New Barbie, New Body!
The new Barbie bodies Mattel launched yesterday has everyone talking! As if we have not been discussing Barbie’s body and her unrealistic proportions for decades now, the conversation is continuing, and at least shifting slightly. Mattel has been slipping down the ranks for the last several years and recently was surpassed by Lego and Disney’s Frozen Elsa doll. The designers went back to the drawing board and rebranded Barbie with 3 new body types: curvy, tall, & petite.
Not only does Barbie have a new body, she now is representing a wider group of women aside from the blonde and blue-eyed women found on the O.C. – a quality show, don’t get me wrong. Barbie now comes with many different skin tones as well as a variety of hair textures and styles, a change that is LONG overdue (and should not have been forced by a decline in popularity). They even slid in a lesbian looking Barbie, not that she is in any of the ads for the new Fashionistas Line! Look at Mattel tackling body image and their heteronormative values at the same time!
Yes, there are Barbies in our house…
Ok, full disclosure, my wife and I let my daughter, Gray, play with Barbies – yup, the old fashioned busty, skinny and blonde kind. I have never once been worried about the repercussions of Barbie as a toy in our house. Gray can see that she is not represented as a mixed kid when she looked into her bin of fair-skinned Barbies, so we talk about it. We use Barbie as a great jumping off point for conversation. For example when Gray got obstetrical Barbie we talked about some of the impracticalities of her work wardrobe, ‘Gray, can you see why it would be hard to wear such a little dress and high heels when delivering a baby?’ or ‘Gray, you probably would not wear high heeled Moon-boots as an astronaut’ when we played with the new Career of the Year Barbie she got for Christmas.
Rather than talking about Barbies height and waist size in our house, we talk about all the amazing careers that Barbie has had. She has had over 150 careers in her 57 years as one of the favourite toys of 4 – 12 year olds. I have to say, the fact that Barbie had a career as an astronaut in 1965 and a surgeon in 1973 is pretty flippin’ socially forward of Mattel (yes, I know that is a sad fact overall). Barbie pushed it even further by becoming the first woman to hold the coveted place as President of the United States of America in 2012… there you go Hilary, she paved the way for you to take it in 2016.
fun fact: she rocked a star spangled gown when she was a presidential candidate in 1992 and sadly didn’t win that go round.
I guess what I am saying is, I wish we would talk more with our children about what you can accomplish, rather than what you look like doing it. Adding new Barbie bodies is not the solution! Mattel recognizes that this will not please everyone, and will probably ruffle a lot of feathers, so it has set up a phone line exclusively dedicated to complaints and issues surrounding these new gals.
This is probably a bad time to also mention that the clothes are no longer interchangeable among dolls since Barbie has such a wide range of body shapes… pick your battles I suppose.
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Bianca Sprague is a birth doula, lactation educator, childbirth educator and business consultant. She and her partner Alana are the moms to their 8 year old daughter, Gray. Bianca is the co-owner of bebo mia and Baby & Me Fitness.
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