Photo Credit: Courtesy of rackcdn.com
What if Barbie was redesigned to have proportions that would allow her to walk upright instead of on all fours, and actually lift things with her arms? That was the question that drove artist Nickolay Lamm to recreate Barbie using an actual 19 year old girl as a model. It turns about that Barbie would be shorter and thicker, but then we knew that already. We’ve known for a long time that Barbie represents an unrealistic ideal.
We’ve also known that hospitalizations for eating disorders in children younger than 12 years old rose by 119% from 1999 to 2006 according to a report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published in the journal Pediatrics, and that, according to sources sited on the non-profit National Association of Anorexia and Associated Eating Disorders website:
- 47 percent of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures
- 69 percent of girls in 5th-12th grade 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
Why isn’t this a good enough reason to change the way a doll looks? How can anyone defend continuing to produce a doll who is so thin that she couldn’t exist in real life, when almost half of first through third grade girls want to be thinner? Lamm poses the question this way, "If there's even a small chance of Barbie in its present form negatively influencing girls, and if Barbie looks good as an average-sized woman in America, what's stopping Mattel from making one?"
What indeed? What’s stopping magazines from showing girls and women of different sizes un-photoshopped? What stopping Bratz dolls from being redesigned so that their necks could actually support their heads?
My guess is that the reason this continues is because it’s profitable. We continue to buy Barbies, Bratz Dolls, magazines and the like and not make demands of the people who produce them. The system makes us believe that we will never be too rich or too thin, it makes it seem reasonable to make a thin body a full time job, it takes our self-esteem, cheapens it, and sells it back to us at a profit. That system runs on our time, money, and energy and we give it an endless supply.
We can have better lives for ourselves and our girls if we just stopped giving our money to a system that constantly makes us feel like crap. Instead of spending twenty bucks on Barbie, spend 10 minutes e-mailing the link to Lamm's site to Mattel. Cancel your subscriptions to women’s magazines and let them know that you’ll be happy to re-subscribe just as soon as they stop pushing a single, unrealistic, Photo shopped ideal of beauty. And teach your daughters that one doll cannot represent the “right way to look,” that when it comes to beauty, they are fine, the world is messed up but they can change that.