Friday, July 30, 2010

One Woman's Thoughts on Barbie...

I grew up playing with Barbies- cutting their hair, putting real make-up on them, and dressing them up in all kinds of crazy outfits. I actually used to force my brother to play Barbies with me sometimes when we were little and we would argue over who got to drive the Barbie corvette or the Barbie volvo- sorry Jonathan to out you like this. I was a bossy kid and I didn't like playing Barbies by myself! : ) Because of my history of playing with Barbies as a kid, I wouldn't say that I am a hater. But I would by no means say that I am a fan. The sort of global impact that Barbie has had on the self-esteems and body images of women everywhere is not to be overlooked. Let's just take a minute and look at the following facts about Barbie..

Barbie, the best selling fashion doll in the world, has unattainable and unhealthy body proportions. If she were alive, she would be unable to menstruate. Research has shown that very young girls (ages 5-7) who are exposed to Barbie have lower self esteem and want a thinner body than they have.(Dittmar, Halliwell, & Ive, 2006)

While statistics vary depending on which source you use, Barbie's dimensions (if she were alive) would be somewhere around the following- she would be 6 feet tall, 100 lbs., and wearing a size 4. Her measurements would be 39"/19"/33" and as a result would have to walk on all fours because her body's dimensions would not allow her to stand upright (Statistics taken from Eating Disorders Info and ANRED).

Does playing with Barbies cause eating disorders? No way. If that were the case, we'd all have developed eating disorders. But I believe that the way in which we view our bodies and beauty has probably been shaped by Barbie, a pop cultural icon, in some capacity. Interestingly enough, the story of how Barbie came to be might surprise you. It really surprised me. Dr. Susan Albers who has written some great books on mindful eating wrote a piece in the Huffington Post recently entitled "Why I Don't Hate Barbie Anymore." She shares about the life of Ruth Handler, the woman who created Barbie. Handler, the youngest of her 10 siblings, was raised by her eldest sister. She wanted to make something of herself and be successful in spite of the odds and circumstances stacked against her. Handler found worth, value and self-esteem in her work. She even went on to create prosthetics for breast cancer survivors who had lost their breasts to cancer- sadly, she was one of these women.

This article (as well as the book written about Handler's life) provides some very interesting context and thoughts on Barbie, her legacy and the woman behind the doll, as well as a GREAT message on self-esteem and where we each find our value. I would really encourage you to check it out (here!). Let me be clear- in the words of Dr. Albers- "Barbie's negative symbolism and impact on body image clearly overshadows the rest of this story." I can't do this piece justice in my description of it, so I would encourage you to read it for yourself (here). I know I am always encouraging you all to check out different articles, but if you read just one, read this one! What a great reminder that our value and worth as people come from more than our achievements and 'success.'

1 comment:

  1. Barbie is what the media wants you to think you should be. She's a playboy bunny, and I can't wait for a doll that's Gloria Steinem.