In January this year, Mattel, the American manufacturer of the world-famous fashion doll Barbie has introduced more variety: in addition to the standard Barbie doll there are now three new body shapes – ‘tall’, ‘petite’ and ‘curvy’, as well a variety of skin tones, eye colour, hair textures and styles. Although still slim, curvy Barbie but has a more realistic body shape, with larger wais, hips and thighs. Previously, Barbie’s body shape and size, with her fantastically long and thin limbs and unrealistic bust to waist ratio, has often been blamed for influencing the culturally ideal body shape that is admired and aspired to by many, but is unhealthy and unachievable.
The new dolls have been put to the test by inviting young children to play with them and review them. Children’s reactions were largely positive and many were attracted to dolls that ‘looked like them’ as well as to the curvy Barbie with blue hair, as it reminded them of the singer Katy Perry. However, several children singled out the curvy Barbie and referred to her as ‘fat’, but tended to avoid using that word in front of adults and replaced it with ‘chubby’. These comments, which hint of body shaming and suggest that even children just past nursery age fear fat, sound disturbing and deserve our attention.
Although Mattel and their dolls are still a long way from capturing and representing the real woman, in all the variety of body shapes and sizes, perhaps their newest additions should be welcomed as a small step in changing children’s perceptions of what real women’s bodies should look like.
Source: What I learned watching mums and kids meet Curvy Barbie (Times)