It’s Time To Stop Blaming Barbie, No Matter How Tiny Her Waist Is

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BarbieThis photograph illustrating how Barbie’s proportions would look on a real human are disturbing, but I think we all know that Barbie’s physique is something no human woman could duplicate in the non-plastic, non-three-story-pink -townhouse-owning, non-flying-off-in-my-own-pink-private-jet-to-model-in-New York Fashion Week-world. We all know we can’t look like Barbie. Judging from the length and width of her neck, our heads on these stalks would just flop over all the time like 2-day-old Gerbera Daisies left to wilt in a vase. We would have to always exist with our faces down, so our sharply pointed chins didn’t arrive in a room two minutes before we did, poking random bystanders eyes out when we lifted our heads to order a cappuccino. We grownup adult lady people understand that we can’t mimic a plastic doll’s proportions and general appearance. Well, most us do. Our sister site Blisstree covered this photograph almost  a year ago, but it has cropped up again yesterday on news agents and on Twitter, where everyone is weighing in on how unrealistic Barbie is and what a sucky role model she is for young girls.

Bad Barbie! Barbie the paratrooper, ballerina, paleontologist, special education teacher, computer engineer, princess, and McDonald’s cashier. With her 19-inch waist and 101 pound frame, she is doing nothing but poisoning our children’s minds and making them feel like they will never be able to attain the physical ideal that Barbie signifies for so many impressionable young girls. Barbie is ruining their confidence and destroying their self-esteem. Blah Blah Blah.

I am a 42-year old feminist. I had buckets of Barbies as a girl. Buckets. I had my Barbie’s, my older sister’s Barbies, and playdates with other little girls who would bring over their Barbies and we would spend endless hours Barbie-ing it up, fastening tulle and sequined evening gowns on Barbie’s slight frame, slipping her tiny doll feet into skyscraper stilettos (which, for some reason, always had teeth marks on the heels. Did all of us Barbie-playing-with-girls chew on her shoes?) and making her have every type of adventure imaginable, from going on romantic dinner dates with Ken to doctoring a shabby stuffed elephant missing an eye to beating up my younger sister’s Kiss dolls, who by unfortunate luck wore little latex jumpsuits and demonic facepaint, making them the “bad guys.” I spent years playing with Barbies, and I grew up, and had a daughter, and I let her play with Barbies, and I consider myself a feminist.

Dolls don’t create grownup girls who are lacking in self-esteem and who are starving themselves into anorexic patient treatment centers and who are looking in the mirror and hating themselves because they don’t have 39 FF bra cup (Barbie’s real world chest translation).

Dolls don’t make us work for less pay or stay in abusive marriages or let car salesmen patronizingly call us “Sweetie” or cause teenage pregnancy. Dolls don’t create Courtney Stodden, or Kim Kardashian, or Lindsay Lohan, or any other faux celebrity who exemplifies what most of us think of when we think of the “opposite of a feminist.” You can’t blame Barbie for that.

If anything, Barbie taught me that the most important rule of Barbie is you should always have a separate storage bin for her teensy tiny necklaces and shrimpy little shoes. This goes against my daughter’s rule of Barbie, who feels that most Barbie’s should either have their heads shorn when their hair gets tangled and that they should sometimes have their legs encased in blue painter’s tape to make them into mermaids. So we play with Barbies. We talk about how smart and strong and awesome she is because she can do and be anything my daughter can create in her imagination. We make Barbie walk the catwalk and yell at her other Barbie friends if they are mean to each other and then we go read a book.

My daughter is smart enough to understand a plastic doll isn’t a real human. It’s when she picks up my copy of Vogue or WWD that we have to sit together and have a discussion about beauty ideals and Photoshop and advertising and unrealistic standards portrayed within glossy magazine pages. It’s when we turn on the television and we see a botox-ridden plastic surgery enhanced actor that I grow concerned over what my daughter is comparing herself to in her little mind, not when she zooms Barbie along the floor in her plastic pink corvette. Unrealistic beauty standards exist everywhere, and I’m not sure playing with a doll is as self-esteem crushing as seeing a giant billboard with a lingerie-clad model, legs splayed and mouth half open. Most girls don’t think about growing up to be a 11.5 inch doll, but a lot of them dream about being a 5’11, size zero fashion model.