Barbie's 2016 Makeover

I thought I'd write a post and share my thoughts on the new revamped Barbie brand, as I've previously been relatively outspoken (understatement? Perhaps) on gender stereotyping in kid's toys and fashion, so it seems an obvious bit of news for me to comment on.
 
As it is, I think when we talk about gendered toys and the long term effects that those toys can have on our children, Barbie is a really obvious victim of aggressive attack, and it may surprise some to hear that I actually think that's rather unfair.
 
Yes, Barbie's branding is predominantly pink, I mean like, really pink. Is there a large amount of evidence from reliable studies to suggest that the use of the colour pink to reinforce a feminine segregation is dangerous? Yes, yes there is.
 
Sure, Barbie is kind of ridiculous when you consider her physical proportions and the fact that she is given to young girls as an image of positive feminine aesthetics. Is there a large amount of evidence from reliable studies to suggest that Barbie is making girls grow up to be more body conscious, unhappy and prone to eating disorders? No, actually, none.
 
Barbie didn't create our messed up ideals, or rather Mattel, the toy manufacturer didn't. Barbie is just a kind of sad reflection of the ideals that are already in place, reinforced by the media, celebrity culture, product advertising, and us - Mother's with low self esteem. We don't consider white faces with big eyes and small noses as pretty because of Barbie. Barbie has a white face with big eyes and a small nose because that's what we'd already decided was pretty.
 
Barbie's entirely unachievable proportions are only a reflection of the fact that society was placing value on women with long legs, round buttocks, tiny waists, perky boobs and slender shoulders. Mattel didn't create this idea. Body dysmorphia wasn't their USP.
 
I hate the use of "my parents did it, and I turned out OK", so it makes me cringe to use it, but I did play with Barbie when I was a young girl. I've really struggled in the past with body image, tied in with mental health stumbles, but I don't think Barbie is to blame, in fact, I know that she isn't. I had "Orca Training" Barbie to be fair and now I'm vegan.
 
I, like most women my age, have really fond memories of playing with Barbie toys when I was little. For me, the ultimate treat was going in to town to Woolworths (let's get really reminiscent right?) to choose a new Barbie doll with birthday or Christmas money from relatives, or as a reward for some achievement or other. I had rollerblading Barbie, dog grooming Barbie, some of the Limited Edition Barbies that came with a special stand and presumably were "for looking at" and who knows how many more, as well as a Shaving Ken who's leg kept falling off.
 
Barbie also had friends, when I was small. Of her two best friends, one had long red hair, and the other had dark, African skin. So the idea of the Barbie brand sticking exclusively to white blondes is ever so slightly unreasonable, they were offering a limited variety in the early 90's at least.
 
ANYWAY; last week Mattel unveiled a new line of Barbie dolls, supposedly to honour changing social standards, and, more importantly (for them), to address their depressing, plummeting sales figures.  
 
 
 
The new range of Barbies include multiple body shapes, including curvy (not fat dolls but there are some with a little more meat on them), petite, and tall designs, there are also multiple skin tones, and hair types/colours.
 
I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, as a parent, I welcome a range of more relatable dolls for my children to play with. Would I buy from the new Barbie range for my daughter? Yes, I think I would.
 
 
 
 As a previous childhood fan of Barbie though, part of me mourns the passing of her ridiculous, unachievable, arguably damaging previous self, the Barbie that I knew. Will I be buying skinny, alien faced Barbie on Ebay for old time's sake? Yeah, probably.
 
I'm surprised, really, really surprised that it took Mattel this long (Barbie sales have been falling steadily for at least eight consecutive quarters) to launch a brand that challenged Barbie's previous relationship with negative body image. For as long as I can remember, people have been discussing the fact that her dimensions are obscene and the term "Barbie Doll" when describing an adult woman is rarely used as a compliment. But hey, I'm glad they've got there in the end. It would have been tragic to see the Barbie brand disappear altogether.
 
The next step for me would be an ad campaign that saw boys and girls playing with Barbie (and Ken, obvs) together. Am I asking too much? Perhaps.
 


I still got your back boo


 
 
 

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