I AM IN NO WAY IMPLYING THAT THIS IS HOW YOU SHOULD THINK ABOUT BARBIE’S BODY. THINK WHAT YOU LIKE. THAT IS YOUR RIGHT AND PRIVILEGE ** 

So, anybody with half an eye on the Barbieverse will be familiar with the changes afoot – the new Fashionistas due for release in Spring will feature a wider than usual range of skin colours (7), eye colours (22) and – ta-da! – body shapes (4). Of course, it’s mostly the body shapes that have got people talking. Isn’t it always? Barbie’s body is as notorious as it is famous these days, and this is, of course, why Mattel have started to produce the other bodies – to try to stem the tide of criticism. 

In addition to the standard body which we all know so well, there is now a “tall” Barbie body, a “petite” Barbie body (I’ll be interested to see how this differs from the contemporary Skipper bodies) and a “curvy” Barbie body. Curvy Barbie has recently graced the cover of Time Magazine, and every newspaper I’ve seen has featured a vaguely feminist, feel-good piece about Barbie’s “evolution”. 

  
I’ve never actually written about Barbie’s body before. Never FINISHED writing about it, anyway, although I’ve started plenty of times. Since the announcement regarding the new bodies, I’ve gone back and reviewed my drafts and there are at least three Barbie body posts that I’d nearly finished, and I know there were plenty of others I trashed in their infancy. I suppose I did this for the following reasons: 

1. Discussion about Barbie’s body is usually heated, I’ve never been sure that I wanted to fully immerse myself in the debate. I mostly just like collecting dolls and writing about them, and I don’t feel like I need everybody’s approval to do it. I do have a small confession to make, though – I have stuck a toe in the water before now. If you’ve ever searched the major blog host tags for the keyword “doll”, you’ll know what a frequent post theme Barbie’s body is, for example, “Barbie as possible trigger for anorexia”, “impact on childrens’ self-image”, “scale-up compared to human measurements”. I have found myself replying to some of these anti-Barbie posts now and again, usually when I see some glaring inaccuracy or a debatable piece of research presented as solid proof. I try to be polite and factual, and of course I never tell people that they SHOULD approve of Barbie, because that would be ridiculous. Most of the time, blog writers and other commenters are quite polite in return, although I don’t believe I ever changed anybody’s mind (which doesn’t surprise me – I’ll come back to this in a minute). Occasionally, though, I do get called out. I’ve been called an “antifeminist”, a “crypto-fascist” (I believe that the lady in question was a Marxist feminist) and “disgusting” (this last was a teenage blogger who was quite revolted by my hobby). That was far enough for me, thanks. I decided (and maybe it was cowardly? I don’t know) that it’s one thing to have these bloody debates on other blogs and quite another to invite it onto Barbiebeauties, which has served as my little haven of peace for years now. 

As far as I’m concerned, the heat behind the debate is not so much about the specifics of Barbie’s body, as it is about what Barbie represents in the popular imagination. Much of the history of anti-Barbie feeling is all tied up with the progress of Second Wave Feminism. For the Feminists who were active in the late sixties and early seventies, Barbie was the perfect symbol of a pre- or anti-feminist woman. She was, in fact, everything that they were trying to persuade women to stop aspiring to – appearance-obsessed, man-obsessed, always smiling, didn’t bleed or get BO or body hair, always “perfect” in a kind of Stepford Wife way. Much was written about Barbie in those early days and a general anti-Barbie feeling has hung around in feminism’s collective memory, despite Mattel’s repeated attempts to ingratiate themselves (“we girls can do anything”, right Barbie?). Some of the popular criticisms of Barbie that are brought up in contemporary blog posts and articles actually date from this time, for example the infamous and often-referenced Barbie-size “How To Lose Weight” book, which came with a miniature set of scales permanently set to 110 lbs. Inside this little book were just two words – “Don’t Eat!” which is, of course, awful. However, the fact is that these props were sold in the mid 1960s, when anorexia was neither understood or widely discussed. That only started to happen in the early 80s around the time that poor Karen Carpenter lost her life to it. If Mattel had marketed these props after this time it would have been unforgivable, but they didn’t. Yet in article after article, in the broadsheets as well as on blogs, I’ve seen them taken out of historical context and discussed as if they were contemporary. Further, I have been interested to note that if you point this out to anti-Barbie people, they will usually either ignore you or tell you you’re wrong (I’m really not). They don’t want to know. They don’t want to take this particular fact on board, or anything else that might indicate that there are other ways of thinking about Barbie. For these people, Barbie isn’t just a toy, she’s a symbol of everything that is wrong. Because of this, Barbie inspires a range of negative emotions that you couldn’t possibly just talk people out of having. It’s pointless. 

