Depiction of Female Body

The primary concern with Barbie among adults over the years has been her unrealistic figure. She has remarkably long legs, a tiny waist, and large breasts, among other impossibly idealist features – a look that is near impossible to attain. While many women may know it is an unrealistic body image, it is still a look they strive to achieve. This determination to achieve a Barbie-like figure often results in poor mental and physical health which concerns parents and adults.[1] Mentally, women and young girls can develop low self-esteem and depression. Physically, they may develop anorexia or bulimia resulting in an unhealthy weight or diet and other issues.[2]

There is also trepidation over Barbie’s perpetuation of sexist female stereotypes. Does her sexy figure further endorse the idea that women are sexual objects? If so, how does this affect not only young girls, but boys as well?  Some scholars and researchers believe Barbie warps young boys’ ideas of what a “beautiful woman” really is.[3]

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Amadika, “36-24-36 = Modern Slavery,” Flickr.com, http://www.flickr.com/photos/amadika/2354089283/in/photostream/ (accessed March 27, 2013).

But is Barbie solely to blame for this negative influence? Is she the primary advocate for sexist gender roles and unrealistic female bodies? The answer is no. While Barbie does indeed reinforce these things, she is merely reflecting societal standards. Society reinforces the negative ideals seen with Barbie.[4] Sexist stereotypes and ideas of  “perfect women” existed long before Barbie was created. When this doll came out these ideals were thrust upon her. Playboy, which perpetuates the ideal of a thin and super sexualized woman existed before Barbie.[5] As young girls and boys grow up, they continue to see these same ideas and images in Playboy, films, and elsewhere in the media. So perhaps it is not Barbie we should be placing blame on, but rather society itself for setting these standards. If society promoted more wholesome and positive standards for women, perhaps Barbie would reflect those positive attributes. It is important to talk with young girls (and boys) today as they face these issues, and let them know that they can be anything they want and do not have to adhere to the standards that Barbie reinforces.

 


[1] Vanessa R Schick, “Evulvalution: The Portrayal of Women’s External Genitalia and Physique across Time and the Current Barbie Doll Ideals,” Journal of Sex Research 48, No. 1 (January 2011): 74-81.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Schick, 80.

[4] Tanya Lee Stone, The Good, The Bad, and The Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us (New York: Penguin Group, 2010), 50-52.

[5] Schick, 78.

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