Monday, July 4, 2011

Barbie Is Not a Real Woman

I just can't have a blog that focuses on women's issues, including body image, and not give the Barbie spiel.  You may have heard various facts about how unrealistic Barbie is compared to human females, but I bet I have some stats that will surprise you!

Barbie Princess Bride 2011
Photo courtesy of Flickr

Barbie Fashion Fever Spring/Summer Style
Photo courtesy of Flickr
If Barbie were a real woman, she would have CRAZY proportions.  Barbie's feet are tiny--and I'm not talking women's size 5 tiny--I'm talking children's size 3 tiny!  Her bust would measure 39", her waist 18", and her hips would be 33".  First of all, no woman has an 18 inch waist.  That's ridiculous!  And almost all women have larger hips than bust.  Here's how Barbie compares to a size 10 at J. Crew:

Size 10

Barbie is so top-heavy that she would have to crawl around.  She couldn't even stand up!  She is so thin that she wouldn't be able to menstruate or bear children.  Her indented ribcage could only be achieved if she removed ribs through plastic surgery.  You may also notice that her eyes are large, almost like a cartoon.

While those proportions are grossly exaggerated, what's more disturbing are the messages Barbie sends.  The 1965 Slumber Party Barbie came with a bathroom scale the reads 110 pounds.  Barbie needs to weigh AT LEAST 145 pounds to be considered healthy! She also came with a book titled "How to Lose Weight" and inside the book you find the advice, "Don't eat."  Hello Anorexia!
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Barbie sends a lot of cultural messages to young girls about what is means to be a woman.  From what bodies should look like (thin, tall, large breasts), what coloring your should have (most Barbies are white with blonde hair), to what you should wear and enjoy doing (shopping, being a princess, exercising, etc.).

Recently there was a lot of buzz about a college student who designed a life-sized Barbie.  The Barbie is pretty freaky looking, and my husband absolutely HATES it when I mention it because he was so bothered by how the prototype looks!  Granted, the Barbie prototype's head and arms aren't to scale, but the bust-waist-hip proportion is as experts have estimated.  Check out the video spot below.

I can't blame only Barbie for unrealistic expectations of women.  Cue Bratz dolls that are supposed to portray tweens and teens.  Bratz dolls also have unrealistic proportions, cartoon-y heads and eyes, and are dressed primarily in sexualized clothing.  The American Psychological Association has shared concerns about how these dolls contribute to the sexualization of young girls.
Step Out Bratz Dolls
Photo courtesy of Flickr
I'll admit it: I played with Barbies when I was little (Bratz didn't exist in the 80s!).  In fact, I still have some Barbies stashed away for old times' sake.  And I think I turned out ok.  The questions is, with increasing pressures on young girls and women, what do we want to expose our children to?  Are there dolls that young girls could play with that would be better for their self-esteem?  Just as I prefer to limit violent toys in my house (play guns, etc.), I would prefer to limit sexualized and unrealistic dolls.

What Barbie facts are most surprising?  Do you let your children play with Barbie or Bratz Dolls?


  1. I don't find the cartoonish aspects of the dolls' faces problematic--childhood is the time for cartoons, if you ask me. The rest of it is frightening, especially the overt sexuality of the Bratz dolls. I would vote Barbie over Bratz, but hope maybe my baby girl will prefer cabbage patch kids or dollhouse people. I was coloring with my son the other night and it struck me how sad it is that boys get to look up to Mickey Mouse and girls' get Minnie. Not that Mickey is a terribly deep character, but Minnie is shallower. It is frightening to think we can't shield our daughters from such B.S.

  2. We just have to do our best as parents to instill values other than sexuality and beauty in our daughters. The more knowledgeable we are, the better!

  3. Did anyone play with Jem dolls? Their proportions were much more realistic. Plus, they were musicians and played in a rock band! Girls rock!

  4. I LOVED Jem when I was little! I'm so glad you brought that happy memory to mind! I remember being confused about how big Jem was compared to my Barbie doll. Looking back, Jem was a much better role model than Barbie because she actually had talent and didn't have a weird body. I was even Jem for Halloween. :)

    I wonder if there's a way to bring Jem back. After all, Thundercats, Scooby-Doo, and She-Ra are all back....

  5. Ok, I did some research and the good news is Jem is already coming back. The bad news is that I think we are too late to campaign for a doll that represents more accurately represents women will normal proportions. They will have a prototype at a conference this month.


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