As I said before, this doesn’t particularly surprise me. Personally, I believe that our reaction to toys are, for very good reasons, an irrational, knee-jerk business rooted deeply in our personal histories where logic has a hard job to follow us. I understand this because I am a collector and Barbie isn’t just a toy to me either. I know that none of the anti-Barbie arguments I have come across have swayed me away from my love of dolls or my desire to own as many of them as I possibly can. I’m aware that this is probably illogical, but this knowledge doesn’t change me. So I think that I am in a very good position to understand, for instance, the strength of feeling that caused protesting feminists in Berlin to burn crucified Barbie dolls in 2013. Please just don’t try to tell me that they’re not as crazy as I am. 

2. I find scale-up exercises tedious and pointless. 

It now seems to be an accepted fact that any Barbie body-shape article MUST contain a “Barbie scaled up to human form” section. For example, the heroine of the Barbie = anorexia movement is a lady called Galia Slayen. Ms Slayen battled against anorexia herself, and for her, Barbie is a symbol of everything that she had aspired to while her illness was incubating, all the ideals she had had to reject to get well. To illustrate her point and promote awareness, Ms Slayen constructed a model of Barbie “scaled up” to human size. I believe that she got her measurements from a particular piece of research, often quoted but really hard to actually track down (its from the University of Helsinki, can anybody provide me with a link?) which sets Barbie’s vital statistics at 39-18-33. This research went on to state that if Barbie was a real woman, she would be unnaturally tall (pushing seven feet), forced to crawl on all fours because her waist would not be able to support her upper body, and wouldn’t have room in her body cavity for her internal organs. You can see Galia Slayen’s model, and read her story in her own words, here.

Now, I have no intention of knocking Galia Slayen and what she has done. She is entitled to use whatever methods she wants to secure her own recovery and the recovery of others. I know a few people who suffer from this terrible illness and have seen enough to know that recovery is a constant uphill battle so I admire Galia Slayen for her achievement, who wouldn’t? However. According to her own account, the lady did not produce this model as a scientific enterprise. She was invested in it – it was designed to say something to the world about how she feels about her body, her illness and the expectations and ideals women have to deal with. But time and time again, I’ve read articles featuring the image of her stood next to her model which basically say: “OMG, this is disgusting!! I never realised how distorted Barbie dolls are!!! We need to ban them!!!” And my question in response has been “So please can you tell me why does this model not look like a GREAT BIG BARBIE?” I just don’t understand why, if its modelled on Barbie’s proportions, it really doesn’t look like one. And again, I’ve generally got no answer, or a “thankyou for your opinion”. Nobody has ever said “Oh yeah! Why doesn’t it, actually??” or “here’s the reasoning behind it”. Galia Slayen’s model, which I believe to be more art than diagram, gets presented over and over as a scientific representation of Barbie’s true proportions, and nobody questions it. Because we all know that Barbie is a symbol of everything that is wrong, don’t we? We knew it all along.

Maybe I am wrong to say that Galia Slayen’s Barbie is art rather than science? After all (leaving aside the fact that it doesn’t look anything like a Barbie, which might be due to technical reasons that I’m just not privy to) it is roughly based on the University of Helsinki’s scaled-up proportions 39-18-33. This leads me to my next point. The thing is that, contrary to the impression that has been formed in the popular imagination, the University of Helsinki did not produce a definitive piece of research. There’s lots of ways to scale up Barbie. You could do it using her head as a guide (scale that up to human size and make everything else proportional to this) or a different body part, or you could scale her up straight. Different methods of scaling up produce different results – in fact, every single scaling-up experiment I’ve read about (and I’ve read a lot) works out differently. Here – height = 5 feet 6 inches, statistics 27-20-29. Here – height = six feet, statistics 31.2-19.6-33.2. Here – height = 6 feet 1 inch, statistics 32-22-33. And I’m not even sure what this guy is claiming. Everybody seems to have an opinion, and no two opinions are the same.

