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December 27, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 1 Faves: 0

'Normal' Barbie and 'Plus-size' Barbie Creating Controversy

By Rachael Ellen More Blogs by This Author

Will Barbie soon throw 55 years of tradition out the window?

It’s a tough call to make. The Mattel company, started in 1945, is known for its iconic figurine, Barbie. Invented by Ruth Handler, Barbie was named after Handler’s daughter, Barbara, and was introduced in 1959 at the American Toy Fair in New York City. After her debut, Barbie’s popularity soared, offering young girls new options other than the traditional paper dolls and baby dolls.

The current issue with this world-wide icon? Take a closer look at Barbie’s body proportions. The doll’s measurements are 5 inches (bust), 3 ¼ inches (waist), 5 3/16 inches (hips). If a woman had proportional measurements, she would be 36-18-38, looking unnatural, unbelievable, and altogether, unfortunate.

The criticism of the doll has recently been hyped up on Facebook with the proposal of two very different variations of Barbie.

The first is “Plus-size” Barbie, an illustration conjured up by bakalia, which took first place in a contest on called “Feeding Time 9.” The photo's circulation exploded when posted this on Facebook:

I applaud the idea behind the “Plus-size” doll (as a plus-sizer myself), but the extent of obesity for this doll is ridiculous (come on, three chins?). If the dolls are going to be more relatable, shouldn't we avoid dangerously unhealthy levels of obesity with the same disapproval being shown towards the traditional Barbies? The photo generated thousands of responses and likes, but raised the question: “Why aren’t there any normally proportioned dolls?”

Turns out, artist Nickolay Lamm had a similar question and agenda. Lamm, who works for, sculpted and photoshopped a 3D model to create “normal” Barbie. Measurements used for this doll were based on average measurements of a 19 year-old female reported by the CDC. In an interview with the HuffPost Live, Lamm said that “average is beautiful, and that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to unrealistic beauty standards, and I feel Barbie kind of symbolizes that.” With Normal Barbie alongside Barbie, it definitely puts the doll-body-image issue  into a new perspective.

It’s undeniable a case has been made involving body image being affected during childhood by toys, and the amount of published material on the subject is overwhelming. A simple Google search of “body image affected by barbie” has 155,000,000 hits. With such a powerful outcry from the public, why has Mattel not responded?

In a similar case, a Facebook movement was the start of Mattel’s production of Ella, a bald friend of Barbie, for the Beautiful and Bald Campaign for children who have lost their hair because of illness or cancer. Mattel originally responded to Beckie Sypin, co-founder of the bald doll cause, with a letter stating they don’t accept ideas from outside sources. Another statement from Mattel suggested the company “receives hundreds of requests for different Barbies and is always exploring new options.” However, the "bald friend of Barbie," released in 2013, was not made available at retail locations.

Does that mean a normal, proportional, curvy, healthy,cellulite-inclusive and beautiful Barbie could be seen in the future?

I wouldn’t bet my new boots on it just yet. However, making a change starts with an outcry from people like you and me. You give this culture--whose obsession with appearance and perfection has choked out the real qualities of beauty--a breath of fresh air as simple as a doll, they might just be dying to take breath after all.


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1 Comment

  • The idea is nice, but consumers are as much, if not more, of a problem than the corporations perpetuating the unrealistic beauty ideals. If producing dolls, magazines, TV shows, movies, music, and websites that rely on these sort of images stopped making them money, that media would go away. But they won't stop making money.

    The reality is that despite ideals of complete equality, we're not all equal. Some people are more attractive than other people just like some people are smarter than other people and some people are better artists and musicians. When I want to learn something, I want to talk to the smartest person. When I want to decorate my home, I want work from a great artist and when I buy a doll, I want a really pretty one. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

    What's REALLY wrong is that our daughters are growing up thinking their appearance is the ONLY way they can stand out and be valued. If we started helping them identify more as a smart kid, or a funny kid, or talented in one way or another kid, they'd naturally be less worried about being the prettiest. All anyone really wants to feel special in one way or another.

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