For years, we have heard arguments about how Mattel’s Barbie doll has created unrealistic expectations about body types. I would add that it isn’t only Barbies that are part of the problem. We have images in our faces all day long telling us what “beauty” is supposed to look like. Of course all of these messages will have an impact.
New Looks for Barbie
“If Barbie was a real woman she’d be forced to walk on all fours and would be physically incapable of lifting her over-sized head – perhaps a far cry from what the designers of Mattel envisioned.” Of course, we are talking about a doll that wouldn’t ever be “life-sized.” However, I am sure there are some self-image issues for young women that are connected to the fact that the all-time best selling doll is blond, white, and unrealistically proportioned. Might this influence how girls who play with Barbie dolls view themselves? In 2016, Mattel acknowledged that they have been listening. They introduced a new line of Barbie dolls that have different skin tones and body types (tall, petite, and curvy).
A New Ken
The latest news in Barbie’s world is that Ken is getting a makeover as well. The new line of Ken dolls will come in a variety of skin tones and body types as well (slim, broad, and original). And yes, there are even man-buns for some of the hairstyles. While I never specifically connected Ken or Barbie with how I believe bodies should look, the message about what is and is not acceptable is pervasive in pop culture. I have definitely been affected by those messages. I am glad Mattel is finally taking this move to include more realistic body types. Hopefully, we will see film and entertainment follow suit as well.
Self-image and self-esteem are built up or torn down over time. It isn’t a singular message or two (like a doll), but rather the accumulation of many of them that all seem to say the same thing. “If you don’t look a certain way, you are unacceptable.” Let’s call this out and do our best to fight these messages with one of our own. “You are beautiful and acceptable the way you are.”
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14, NIV