I'm a Barbie Girl
I have often thought of writing this essay and never got around to it but after the recent article on Co Design website, “Barbie’s Lead Designer Defends Barbie’s Crazy Proportions” I feel compelled to show my support for my childhood friend.
The interview conducted with Barbie’s lead designer discusses how Barbie’s proportions are actually based on logistics rather than real life bodies.
"Barbie's body was never designed to be realistic."
Since the fabric used is meant for humans, the doll’s body needs to be shaped to work with that scale, human scale, not doll scale.
"...her body has to be able to accommodate how the clothes will fit her."
The company is continuously experimenting with new moulds and shapes but at the end of the day they have to maintain the icon’s image. So I wouldn’t expect any major changes to Barbie anytime soon.
I know that there are many reasons to question Barbie and her looks and what they say to young impressionable girls but as a girl who was Barbie crazy for the majority of her childhood, I feel like Barbie cannot take all the blame. I grew up with Barbie. I was nuts about her and all of her friends and accessories. I had the Barbie Jeep, Limo and bicycle, a fully loaded kitchen and even a Barbie post office. I LOVED that Barbie was able to be everything I wanted to be but was too little to actually do. Barbie drove a car, got to pick her own clothes and go on dates with boys, it was quite simply the best! And don’t get me started on how awesome birthday parties were when 5 of your closest friends were over and each of you had a Barbie to play with. Oh the stories!
While her body is entirely unrealistic, I don’t feel it’s Barbie’s obligation to be completely authentic. Are Cabbage Patch Kids identical to infants? I never grew up wondering why my body wasn’t like my Barbie’s body; I have no recollection of ever questioning it. The only things I didn’t like about Barbie was that she never came with glasses and short hair like I had. Needless to say, many of my Barbies had drastic haircuts during their time in my household and had to wear sunglasses a lot of the time.
I don’t feel that it’s Barbie’s body that we need to change but the conversation about women’s bodies and our perception of them. We need to be encouraging girls to be accepting of all body types, especially their own and even just explaining that Barbie is simply not a realistic representation of women. Rather than attacking something that is clearly not going anywhere (today I heard on the radio that three Barbies sell every second in the world) let’s empower children with knowledge.
At the end of the day Barbie encourages children to play, to imagine and to dream and I think we can agree every kid needs some of that in their life. I was a Barbie girl and I turned out just fine.
Fun Fact: On her birthday this year, March 9th (the same day as my birthday!), Barbie will be 55 years old.
Click the link to read the full interview with the designer from Barbie.
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