I was a Barbie girl in a Barbie world, and I loved it. Growing up I had Malibu Barbie, Disco Barbie, Millenium Barbie – you name it, I had it, complete with the Dreamhouse and Corvette.
And now that I am an adult, people expect me to have an eating disorder, severe and permanent body image issues and debilitating fears of mirrors because I don’t have Barbie’s measurements.
But instead, I am a well-adjusted adult who is content with her body and her image, and yet feminists still consider me somewhat of an anomaly.
As a child, when I was playing with my Barbies, she was always just a doll that had cool clothes and a cool car. To me, it was simply a toy, just like my stuffed animals; she was never something that I was supposed to strive to be, and her measurements were never something that I was expected to emulate.
My stuffed teddy bears didn’t teach me what real bears should look like, and Barbie didn’t teach me what a real woman should look like.
Sports Illustrated’s 50th anniversary swimsuit edition, on newsstands today, will feature the iconic Barbie. The edition contains all models that have made a significant impact on the industry and the publication – past, present and future.
I see nothing wrong with this; the doll is an icon, like it or not. I don’t see Barbie being discontinued, so that means that for as many people who are crying to save our little girls and their psychological well-being from the likes of a plastic doll, plenty of others are buying her merchandise for their kiddos. She is still iconic, and has some really cool swimsuits if you ask me.
We are putting adult issues on a child’s toy, and that’s just not fair.
Body image concerns usually hit their peak in adolescence; teenage girls look on the TV and in magazines and even back in their toy box to find Barbie, and then look in the mirror and realize that they look nothing like that. But eventually, a lot of women grow up to look in that mirror again and see that maybe they don’t have ridiculous measurements, but they’re still something to look at.
Every woman is beautiful. Even though I played with my blonde-haired, blue-eyed Barbie that was nothing more than boobs on a stick, I came to the conclusion that this isn’t the only image considered beautiful. Because she is a toy, and not something that I should model my life after.
I am not alone in this either; there are plenty of well-adjusted adult women that sat right next to me as a child with a Barbie set of their own.
But body image disorders and eating disorders are primarily adult issues, and have no business in a child’s toy realm.
Adolescent and adult women have been self-conscious long before the media fed them images of perfectly airbrushed models and impossibly thin “ideals.” Women have been thinking of their own bodies as inferior long before Barbie, and sadly those thoughts will continue long after her.
The same argument has been made for boys having toy guns when they’re younger – if we let them have that toy and play that video game, they’re going to grow up to be serial killers. If we let that little girl sit and play with Barbie, she’s going to grow up to be anorexic.
Maybe we could all just sit back and relax, let kids be kids and play with what they gravitate towards.
I have seen boys that have never had toy guns in their lives turn every stick they find outside into a rifle with nothing more than their imagination. I have seen girls rush towards the Barbies and immediately start brushing their hair and making the Corvette go vroom. But I’m not concerned for their psychological well-being. Why? Because they’re just being kids, and I don’t think that toys have permanent implications on a child’s psyche.
That being said, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder. That is a huge chunk of the population, and the number of those disorders being treated is abysmal. I encourage you, if you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, go to the counseling center and seek help.
But I don’t blame Barbie, or Ken or G.I. Joe. And obviously, Sports Illustrated doesn’t either.
Brittany Jordan misses her care-free Barbie days. Feedback of all varieties can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sports Illustrated chose to feature Barbie in their anniversary edition, and that is just fine
- Children’s toys do not have permanent implications on human psyche, and it’s not fair to muddle them with adult issues
- She may represent an impossible “ideal,” but at the end of it all she’s just a doll