I realize that a doll is simply a reflection of what toy makers think parents will buy (and children will enjoy).
But, Mattel has finally done something radical to the toy that makes many mothers cringe – Barbie. Parents who are aware that Barbie’s dimensions are unachievable, feet are stuck in a shape that only fits high heeled shoes, and that she is wearing a ton of makeup are not buying the doll.
Anyone who has read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison or cares about social justice has reflected on what it means that a hugely popular doll only comes with blond hair, blue eyes, and white skin.
These instinctual objections to the doll have been followed up by psychological studies of its effect on children. The research documents Barbie’s negative consequences on girls’ psyches. For example, a Developmental Psychology study reported that girls aged five to six were more dissatisfied with their shape and wanted more extreme thinness after seeing Barbie doll images than after seeing other pictures.
Another study found that girls who played with Barbies were more likely to restrict their eating afterwards than girls who played with fuller-figured dolls. Yikes!
I am sure that the executives at Mattel reviewed the studies and, finally, they have answered the call for a more realistic doll. Also, their sales were tanking (duh!).
Colors, curves, different hairstyles, and feet that can fit flat shoes are now options for young girls (or boys) who want to play with these dolls. They can see themselves and their families in these dolls and hopefully, their psyches will be supported instead of harmed by their toys.
It is about time. Thank you, Mattel, for finally getting it.
Now we need girl’s and women’s magazines to start giving us a diversity of body images. Do not underestimate the power of advertisements, celebrities, and toys to shape our view of ourselves.
What do you think of the new Barbie? Will it make a difference?
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