Mattel made headlines last week with the announcement of a new line of more “diverse” Barbies that tone down the unrealistic image of the traditional doll that has been a household name for decades. Not only is the new line of Barbie’s more racially diverse, but also the company has added three new body types including “curvy,” “tall,” and “petite.” Many people believe this is long overdue, and tend to cite Mattel as an example of body discrimination that could lead to shame and insecurity in young girls. This is with no doubt an incredible stride towards body positivity, in theory. Barbie in her original state was clearly a representation of a reality that could never be. This is because she is not real. Ask the average 4-year-old and she will be able to tell you that Barbie is pretend.
I truly believe that this is an incredible change in the toy industry and will bring about great things for the next generation of Barbie fans, but only because we have messed them up. The very fact that this change needed to happen speaks volumes on our current state of chaos surrounding body image. How in the world did we become so focused on appearance, that we felt the need to revamp a doll in order to make children feel more secure about their appearance? How has our society shifted so much, that a child cannot simply view a doll for what it is? It’s a doll. A toy. A make believe friend for tea parties and career dreams.
Barbie is fake. But what is not fake are the photoshopped images in magazines, perfect Disney actors, and television advertisement that kids are bombarded with every day. We can’t throw kids into this world and then turn around and blame a toy for insecurity and body shaming. Barbie was not a poor example, our society is.