Tall, tanned, thin and blonde. This is the image of beauty placed in the young girls hands. It is the image stacked high in every toy shop. Barbie made for children to dress up, create hair styles and pick out the perfect pair of shoes to slip on her perfect tiny plastic feet. This simple doll was introduced in 1959 and is still influencing youth today. After all Barbie is what every little girl wants to be and is every guys guide line to the ideal girlfriend, with films like “Weird Science” bringing dolls to life.
So, how does this flawless little doll impact on women in society? On average girls age 3-11 own at least 10 Barbie dolls, setting the idea of the 6ft tall, 110 pound ideal in their easily influenced minds. However can we blame them for accepting this perfect image? After all in our everyday lives we are shown pictures of beautiful women in glossy magazines, we walk into shops and are bombarded with make-up, face masks, fake-tan and hair products galore. It could be said that in some way you can walk into a shop and buy a whole new you; but do all these products give us confidence or do they create dependency and turn us into life size Barbie’s?
An influential statement by Sarah Burge – a modern day Barbie lookalike (UK) sends out the wrong message to our youth, she states; “it’s okay for women to be something they are not”. This may lead us to ask the question, is inner confidence the same as confidence in one’s appearance? In 1965 Mattel (the makers of Barbie) introduced their slumber party doll, she came complete with bathroom scales-set to show the weight of 110 pounds- and a book telling children; “don’t eat” if you want to lose weight. To Mattel’s surprise the sales of their Barbie doll dropped at a “shocking” rate. As if telling children to diet wasn’t bad enough at the same time they also released a Ken slumber party doll, but instead of adding weight loss tips they sold him with milk and cookies- talk about gender discrimination in the beautiful world of Mattel.
To date there are almost 8 million people in the US suffering from some form of eating disorder and out of that only 10-15% being male. This not only shows that women are largely affected and more inclined to diet but more importantly that men can be affected too. In 2013 a “grand” total of 45,365 cosmetic procedures were carried out, only 9.5% were males wanting to make changes. Sadly this is a small but significant increase from 2012 when the number of male cosmetic enhancements stood 16% lower. A man named Fred Yeo spent near enough $20,000 this year alone to subject his body to a tummy tuck and his lower back to laser liposculpture. I would question how long this so called happiness will last? Maybe till he finds a perceived flaw such as a wrinkle or unwanted blemish. However it is not his fault, according to Darren Tom-age 24- the culprit isn’t Fred Yeo it is in fact society for judging one’s appearance instead of the person within.
However I have to ask, are any of these people truly happy in their fight to become flawless or do they ever think; what if I ate that buttered scone at lunch? We are now at the point where we need to recognise that 10% of people with anorexia will die because their bodies can’t withstand the battle to become tall, thin and undernourished. These statistics truly give a whole new meaning to the seemingly harmless metaphor, “if looks could kill”. The changes women have to make to their body to even come close to that Barbie slim shape not only requires them to have liposuction but also the removal of two sets of ribs. This in my opinion takes their “war” against normality to a whole new level.
Not only does the issue of body image inflict pressure on people physically it also attacks them mentally with over 5% of people with eating disorders meeting the diagnostic criteria for depression.
This pressure to be thin is clear with 40-60% of hormonal high school girls already trading their otherwise healthy eating behaviours, for this dieting – starving “craze”. Society no longer accepts the idea of imperfections making us unique and setting us apart, but rather it is pushing for the cloning similarity of everyone looking the same.
Beauty by definition is; a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour and form that please the aesthetic senses, especially sight. Beauty can be interpreted in many ways depending on who you are. However should beauty be restricted to a physical definition rather than encompassing an emotional aspect?
A child as young as 8 years old named Dana (UK) refused to eat more than 175 calories a day, it was so extreme she had to be force fed through an IV and admitted to hospital for 12 weeks on a correctional program, though I don’t see a quick fix for her. In an attempt to find the root of this needless insecurity a group of researchers specialising in psychological development exposed a number of young girls to 3 different dolls. After the research was completed they came to a “ground-breaking” conclusion. They stated that the young girls who viewed the Barbie doll reported lower self-esteem and a stronger need to be thin, this was shocking. After seeing these results one might say the Barbie is a role model, encouraging the urge for weight loss and the likely hood of developing eating disorders in our youth.
Sadly the issue of reaching the weight of 110 pounds does not just plague the minds of our children but also the minds of adults between 20-30 years old. One of their goals may be to resemble their favourite role model, the Malibu Barbie. This has reached an extreme level where 40% of this countries’ 9 year olds have dieted; indicating that their dreams are no longer restricted to games in the playground, but are swiftly becoming their unrealistic body image goals in reality. The dieting doesn’t stop in our local primary school system but is carried on through into higher education with almost 95% of those suffering from uncontrollable eating disorders falling into the range of 12-25 years of age. 75% of the young female population not only have dieted but carry on doing so 2-5 times a year. This means that there is an astonishing average of 4 out of 5 ten year olds who are afraid of being “fat”. Author, Kevin Norton says that the “Barbie ideal” is an almost impossible possibility with only 100,000 people in the world who actually meet the Barbie body image; Again proving that these extreme measures taken by so many are still unlikely to achieve their “perfectly perfect” image.
After looking into this controversial topic I have come to the conclusion that, be it Barbie or Ken who inspires us to change, both play a key role in moulding perceptions of beauty and how “perfection” is seen, not only in the eyes of women but also in the eyes of men. So no matter if it is in achieving that slim line waist or the bleach blonde hair is Barbie something to aspire too and give to our growing children? No, it could be said that she is a thing of the past. After all if a doll of 11.5 inches can have such a huge impact on people of all ages then should we still be selling it? Should Barbie be accompanied by a health warning? On the other hand society might need this bit of plastic in order to strive for something more.