I had to do some research for an essay for Communication Skills class. I decided I’d take up the whole ‘Barbie makes little girls want to be anorexic’ debate. Imagine how surprised I was when I uncovered another little gem. Some girls may love Barbie, fairytale castles and all, but there’s a good number who despise the Princess of Perfection. University of Bath researchers found that Barbie is routinely tortured by kids. The TimesOnlinereports:
The methods of mutilation are varied and creative, ranging from scalping to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving, according to academics from the University of Bath…
“You might expect little girls to love their Barbie and expect an imaginary love in return. Instead girls feel violence and hatred towards their Barbie,” Agnes Nairn, one of the researchers, said.
What’s surprising is that it’s not just kids. It’s adults too. Jane Linders describes her experience:
Many people at Burningman form small theme camps and provide amusement and entertainment for passers by. My favorite theme camp was Barbie Death Camp and Wine Bistro. As the name suggests, Barbie Death camp revealed thousands of Barbie dolls in various stages of torture. Barbie hung in the gallows, crucified Barbie, Barbie getting run over by her own dream car, Barbie being forced at GI Joe gunpoint into an Easybake over.
So why is this happening? It may just be a fun, random thing to do. Hey! Let’s go bake a Barbie! but research suggests that’s not all there is to it.
Let’s look at some facts.
Statistics show that two Barbie’s are sold every second somewhere in the world. In fact, the average American girl from ages 3 to 11 owns 10.
Now, if you were to meet Barbie as a real person, emphasis on real, what do you think she would look like? One source says that Ms. Mattel would stand about 5’6”, weigh around 120 lbs., and have a 38-inch chest measurement, with 18 inches at her waist, and 34 for her hips. It is speculated that if Barbie were human, she would be so thin that she would not be able to menstruate. This is because she would not have the required body fat percentage to do so. Also, the Barbie body type is likely to occur in one out of every 100,000 women.
What this clearly means is that Barbie’s body is in no way average, or easily attainable.
But how bad to people want to be Barbie? Cindy Jackson, spent $55,000 and went under the (cosmetic surgeon’s) knife 20 times. Why? She wanted to be Barbie Jackson. If a grown woman can be affected in such a way, what’s to say the little girls playing with these dolls aren’t?
My personal experience with Barbie, and the experience of other young women I’ve talked to, has been one of enjoyment. Like many other girls around the world, we enjoyed dressing our Barbies up in fancy gowns and taking them to the prom, or to work in that awesome pink convertible. We laughed when Aqua came out with that song: I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world. Life in plastic – it’s fantastic! and there were no feelings of insecurity. We were not jealous of this plastic doll for being successful, having multiple careers, pets, a never-ending wardrobe, etc.
But what’s changed since then? Now Barbie is accused of promoting materialism in young girls, “sexualising play” for them because of her perfect-for-all-clothes figure, and driving them to what Tara L. Kuther & Erin Mc Donald call “torture play”.
Girls reported hating Barbie because she’s perfect and many have said that they often come home after a bad day at school and vent their frustrations by maiming their doll, pulling the head off, cutting, burning, etc. People debate that Barbie’s perfection is too unrealistic to be healthy.
What’s happening to the world? Barbie promoted anorexia? Barbie makes girls feel insecure?
Mattel came out with Slumber Party Barbie in 1965 that came with a bathroom weighing scale permanently set at 110. Most people ignore the fact that given the way Barbie looks, this is a perfectly acceptable and realistic weight to appear on the scale. Never mind the fact that if it had said 220 we would have all thought it was ridiculous. Look at Barbie. She’s not fat. Why should her bathroom scale say 300 pounds when she’s so obviously not that weight? This does not mean Mattel is trying to push girls into becoming anorexic monsters.
Also, in the summer of 2000, Mattel introduced a new version – “less busty with wider hips”. This more natural shape was meant as a response to the many criticisms the company received about Barbie’s negative impact on young girls around the globe.
Barbie represents a strong, independent, motivated, adventurous, accomplished, intelligent young woman. She is available in all colors, and represents young girls of all nationalities. She’s got a wholesomeness that dolls such as the Bratz don’t. She works hard, has dreams, is good to her friends and people around her, loves pets. She is meant to promote positive qualities in our youth. Most of all, she’s one of the few toys still popular that actually involves some use of imagination!
If there’s anything that influences young girls, it’s how their mothers and fathers treat them, how their friends and teachers, extended family, etc. live. If a child grows up being overshadowed, he/she is bound to be insecure. If a little girl is pressurized throughout her life to remain slim, she might resort to extreme measures. Girls who grow up around extra-weight-conscious mothers will have this built into their personalities. Resentment and a lack of confidence can lead to all sorts of problems. There’s a lot of things that can cause insecurity is maturing children, and that’s a topic for another article. But keep in mind that with the vast amount of innuendo-driven music, movies featuring picture-perfect actresses, magazines with tall, photo-shopped models posing in minimal clothing, Barbie is hardly the biggest factor influencing a young girl.