It’s true that if you are determined to scale her up, Barbie is pretty damn thin however you do your maths. When it comes to how Barbie’s body is percieved, I think that part of the problem is that average (human) female body shape has changed quite a bit since the 1960s when Barbie first hit the scene. What used to be an arguably significant but still relatively small gap between Barbie and reality is now a huge, glaring one. In the sixties, I have read that the average female measurements were 34-24-35. I’d also point out that at this time, girdles and other foundation garments were much more widely used than they are now, which would probably only have added to the impression that “normal women” of Barbie’s suggested age were shaped like tiny hourglasses. I haven’t been able to find an equivalent recent set of figures, but sources seem to agree that the average modern woman is significantly bigger than this. For instance, the CDC states that the average American female waist circumference in the late 2000s was 37 inches, other places I have seen the figure quoted as 34 inches. Whichever set of figures you believe to be more accurate, this means that Barbie, with her 50s glamour-girl shape, is going to look terribly thin compared to modern women. There is certainly room to make an argument that the standard Barbie is out of touch with modern body shape. Nikolay Lamm, the creator of Lammily doll, which is based on the CDC measurements, certainly feels that this is the case. However, if we accept the idea that there is a direct link between playing with Barbie in childhood and, for instance, likelihood of developing an eating disorder, surely we should be thinking about the fact that a waist measurement of 34 inches is not healthy. There’s an increased risk of heart disease for women whose waists are over 32 inches. And obesity, rather than anorexia, is the terror of the modern first world where both dolls have made their niches. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way trying to turn the tables here. I am merely pointing out that at some point, we have started to associate promotion of “average” with good mental health, whilst pretty much ignoring the resulting physical implications. 

Not that I care. I truly don’t understand the burning need to create toys that represent the average. There are a host of options available between (and actually, on either side of) a 24 inch waist and a 34 inch  waist in the real world. Variety, rather than averageness, is what we see every day. But Barbie is not a creature of the real world any more than Dali’s Space Elephants or Picasso’s cubist ladies are. Try scaling them up to human size some time and using that as the basis for judging their worth, and I will consider the results just as relevant as I do in the case of scaled-up Barbie. Which is, not at all. 

3. Barbie is a caricature.

So far, so befuddling. But how can you talk about Barbie’s body at all, when it isn’t even a real body? 

Here’s what I think. When you scale her up, Barbie has a neck twice the length of a human neck. Barbie has a head far bigger than it would be if we wanted to make her a properly proportioned model of a real woman. For me, the strangest thing about Barbie has always been those enormous legs, rather than her waist,  hips or bust – the legs that just go on and on and on. The tiny feet. The cartoon features. You can’t scale her up without losing her essential Barbieness. You can’t, as far as I’m concerned, scale her up and have it mean anything very much.

Barbie is a caricature and she does not have human proportions any more than Jessica Rabbit does, or Betty Boop, or Wilma Flintstone. Want to know why I think kids love Barbie so much? Think of the world from a kid’s point of view – put yourself two or three feet off the floor. Now look up at somebody. Its like a kid’s drawing – tiny body, long arms, long legs, big head bending down towards them. Barbie’s head is not big to make her look like a “lollipop”. Barbie’s head is out of proportion for ease of manufacture and to make her features prominent.

Yes, you might say – but goddammit, she’s still really skinny and sexy! Look at her! And its true. Barbie has the killer legs, and the big boobs, and the weedy arms, and the tiny waist, and the curvy hips. She’s a caricature, but what if we disapprove of what she says about the contemporary take on femininity, regardless of body comparisons with humans? What if we think we shouldn’t be emphasising women’s “sexually attractive” features in this way? Well, I have two words for you – He-Man.

