Today, Mattel announced that their signature toy, Barbie, is receiving a shapely update. Instead of the original Barbie (which, as you probably know, could not stand up if she were human), they’ve introduced three new dolls to their line: Curvy, Tall, and Petite. The Barbie body you’ve known for so many decades will be sold with a new name, the “Original” shape.
Possibly because we work in a health-focused brand and a media-centric organization, it has been the hottest topic in the Cooking Light office today. Thoughts range from “What were they possibly thinking?!” to “Yeah, so what?”
The feelings have been so diverse, in fact, that I asked all the women on staff to send their own personal response to the news. We asked them, as women who work in a health-focused world and think about healthy food day in and day out, to give their own unfiltered response. At the same time, I asked them to respond on a personal level, because whether or not you like Barbie, she’s a universally pervasive figure in most American children’s lives. Most of us have owned Barbies in a younger life, and if we’re parents, we’ll face the inevitable return of the plastic play thing at some point in our children’s lives.
Read our responses, and then let us know in the comments what we haven’t thought of in these conversations:
I have such mixed feelings about this. I guess it’s a step in the right direction, but they’re still all very perfect-pretty, (perhaps unintentionally?) sexualized, cinched-waist grown-up figures that girls can’t help but compare themselves to. I’m glad I have boys… – Ann Taylor Pittman, Executive Food Editor
It’ll be really interesting to see, when the new barbies are shelved alongside the old ones, which doll girls will go for. Won’t they just go for the toy they recognize, with the body that will fit the toy clothes they already own? I also think the story of the doll seems to be more of a hook…Elsa the character is what girls go for, just like astronaut Barbie or scuba diver Barbie. The body type change seems really to satiate the parents, much like gourmet, refrigerated pet food “meals” are meant to please the owners, not the pets.
Kudos to Mattel though for taking such a big leap and being willing to endure the criticism. They’re in a position where it’s impossible to move in any direction without offending many, yet they keep going. They might just have to wait for the next generation, who aren’t affiliated with classic Barbie, to accept the new doll (and her body types) as the norm. – Hannah Klinger, Associate Editor
It really seems like too little, too late to me. I understand the many challenges of changing Barbie’s figure, but they’ve known about girls’ body image issues for years. I guess it’s a start, but I’m not impressed. Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes—and always have. – Liz Rhoades, Production Coordinator
Of course, I immediately went practical – how are the clothes going to fit?? Then I read further… they’re not. What a bummer. It’s like living in a house of four girls and not being able to share your clothes with any of your roommates (something I have definitely experienced). Now you have to have a different wardrobe for each Barbie. Annoying and expensive, but probably marketing genius…
But when it gets down to it, I almost think introducing the three new body types, with four total, segregates the population even more than the original Barbie body ever did. Suddenly, instead of girls comparing themselves with ONE Barbie, you now have the potential to compare yourself with FOUR. I wish instead, they would have just made the original body more “real” and left it at that. Are we all the same size? Absolutely not. Do girls already know that? Most definitely. – Sheri Wilson, Managing Editor
I had a Barbie as a kid – I think it was a hand me down actually. But I never thought once about her body. And she was the old school one — with proportions that aren’t even humanly possible. But when I was growing up – body image had not reached down to little children as it does now.
