Barbie: harmless toy or dangerous role model?

15 Nov

A recent episode of Gok Wan’s ‘How to Look Good Naked’ revealed some worrying statistics about how women in the UK feel about their bodies. Apparently 80% of women don’t like their waists, while the same percentage wished their tummies were smaller, 70% are unhappy with their bums, and 65% expressed dissatisfaction with their boobs.  An unrelated study suggests that 95% of women will, at some point in their life, be on a diet.  These findings beg the question: how did women become such body loathers?

As a baby, we are eager to explore our bodies and are blissfully unconscious of them.  At some point, however, we begin to become self-conscious, with some suggesting that this can happen as early as 2 years old.  Early role models, like our parents will play a crucial role in shaping how we feel about ourselves.  Growing up, girls need role models with a positive body image if they are to develop a healthy attitude towards their own body. This got me thinking about one of the most iconic and much-loved toys for girls – Barbie.

It is estimated that 90% of girls aged 3 to 11 have a Barbie, an early role model that is physically unattainable.  At 5 ft 9″, Barbie has a 39″ bust, an 18″ waist and 33″ hips.  ‘Beauty Redefined’ rather brilliantly brought Barbie to life in a scale model (pictured above) that shows how ridiculous her proportions are. If young girls are not guided otherwise, they may believe that this is an achievable and a desirable ideal: is it any wonder that they become dissatisfied with their bodies from such an early age? I’m not saying that Barbie is the cause of all body image issues today, but with one in four teenage girls developing an eating disorder, surely we need to make sure that their early role models are the healthiest?  Besides, latest studies on female body shape suggest that the ‘hour glass’ shape personified by Barbie is on the decline among UK women, with less than 10% of women being an ‘hour glass’.   It seems to me that it’s time that Barbie became a more current and healthy role model.  It’s time she had a decent meal!

What do you think about Barbie and her influence on body image?


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