OK, so maybe He-Man is a little old-fashioned now, but look at the male body shapes in cartoons and computer games – Avengers, Batman, Superman. Why don’t we worry that little boys who are constantly exposed to this are going to only feel OK about themselves if they grow up to look like upside-down triangles with legs? Exactly how common is that body shape amongst men (without taking steroids)? Where are the host of scaling-up exercises conducted on boys’ action figures? I think that there is actually something quite sexist in itself about this – are we implying that boys can understand the concept of caricatures, but girls can’t? Are we saying that boys are mentally robust enough to deal with this, but girls aren’t? Are we even suggesting that boys’ mental health is somehow less important than girls’? I think that some Feminists might argue that it’s not as simple as drawing a straight comparison between male body acceptance and female body acceptance. Most schools of feminist thought hold that what we generally consider to be beautiful, sexy and feminine is the result of hundreds, thousands, of years of patriarchy. I have no intention of getting into some big conversation about objectification and I’m not even saying I disagree with the idea. What I am saying is that, although objectification may not be the issue for men that it is for women, they too suffer when  they have poor body image, especially the young. However, nobody seems to be linking this to early experience with toys. For me, the reason that Barbie is so prominent in the Body debate is not so much a reflection on the size of her influence on the issue as it is to do with those historical Feminist criticisms, and by the way that she has been examined and discussed and held up as a symbol of everything that is wrong in countless articles and books. 

Anyhoo, that was why I didn’t talk about it. Also, there’s the fact that I am a) lazy and b) always pushed for time, and it’s taken me more hours than I care to admit to, to even set out the basics of what I think on this topic. But now I’ve started, I might as well continue. I think the new bodies are wonderful. 

Wha??? You may well say. It’s true that so far, I’ve been kind of picking holes in the reasons that they exist. Here’s the thing, though – I by no means think that Barbie’s body is perfect and above criticism. I’d worry about myself if I did. And aside from pointless scale-ups and Sunday Supplement opinions, some of the research I’ve read does make me question whether Barbie is an appropriate toy for very young girls (how lucky that I’m not one any more). What I don’t like are the snarky, holier-than-thou articles that wave around a few pieces of trumped-up research and some out-of context facts and then demand that everybody agrees with them. What I don’t like is a one-sided argument where it’s presumed that everybody understands, deep down, that a plastic doll is the Poster Girl for womankind’s problems and the Cheerleader of their enemies. What I don’t like is the arm up Mattel’s back to make dolls represent the average, and the branding of average as unconditionally healthy and therefore the only thing that is acceptable. What I don’t like is high emotion masquerading as pop science. What I don’t like is all the drama that surrounds this issue. 

The dolls are cute though. 

Just so you know: I collect all sorts of dolls and while I couldn’t really say that I like one kind more than another, I am not particularly fond of model muse because to ME (and you are extremely welcome to feel otherwise, that’s none of my beeswax) it looks too thin. That’s my gut reaction. I quite like standard Barbie. I prefer vintage bodies – the kind with knee dimples are adorable. I would certainly play with plumper dolls – why not? 

I think the new Barbie bodies will add a whole new level of variety to collections, particularly to those of us who have our “character dolls”. As I said before, variety is what we see every day, and variety is much more interesting than seeing the same body endlessly replicated. I love the curvy dolls already – not so sure about the talls and the petites, I’d like to see them before making a judgement, but I like the idea. 

Mattel have played a blinder, too. As soon as I saw Lammily, I wondered what their reaction would be – as I’ve said before, it seems that they never allow competition to go unchallenged and some of the most interesting Barbie lines we’ve had (Flavas and Barbie and The Rockers, just to name a couple) have been attempts to cut other toy companies off at the knees. As it is, they stand to lose very little through this enterprise. They have given people what they want, earned themselves some good press that makes them look hip and caring and contemporary, and -here’s the thing – THEY ARE STILL SELLING BARBIE AS SHE HAS ALWAYS BEEN as well as the girls with the new bodies. These new bodies have been thrown into the market to sink or swim. If they swim, they get another successful doll line – hooray! If they sink, they will forever have an answer for their critics – they can say “we tried” and continue to sell the platinum princess as she has always been. 

