Barbie’s lead designer, Kim Culmone, was recently interviewed by Fast Company. Asked about why Barbie has such unrealistic proportions, Kim explained, “Barbie’s body was never designed to be realistic. She was designed for girls to easily dress and undress…Primarily it’s for function for the little girl, for real life fabrics to be able to be turned and sewn, and have the outfit still fall properly on her body.”
See, it’s for the kids. “Thank goodness she has huge boobs and a tiny waist because that makes her so much easier to dress!” said no little girl ever. If Barbie wasn’t a completely unattainable shape, she might not get to wear clothes made out of “real life fabrics” and everyone knows that fake life fabrics were so last year.
Asked if she would consider changing Barbie to having more realistic proportions Kim said, ostensibly with a straight face, “Girls view the world completely differently than grown-ups do. They don’t come at it with the same angles and baggage and all that stuff that we do. Clearly, the influences for girls on those types of issues, whether it’s body image or anything else, it’s proven, it’s peers, moms, parents, it’s their social circles. When they’re playing, they’re playing. It’s a princess-fairy-fashionista-doctor-astronaut, and that’s all one girl. She’s taking her Corvette to the moon, and her spaceship to the grocery store. That is literally how girls play.”
Kim is playing as fast and loose with the facts, and the word "proven," as she does with Barbie’s waist-to-hip ratio.
It turns out that “literally the way girls play” includes 42 percent of girls ages 6 to 10 wishing they were thinner, and seven-year olds writing out diet plans that include "seventeen poosh-ups" [sic] and "run up and down the driv way," [sic] while allowing them to eat "two keewee froots." [sic]
A recent study concluded that dolls like Barbie “may damage girls’ body image, which would contribute to an increased risk of disordered eating and weight cycling."
We know that hospitalizations for eating disorders in children younger than 12 years old rose by 119 percent from 1999 to 2006, according to a report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published in the journal Pediatrics. And, according to sources sited on the non-profit National Association of Anorexia and Associated Eating Disorders website:
- 47 percent of girls in 5th to 12th grades reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures
- 69 percent of girls in 5th to 12th grades reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape
- 42 percent of first-to-third grade girls want to be thinner
- 81 percent of 10-year olds are afraid of being fat
Knowing all of that, the real question to ask ourselves isn’t whether or not Culmone can justify Barbie’s unrealistic and unattainable proportions. The question is, knowing that it’s possible that Barbie is doing harm to girls, why isn’t it worth changing a doll to protect a child?