Barbie- she’s wonderful and glamorous, she gives kids hours and days of fun, and her body shape looks nothing like any human being on the planet, now or in any past or present realm.
Magical. Now, finally, well into the new millennium, she is available in an assortment of body types. It’s about time!
Why does this matter? Because regular Barbie is TINY and eating disorders are still a rampant problem among women in many countries. Particularly in the U.S. (They are living among some men, too, but that’s another article.)
How bad is it? The National Eating Disorders (NEDA) states that approximately a half million teens struggle with eating disorders or disordered eating.
In the extreme, eating disorders can cause suicide, death from the disease itself due to complications from starvation and a lack of nutrients, and raised rates of death from unrelated diseases like cancer, in those who suffer from eating disorders.
And some people blame this on Barbie. The influence of popular images like that of Barbie are thought by some to have a striking effect on young psyches. Ideas of body image are developed early on, and significant studies report that girls exposed to Barbie at a young age report lower body esteem and a greater desire for a thinner body shape than girls who are not exposed to Barbie.
And so, the arrival of new-body-type Barbie is welcomed! It’s taken Mattel 57 years, but they are finally here.
The new versions of the doll include a petite Barbie, an extra tall one, and a Barbie with a curvy body type. They are all currently available for pre-order from Mattel, as part of the Barbie Fashionista line.
Should it have taken Mattel so many decades to make the change and offer a more diverse line of toys? Time says that changing Barbie’s size presents a massive risk for Mattel. “Barbie is more than just a doll. The brand does $1 billion in sales across more than 150 countries annually, and 92% of American girls ages 3 to 12 have owned a Barbie, thanks in part to her affordable $10 price tag. She’s been the global symbol of a certain kind of American beauty for generations, with brand recognition that’s up there with Mickey Mouse. M.G. Lord, a Barbie biographer, once said she was designed “to teach women what—for better or worse—is expected of them in society,”” writes Eliana Dockterman, in her advertorial.
And Evelyn Mazzocco, the head of the Barbie brand, says that change at a mega corporation takes a lot of time- maybe, mega time-to take hold.
But some argue that if Barbie has switched jobs hundreds of times, has acquired a wardrobe any model would envy, and has had a fleet of sports cars to reflect the most popular trends in the real world at any given time that changing the doll’s width, height and shoe size can’t have been that big a deal.
According to Time, Barbie’s sales have plummeted 20% between 2012 and 2014 and continued to fall during 2015.
Mattel must be hoping that by changing things up, Barbie will once again bring in the dollars she’s been known for-and remain a staple in playrooms across the nation. Bring on the future!