If you have stuck with me through this far-longer-than-usual ramble, thanks for your patience. Normal service will be resumed shortly 🙂 

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28 Responses to “Dear Barbie: Why I Never Talked About Your Body ”

  1. Pam February 7, 2016 at 10:38 pm #

    This is a very well-considered response to criticism of Barbie. The only thing I don’t think you mentioned is that it seems that Barbies used to be sold to an older age group than now – all the criticism about young girls getting bad messages ignores the fact that 3 or 4 year olds were not the target audience when the doll was invented. If it’s okay with you I’d like to add a link this post to my library catalogue so that our students might find it if they are doing research on body image and Barbie. I agree totally with your comments about the seven-foot freaky Barbie. I tell people Barbie is a doll in 1:6 scale, so 11 1/2 inches is 5ft 9, which is tall but not freakishly so. Her waist is tiny because she’s a doll – there has to be space allowed for the thickness of fabric and fastenings at the waist. once she’s dressed she looks completely fine to me. I have noticed that my newest Barbie has really skinny calves which is kind of creepy. Thanks again for a fantastic post.

    • barbielea February 9, 2016 at 9:49 am #

      Thanks so much for the great feedback, Pam. I’m really pleased you liked it and you’re welcome to add it to your library if you want to.

      I’d have loved to talk more about Barbie’s body in the context of age of the child who is playing with her, but I was struggling to wrestle this article down to even its current word count 🙂 so maybe I’ll write a proper article about it some time. I think that Mattel needs to take some responsibility for the fact that younger children now play with Barbie, and to carefully consider the possible implications of this. In recent years, they have been producing fairies and princesses with moulded-on clothes for this age group in increasing numbers. I understand that this in itself will have been a response to changes in their buying audience (and of course, they want to edge the Disney Princesses right off the playing field) but even so, it’s a choice that they have made. However. It’s also a choice that the parents who actually buy the dolls have made, and I don’t think that should be overlooked either.

      Seven foot Barbie: I think that their explanation for Barbie’s unusual height was that, according to their figures (and I really don’t know how they worked them out, as I can’t track down the original research), in order for her to have a humanly possible waist (18 inches rather than 12, for instance) they had to “expand” her beyond sixth scale so she ended up being unnaturally tall. The majority of scale-up exercises I’ve seen don’t agree with this, though.

  2. Blackkitty February 8, 2016 at 11:21 am #

    I don’t understand why so many people want Barbie to be an accurate miniature of a human. First of all, it’s a toy. It’s supposed to be a placeholder for a character, not an anatomy aid. Second of all, it’s not supposed to be naked. They have smaller waists to allow for clothes and small (usually pointy) feet for the same reason. Take Lammily for example, she looks fine naked but add a layer of clothing and she’s already on the heavy side. And I don’t even want to imagine what it’s like for a clumsy kid to put those feet into trousers. Mattel actually put a lot of work into making the body more realistic and pleasing to the eye throughout the years. Action figures aside, Barbie’s body is one of the best proportioned among fashion dolls and she’s still the one to get all the criticism! I’m glad you wrote this piece, I’m not sharing it because I don’t want to unintentionally bring you some trolls 🙂 But thank you for putting a sane opinion out in the open.

    • barbielea February 9, 2016 at 6:36 pm #

      Thanks so much Blackkitty 🙂 “placeholder for a character”, what a great way of putting it, I get what you mean completely. In some ways, it’s not what the doll looks like, but what you do with it that matters …

      I never actually thought about the reasons for Barbie’s pointy feet before, but that makes perfect sense! Of course.

  3. Holly February 9, 2016 at 8:15 am #

    THIS. Completely agree, my thoughts exactly. It’s so frustrating to read those terrible articles, even worse when people send them to me because ‘oh she likes Barbies, she’ll be so surprised to read this!’ like ?? (idk if that happens to anyone else but I get it a lot).

    Excellent piece, brilliant work.

