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Barbie dolls, they’ve around since the late 50’s, most young girls grow up them, and I highly doubt anyone living today doesn’t know what they are. Yet so little people really look into the implications of showing young girls these dolls which are unrealistically and have unattainable to the average person bodies. They’re crazily slim, and have ‘perfect’, model bodies. Yet for young girls who grow up with them it can seem to be the norm, or something that they should be aiming to attain. In this essay I will be writing about how Mattel’s Barbie has really been impacting the life of young girls, positively and negatively for over 60 years.

Firstly, throughout the existence of Barbie, the bright character has worked over 200 jobs in many different fields. As many young girls do, I grew up with these dolls, and got to see Barbie working jobs, like a doctor, the president, a business executive, and many others. This, presumably has greatly inspired many young girls, who otherwise potentially would have only been gave toy kitchens, fake cleaning supplies, and babies with strollers, which could make it seem like being a homemaker, which is also an amazing job, but not what every single young girl aspires to be is their only option in life. Therefore, showing these young girls that there are more options life and could give them an array of things to aspire to. More recently, Mattel released 17 new dolls based off inspiring women, like Frida Kahlo, iconic feminist and artist, Emelia Earhart, aviation pioneer, Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician and physicist, and many more. Which I feel shows Mattel’s new commitment to inspiring young women

Despite all of this, Mattel’s Barbie dolls have also been dragged for their size, proportions, and other, questionable, things. Starting with her size, she is supposed to be 5’9”, with 39” breasts with a tiny 18” waist and 33” hips. Weighing in at 110 pounds, she would have a BMI of 16.24, which is extremely unhealthy and many think the only way to reach such a low weight and BMI would be some form of eating disorder… definitely not what I, would want to be presenting to young girls. Nevertheless, it somehow gets worse. In 1965, Mattel released slumber party Barbie, of course she came with multiple accessories, mainly however, a pink scale set at 110 pounds (which I have previously mentioned as her weight, and it is of course a very unhealthy weight, 35 pounds underweight to be exact) and a diet book, which is disturbing that they would even sell that to children, but its contents are scarily worse. The book only said one thing, ‘Don’t eat!’. And this is impacting young girls, one study showed that girls who grow up with Barbie dolls have higher dissatisfaction with their own bodies and desired to be slimmer; this study was done were on girls, ages 6 to 8. Body issues are prevalent to this day; in a survey in 2017, 54% of women said they would rather be run over by a truck that be overweight. Disturbing, right? But most women reading this may not even be shocked by that, as a large majority of us experience body issues, 97% of us. Body issues, along with other things, of course, can be a trigger making people struggle with anorexia. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any metal disorder, so tell me again, why are we showing these dolls to young girls if they have even a chance of affecting them this severely?

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On a lighter note, Barbies are happily getting a lot more diverse, with new release of Barbies with all different body shapes, sizes, of different races, ethnicities and religions. They recently released a doll of Olympic fencer, Ibtihaj Muhammad, as a part of their sheroes campaign. This doll was the first Barbie released who wears a hijab. They also have released four shapes of dolls, including some new shapes and the original. The shapes are: petite, tall, curvy, and original. Whilst they are far from perfect, and they could definitely befit from more plus sized dolls, and dolls with more realistic portions, the dolls are definitely going more into the right direction, and they’re hopefully only going to get better from here.

Lastly, what I would like to talk about is some of Mattel’s more strange dolls, like Pregnant Midge and Growing Up Skipper. Firstly, the pregnancy doll came with a literal plastic child in its stomach, which was removable, and the doll itself did not look old enough to be having a kid of its own. Many parents claimed it was promoting teen pregnancy, and while I think that may be going too far, I do think that selling dolls that clearly look like teens having kids of their own is questionable, not to mention the fact you could take the baby out of her, kind of creepy, especially for young kids. Next, Growing Up Skipper was supposed to be about Barbie’s little sister, growing through puberty, and while I think it is great to teach kids about this, the doll was not the way to do so. The doll went through little changes, the only notable changes were that she gets a bit taller, and her breasts got bigger, which I find just a little unsettling. Lastly, Mattel released a computer engineer Barbie, which sounds great, right? Wrong. She could not do any engineering and instead got hacked, and had to run to men to get help, not so inspiring anymore, I guess. Mattel have since apologized, but I still find that one quite questionable, considering they’re trying to market themselves as more feminist.

In conclusion, whist I do think the dolls are becoming more diverse, and could be an inspiration to some, mostly I think they have done more harm than good. Growing up with dolls that are unhealthy shaped and calling it beautiful, whether it’s intentional, is promoting body issues, eating disorders, and diet culture to these small, impressionable children, and it is not okay.

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