My eight year old has for the past two years continually talked about being chubby. She isn’t – not even close to it. Yet somehow what she sees is chubbiness, and I know that is because our society seems to tell us that super skinny = beautiful (among a few other characteristics). If healthy body could = beautiful, then Yay! That’s a win. So when a new Barbie with many shapes is put out on the market, the messaging has to be there too. (Did you read the reactions the kids had to the curvy dolls?? It was really depressing.) Otherwise I fear the curvy dolls will be rejected by kids. – Cheryl Slocum, Senior Food Editor
Health is much more about feeling than looking, and as a young girl, you’re made to believe it’s about looking. As a kid you’re always looking to other people, things–often toys, TV shows, and celebrities–to take queues on what to do, how to be, how to look. These new Barbies show that bodies can look different and still be healthy, able, and beautiful. The idea of Barbie, a beautiful girl who has it all, and the general good feeling around her is now reachable to a larger audience. – Surya Patel, Art Fellow
The different sized Barbie dolls is a great idea. It makes some people uncomfortable because it’s new and because they could be putting the emphasis on weight. I don’t see the dolls as skinny or fat, I see them as different shapes. I hope that we can become accustomed to seeing a curvy shape and not immediately think it’s a shape of someone that is overweight and therefore unhealthy. We are all built differently and the look of health doesn’t have to be associated with a specific body shape. – Christina Harrison, Production Assistant
Maybe it is because I recently turned 40, but I am less worried about labels than I used to be. When I look back on Barbie now, all I really remember was how we made her whoever we wanted. I don’t really think of her as being part of my health and wellness struggle. But look, the fact that she can wear flats now made me smile. Her feet were always the most blatantly sexist and ridiculous part of her body. Who cares what she looks like, Barbie can finally pick her own shoes and walk in them how she wants. I am not going to hate on her for it. – Stacey Rivera, Digital Content Director, Cooking Light/MyRecipes
I was extremely confused when I first saw the release of the new Barbie body types. Why do they need to set these barbies apart? My initial thought was that women come in all sizes, not just four. Even two perfectly healthy women look completely different from one another. While yes, I am 5’11” and have been this height since I was 13, I don’t need a tall doll to make me feel better about my height. In fact, if the tall doll is different than the original, then that would just make me feel different. And honestly, having a tall skinny Barbie doesn’t really do much for tall women who don’t look like models. Personally, I played with Barbies using my imagination and dreaming up different scenarios with them. I don’t really think I ever thought about her body type, and while some children might, I think adding in these other body types make them focus on body even more. A part of me thinks that if it had been left alone, children wouldn’t have even really noticed and just played with Barbies like they play with every other type of doll. Barbies are iconic and a classic toy that I personally believe should have been left to portray a story, not a body type. – Rebecca Longshore, Assistant Digital Editor
Lena Dunham shows photos of her body, and those get touted as her “un-Barbie-like” figure. Hopefully one day the phrase “un-Barbie-like” will not apply. Barbie should be a positive role model for all girls. Not all young girls are tall and thin, and I’m glad to see that there are now options, for all girls. Every girl deserves a doll that she can play out her dreams and hopes for the future. It’s not realistic for every single young girl to dream of being a tall, thin blonde woman. Now girls can see themselves as doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, etc. with a doll that resembles themselves more closely. I think this is a positive moment for Barbie and young girls! – Nicole Gerrity, Designer
At the first news of hearing about Barbie’s launch I was excited. My daughters wouldn’t have to go through what I did. They would realize that all of our bodies are different and perfect and normal. Except there is one problem. A really huge problem that started to upset me more and more as I thought about it. And that’s the fact that Mattel decided that each body type required a label: Curvy, Petite, Tall. As in different. As in not normal. Why can’t they all just be Barbies? Why can’t they all just be a line of Barbies modeled after real women? – no labels included.
But I’d also like to add that I think this IS a step in the right direction. Good things are happening and I’m happy Mattel is realizing there is a problem. Victoria’s Secret is another beast entirely. – Marie Silvio, CookingLightDiet.com Fellow
Being raised in a house of 4 girls, I had a Barbie collection most kids only ever dreamed of. But in the 90’s, they all looked the same. I found it hard to identify with their body types because I’ve always been tiny, and they’re slender and tall. Barbie’s best friend was named “Teresa” though, and she was a brunette, like me, so I felt comfortable playing with her and her alone.
I studied women’s and gender studies at university and found myself hating Barbie for all it’s worth. There was just no diversity. And now that Barbie has introduced diversity, I find myself cringing a bit.
If there’s a “curvy,” “petite,” and “tall” doll, then which is deemed “normal?” Barbie who has inflicted unrealistic body expectations to the women of my generation and beyond? Naming each as they appear will only perpetuate impractical ideas on how we should look and what we should weigh. – Teresa Sabga, CookingLight.com Fellow