    • barbielea February 9, 2016 at 6:52 pm #

      Thankyou Holly 🙂 I don’t get sent anti-Barbie posts, but I did get a lot of messages about the Tree Change dolls, which kind of bugged me. I don’t care for Bratz personally and I think that changing a doll from made-up to unmade-up is an aesthetically interesting experiment, but I don’t think the results looked good and the political stance behind it irritated me. Bratz are meant to be teenagers. Teenagers often wear makeup, and why shouldn’t they, if they wish to? Makeup can be a very creative medium. Experimenting with or wearing makeup doesn’t equate to being ashamed of your face, as far as I’m concerned, and there are more natural-looking dolls available if you want them, without repainting.

      And if I see that “shrimp on the Barbie” meme one more time …

      🙂

  4. Wayne February 9, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    As you know I am not a doll collector, I just live with one…… Yes I’m talking big about you. I have seen the time you took to write this article and I want to congratulate you on it. After you gave it to me to proof read, I found it interesting, intelligent and articulate without “dumbing down”. It was an enjoyable and illuminating read for someone who has no fixed opinion, to be honest it never occurred to me how out of context a doll can be taken.
    Anyway keep on doing what you’re doing.
    Hugs from Mr Bat xxx

  5. mangusta February 10, 2016 at 9:41 am #

    I think it’s grown up women who see Barbie this or that way but not little girls, because they are children. The knowledge about the looks, bodies, trends etc. are not implanted into them in mothers’s wombs as many people seem to think. Whatever the Barbie’s body, little girls won’t care antil someone teaches them they should.

    • barbielea February 10, 2016 at 10:55 pm #

      Yes Mangusta, i sometimes think it must seem very strange to children that grown-ups have these conversations. There’s a guy I read about – can’t remember his name, but he posts on Twitter a lot apparently – who spends a lot of time trying to persuade his daughter not to want an AG doll. I don’t know what his issue is with them, but he’s pretty determined. It seems that there are plenty of anti-doll parents these days.

  6. Andrea February 10, 2016 at 11:23 am #

    Very well written, Lea. Blaming a doll for body issues and eating disorders is overestimating the impact of a toy. To me Barbie is a doll, a canvas for a child’s (grown up children included) fantasy and imagination and neither me, nor my girls ever wanted to look like her. In my book it’s the almost unescapable influence of perfect (-ly photoshopped) bodies in advertising, television, movies, music videos and fashion, that makes little girls conscious of their bodies. Especially when they start to be more interested in fashion than toys and that usually happens at an age, when they are most vulnerable.

    The new variety in bodies is very interesting. I’m not so much interested in the stiff bodies though. As long as their heads are glueless I might get some of them for rebodying purposes, especially the Leas. We will see how much the little girls will like them.

    The feminists burning the cruzified dolls in 2013 are way more crazy than we could ever become. When I saw that on the news at the time, I was shocked. How could adult women do something like this, being fully aware that there were little girls around who were looking for a pleasant time with their favorite doll? They totally ignored the impact of that cruelty on the children, just to get media attention. That was really sick.

    • barbielea February 10, 2016 at 11:33 pm #

      Thankyou Andrea. I agree that children are exposed to a lot of different influences and images that could contribute to body issues – I think it’s kind of difficult to pick out one factor (like Barbie) and accurately assess how much difference it has made to the end result. But at the end of the day, it’s worth remembering that that there are plenty of women who played with Barbie in childhood and didn’t grow up to have body issues or eating disorders.

      You hit on my problem with these bodies – no articulation, why??? Honestly, if they were articulated I’d have been so happy. Maybe one day :-/ fingers crossed!

      I never really thought about the crucified Barbie doll episode that way before, but I can see your point. One thing I’ve always found very disturbing is parents advocating torture play. I once read an account by a lady who identified as a feminist. She’d buy second hand dolls for her daughter and encourage the girl to torture them – cut off their hair, break them, mutilate them. She believed that doing this would help her daughter “express her anger” about gender roles and the things that society expects from girls. Reading it made me very uneasy – I’m not sure how well a child would understand that concept, it seems to me a very abstract, adult kind of idea. God only knows what the child really thought about it, or how she made sense of it, or how it impacted on her. What if Daughter took from it was that it was OK to “express her anger” at other women whose bodies she didn’t approve of, for example?

