In the most predictable news ever, a new study has found that 6-8-year-old girls who play with traditional, thin Barbies tend to think more critically of their own bodies than girls of the same age who play with dolls that have bodies more closely resembling the average woman today. Not shocking at all, right? But we needed a study to get it through people's heads.
Body Image, the journal behind the study, sheds light on the idea that young females playing with dolls who have unrealistic standards (a tiny waist and legs as long as the Empire State Building) are more likely to "encourage motivation for a thinner shape in young girls."
The study took 112 girls ages 6-8 and randomized them into four conditions: Barbie dressed modestly and in a bathing suit and Tracy from the popular broadway musical "Hairspray" dressed modestly and in a bathing suit as well. They then repeated the same study with a different set of 112 girls and knockoff brands of each Barbie and Tracy.
According to the New York Magazine's "The Science of Us," researchers asked the young girls questions concerning how they felt about their bodies both before and after the studies. It also reports that no matter what the doll was wearing, the sentiment was the same. Science Direct says, "In both studies, girls who played with thin dolls experienced higher body size discrepancies than girls who played with full-figured dolls. Girls who played with full-figured dolls showed less body dissatisfaction after doll exposure compared to girls who played with thin dolls."
So, what does all of this mean?
It means that 6-year-old girls are already comparing theirselves to others, that they're wanting to change their bodies, and that they aren't feeling good enough because a doll is influencing their perception of what a woman looks like.
It means that we have to change the way we think when we think "woman." It's bad enough that my friends and I, and the thousands of other college-aged women, and the millions of other women all around the world, compare themselves to the impossibly high standards set by society and the media. Let's not if affect our youth, too.
Let's keep telling our little nieces or sisters or cousins or friends that we babysit that they're perfect just the way they are. Let's tell them that we are so proud of them for acing that big science test or that we can't wait to see them hit home runs at their softball games. Let's not tell them that we grew up learning there was a certain "look" women had to have, and if they don't have it, they're not good enough. Because that is not the truth. Because we don't need a wide-eyed, bright six-year-old being crushed by the pressures of society before she has even begun to realize her potential in the world.