I see that Mattel have announced the news that next month they are launching a new range of Barbie dolls? So many people I know are delighted by the news that Barbie will finally look ‘real’ but I’m not sure how I feel about it to be honest. You see, I never had a real problem with how Barbie looked in the first place, which I know is a terribly unpopular opinion to have, but it’s true!
All three of my girls have been huge Barbie fans, the youngest two still being very much in the height of their Barbie phase at ages seven and nine. I can hand on heart say that I have never worried that Barbie’s shape, size or colour would somehow taint my daughters’ views of what is real or not. She is a doll. Just a doll. Just like My Little Pony isn’t real and in no way shape or form represents what a real horse looks like, I don’t expect Barbie to be of perfect human proportions. I’ve never understood why Barbie has been given such a hard time over the years to be honest?
One of my favourite toys growing up was a Gummi Bear which was half bear, half bouncy ball and I used to take great pleasure in dropping the thing at a great height to see how high it could bounce. This didn’t make me grow up thinking that all bears should be part bouncy ball. It was just a toy after all. Just like playing with my Crystal Barbie didn’t make me think that I needed to have unrealistic proportions to be a real woman. It’s nonsense, isn’t it? Toys can just be toys. They don’t always have to be realistic. I think we sometimes give toys more credit than they are due for messing with kids heads. And quite frankly don’t give our kids enough credit in being intelligent enough to know that they are just toys. Just like talking cars with eyes aren’t real, Barbie never was either!
I don’t think that Barbie teaches my daughters that you must look a certain way. In fact, I think as a whole, Barbie has a really positive image of teaching our children that they can be anything they want to be. An astronaut, gymnast, teacher, vet, popstar… whatever you want! When I see my girls play with their Barbies, their games are always led by their own imagination. The fact that one Barbie might be dressed in a ballgown for example never seems to get in the way of her being the teacher that day. I don’t know if you saw the video that Mattel released last year about just that? It was fantastic! And for me, perfectly summed up what Barbie meant to my girls.
It’s funny though because my daughter saw a snippet of this news on tv this morning and she was horrified! She called me in and rewound it so I could see it too! ‘Have you seen what they are doing to Barbie, Mummy? I hope they are going to give them different names because that is not what Barbie should look like!’ Obviously she has quite fixed views on what a Barbie doll should look like but at nine years old, she has the intelligence to know that humans real live humans come in many different shapes and sizes. She did raise one very valid point though about how the clothes won’t fit them all anymore. Could trying to squeeze a doll into clothes that don’t fit her be the next thing for people to worry about giving their kid body image issues? Oh my godfathers, I’m not sure that Mattel can do right for doing wrong here! Ha!
Having said all that, I don’t think that diversity can ever be a bad thing. How can having different body shapes or a choice of skin tones ever be negative? It can’t really, can it? Mattel have obviously listened to what parents out there want and that can only be a good thing, so hats off to them for that. Although it has to be said that this by no means a new issue – people have been banging on about the size of Barbie’s waist for as long as I can remember!