      • Andrea February 12, 2016 at 1:50 am #

        Omg, sounds like the name of that mum could have been Morticia Adams. Makes me wonder how many therapists it took to straighten that out. I read thet teens sometimes mutilate their dolls, but I never heard of encouraging kids to do so. Very abstract indeed, even for an adult.

  7. amystika18n February 11, 2016 at 7:52 am #

    Great article! I have mixed feelings about the new Barbie bodies-they’re interesting, but
    1. I want to know which clothing pieces are going to be the few interchangeable ones and which are limited to certain body types,
    2. The new larger foot size Tall Barbie and Curvy Barbie have is going to complicate shoe selection, which is already fraught because certain shoe styles won’t go on the older rubbery legs, and then color-coordinating with the outfit on top of that…ugh, and
    3. IMO Curvy Barbie looks somewhat overweight (I say as an overweight person myself).
    I found a Vanessa Hudgens-as-High-School-Musical’s-Gabriella doll at a garage sale a few years ago and she’s shorter than Barbie but slightly taller than contemporary Skipper, so I’m especially curious to see if/how the Petite Barbie clothes might fit her. In particular, the blue paisley dress on the black Petite Barbie with her hair in a high bun that they kept showing on the news would look great on Vanessa.

    • barbielea February 16, 2016 at 5:55 pm #

      Thanks Amy 🙂 yes, actually – I think that the different clothes and shoe sizes may pose the biggest potential problem for Mattel in this enterprise. One of the great things about Barbie has always been that the standard clothes size has meant that all clothes can be held in common, and most shoes too (like you say, there are some of exceptions). But Mattel has been quite ingenious when required to make different size clothes – for example, the Sharin Sisters line, and the way that Chelsie and Kellie can often share clothes. It will be interesting to see how many of the clothes are interchangeable, and how they manage this.

      • amystika18n March 1, 2017 at 9:55 pm #

        I have a Petite (Pizza Pizzazz, renamed Kate) and a Tall (Boho Fringe, renamed Tara) now! I got them for Christmas, along with Original-size Chic with a Wink, renamed Melinda. They’ll show up on my blog at some point, and I’ll explain their names then.
        Most of Tara’s clothes fit an Original-size Barbie or a Disney Store Classic Princess just fine-the only things that won’t work are Tara’s jeans and shoes, although there’s now a Tall/Curvy shoe pack and some of the shoes in it might fit an Original foot.
        Kate’s clothes are a little short/tight and don’t always fasten all the way on the Original body, but most fit OK. They’re a good length on my Vanessa Hudgens doll and the dress and tops fit well, but the skirts are way too big for V’s skinnier hips.

  8. kewpie83 February 12, 2016 at 11:03 pm #

    Perfect post! I agree with literally every word. I’ve never understood why Barbie got so much hate because of her body– she’s a doll, a toy. That’s it. It’s up to us living breathing human beings to teach children about having a healthy body image, in my opinion, not the toys they play with.

    • kewpie83 February 12, 2016 at 11:12 pm #

      Also, if these new bodies were articulated, I would care a lot more about them. For me, Mattel’s main focus really should be on better articulation on all dolls, not just certain lines (like Made To Move).

      • barbielea February 16, 2016 at 6:02 pm #

        And vvvv see reply from below from Jikin – it seems we can still hope for different articulated body types. I agree, that would be amazing!

    • barbielea February 16, 2016 at 6:00 pm #

      Thanks Kewpie! I’m glad you liked it.

  9. jikin February 13, 2016 at 12:49 am #

    Great post! I totally agree!

    A note on articulation, since it has come up in a couple of comments: someone on a doll forum I frequent did write Mattel and ask about it. Their reply was that the new body types will planned to expand beyond the Fashionistas line and will eventually be in lines with more articulation. I assume that is dependant on the initial release doing well, but it sounds like we won’t have to be wishing forever.

