Barbie has evolved. Mattel, the company that creates the iconic toy, recently revealed new options for the doll’s appearance.
Barbie is now available with 24 eye colors, new hairstyles and with seven skin tones. And she can now stand up on her own feet. The new design removes the permanent arch of Barbie’s foot, allowing her to stand up without her plastic heels.
But the more notable change to the doll’s form - or at least, the most talked about - is the addition of three new body types. Those on the market for a new Barbie can now find one with a petite, tall or curvy frame. The original doll frame is still available to purchase, but the new bodies add diversity to a toy that is popular among young girls in the country.
The change reflects a larger cultural shift towards body acceptance, as a new wave of women push back against the idea that beauty is confined to a certain size. Beauty no longer means thinness, or tallness, or shortness...or whatever physical qualifier. And Barbie’s change reflects that. The new body types show that, yes, you can be beautiful no matter your size. But is it enough?
Creating a plastic doll to represent a real human is naturally conflicting. Barbie is perfect. Original Barbie, tall Barbie, petite Barbie, curvy Barbie...they are all perfect. Their skin, make-up and hair are perfect. Their bodies are molded into a perfect hourglass shape. Their clothes always fit.
But real women aren’t perfect. Our human bodies stretch, wrinkle, roll, dimple and eventually sag. Our faces get pimples. Our hair turns gray. Fat starts to accumulate in places it really and logically should not be. We aren’t plastic. We aren’t perfect.
Over the past 55 years, many girls, including myself, have looked at the Barbie doll as a symbol of beauty. She has grown to represent our culture’s desire for unattainable perfect beauty.
The blame doesn’t fall solely on Barbie’s perfectly sculpted shoulders. The doll is just a part of a larger culture of photo-enhanced advertisements, overly whitened teeth, and products that offer the false promise that we can achieve the unachievable.
We change our bodies with surgeries and injections. We enhance our features with mascara and blush. We fight natural aging with ointments and creams that likely do more harm than good.
I’ve made my fair share of attempts to achieve the unattainable over the years. I’ve waxed, teased, plucked, poked. I’ve accidentally burned my neck with a curling iron. I’ve tweezed my eyebrows to the point where I looked more alien than human. I’ve washed my hair with mayonnaise. I’ve tried very hard, but none of my efforts resulted in perfection.
There’s no harm in wanting to look your best, but the pressure to look perfect is dangerous. Some develop eating disorders, or have a botched plastic surgery. Some permanently damage their skin with chemical peels, or ignore the dangers of sun exposure.
Many develop a low self-esteem, because they’re constantly unable to live-up to what culture says is good. And having a plastic doll that preserves these ideals of perfection is dangerous. I’m not saying we need to toss out all of our dolls or declare a boycott. But more of an emphasis should be placed on the value of real beauty. We should teach the value of all women’s real beauty, instead of confining it to a fake and plastic beauty.
You can be tall, petite or curvy, and beautiful. But you can also be real and beautiful.
Alex Pace is a reporter with the Barrow Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.