I really want to know: Did any girls actually feel bad about themselves because of Barbie? I keep seeing that “real-body Barbie” picture and I can’t help but think that all the so-called “Barbie body image” issues are actually just a result of adults fetishizing and perhaps even sexualizing a doll, way after the fact of their childhoods.
You know what I thought about Barbie as an actual kid? That she could be anything, and have a million cool jobs and horses and an awesome car and a billion outfits. I never once looked at the plastic doll in my hand and thought, “This caricature is clearly what I am supposed to look like.” Because even as a kid I understood, and most kids I knew understood, that she was kind of a cartoon. We didn’t want to look like the Powerpuff Girls or Daphne from Scooby Doo, or any of our other actual dolls. That wasn’t what they were for.
So where did I get all of my body image issues? From women around me, from relatives to older friends to strangers in the grocery store who said “I’m so fat,” or “I need to lose about fifteen pounds and then I can wear a swimsuit,” or “I never should have eaten that cake.”
And I observed that swimsuits were not for swimming; they were for showing off thin bodies only. I learned that self-hatred was a part of womanhood. I learned to only eat the cake at great risk to my self-esteem. Whose fault was each of these lessons? Not Barbie’s. Barbie taught me to feed my imagination. Real women taught me to hate and fear my body the way they hated and feared theirs.
I have never looked in the mirror and squeezed the fat on my thighs and said, “If only I looked like Barbie.” I have squeezed and said, “Well I’m clearly not eating carbs for a month,” or “No beach for me today,” because guess what? That is how I learned to say “I am unhappy with how I look.”
I am certainly not alone. This rhetoric is so commonplace it is almost unnoticeable. I hear it from the mouths of teenagers all the way to grandparents. So, ladies of all ages, and men too–can we take responsibility for our influences? Can we stop wondering what is making young girls hate themselves, and stop blaming a doll?
I might be alone in thinking that my personal issues are not Barbie’s fault. If you think she gave you some of yours, I want to hear from you. I’m not trying to exclude your voice. But I really think, at the end of the day, real-life influence has so much more sway than a toy.
Do you call yourself fat in front of your kids? Do you sigh when you step on a scale? Do you snort derisively when you see an overweight person eating at a restaurant?
Then congratulations. You are showing the young people in your life Exactly. How. To hate themselves. That their worth and yours are inextricably bound with your waistline and your perceived attractiveness. Quit blaming a doll and recognize the damage you are doing before your kids grow up and pass this twisted cycle on to someone else.