    • barbielea February 16, 2016 at 6:04 pm #

      Thanks so much for this information Jikin 🙂 I’m a huge fan of articulation and this is very welcome news. It would be great if we could get a “made to move” range in every body type, for ease of rebodying.

  10. JGKelsey February 17, 2016 at 12:52 am #

    Love the post! I think it’s interesting that we put so much emphasis on Barbie, but have not really looked at the dolls that are outselling her. If girls got body image from Monster High, Ever After, or Bratz dolls…we would never live up to standards! Thanks for the great, well thought out article.

    • barbielea February 21, 2016 at 2:48 pm #

      Thanks JG 🙂 I think that’s a good point, and one that again serves to put the whole debate about body image and Barbie in perspective. People who know stuff about dolls are aware that Barbie has a relatively realistic body, it’s usually people who don’t know about dolls but have read all the historical criticisms of Barbie who are the most anti-Barbie. That said, I do think Monster High gets a bit of bad press from a body-shape perspective these days. I once wrote a post about Skelita, and was interested to note that it got a large number of hits. When I looked into it (I can do that, you know – oh, the power) I found that a lot of these hits were coming from an online article that included a link to my post. The writer of this article, who was very anti-doll anyway, was quite horrified by the inclusion of a skeleton in a fashion doll line-up, as s/he felt this was normalising anorexia.

  11. April_n_Paris February 17, 2016 at 11:03 pm #

    I read your post with great interest. I applaud it for having been written with a lot of thought and intelligence behind it. Sadly, as you pointed out, people are quick to throw darts at Barbie without ever informing themselves first. Barbie has been featured in a wide variety of skin tones and hair styles over the past years. My collection (of Barbie Basics, S.I.S dolls and special Collectors editions) attests to that. What I don’t understand is….since when is a toy supposed to be a role model!!! Neither myself nor any other woman I know, can ever remember looking at a doll as a child and thinking “Gee, I want to look like her.” Playing with dolls gave us the power to play in a “parallel universe” where we could control their world! As an adult collector, I have no problems with the Model Muse body because….I’ve worked in fashion all my life and fashion models are traditionally.. skinny! Besides I like the way my miniature fashions look on them–just like on the catwalk. That’s what I do. Others put their Barbs in dioramas or create anime, so I understand the need for dolls of varying sizes and shapes and even the “more normal” action figures.
    But most little girls fantasize about being princesses. So, it will be interesting to see what they will ultimately choose. Now that the “problem” of Barbie’s body sending the wrong message has been “solved,” I’m waiting to see how they fix the “real” problem with many little girls’ body image issues: little boys who ogle certain sizes and shapes of little girls and body shame everyone else! Now if there was only an easy fix for that!!!

    • barbielea February 20, 2016 at 11:07 pm #

      Thankyou very much April. I think you’re quite right, I don’t think that trying to “fix” how certain shapes are perceived via toys is possible. I read an article recently (on “Jezebel”, I think) that was talking about how potentially mortifying it could be for a young girl to receive a “curvy” Barbie as a gift, as it could lead to a “are you saying I’m overweight???” reaction. I’d not even thought about that!

  12. dollsinspace February 21, 2016 at 11:58 am #

    Woooow. I actually just heard about the new Barbie bodies this week (I know. I’ve been living in a cave) and I was wondering if you would post about it. Boy did you deliver!!!! Epic!!! Only one slightly off-topic burning question: How do you feel about the changes made to “default” Barbie’s body, before the three new body types were announced? I’m talking about the second wave of Fashionistas, the whole Coke-bottle/hourglass being toned down thing (do you know if this is a permanent change?). And how do you feel about it?xx

    • barbielea February 21, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

      Thankyou Dollsinspace! I’m glad you liked it. Regarding the updated body shape – I don’t think the changes to the torso were really very noticeable and I had no strong feelings either way about it. I don’t think it was a necessary change and aesthetically it made very little difference, as far as I am concerned. Tbh, I think either body is an improvement on the old “twist waist” bodies, which I’d never been a fan of, with the huge puffed – out chest like a pigeon in mating season. Again, just my preference – if you like the pigeon-bodied Barbie, that’s fine with me 🙂

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