30 December 2013

Plus-Size Barbie = Friend Or Foe?

I have received so many Google alerts regarding plus-size Barbie that I thought it was finally time to sit down and write about the hypothetical piece of plastic that has cyberspace in an uproar.

As I'm sure most of you know by now, Worth1000, a company dedicated to creative contests, is the initial source of the image that has so many people in a frenzy. When the Facebook group Plus Size Modeling shared the photo (created by artist bakalia) with the tagline, "Should there be a plus-size Barbie?" it generated instant global controversy, as could have only been expected. Comments were pretty bland, though. Those who were anti-plus-Barbie predictably spouted what we've all heard about the dangers of promoting obesity and encouraging unhealthy eating habits. Those who were pro-plus-Barbie applauded having a more fuller-figured doll to aid in size acceptance and body confidence among young girls. And many fell in-between, requesting Barbie have the dimensions of an "average" woman.

To be honest, this has racked my brain for days. Normally, I would be quick to say that a more realistically proportioned Barbie is what we need. I think that bakalia was hoping to create just that. But it kind of backfired. Though I would argue that plus-Barbie is not particularly obese in the body department (in fact, she's pretty standardly shaped, with fuller but not exaggerated features from the chest down), it's the face -- the chins -- that I cannot get over. Never in my life have I seen a human being possess three chins, no matter how large the number on the scale. It just doesn't happen. You can have a double chin, and your double chin can be rather noticeable, but you cannot have three chins as well as a neck. In a way, plus-Barbie's three chins make her look more unrealistic than regular Barbie, and that is a difficult feat considering we know the stats for current Barbie.

As we found out from reports two years ago, if Barbie were an actual woman, she would:

  • Be 5'9" tall, with a 39" bust, an 18" waist and 33" hips.
  • Have a size-3 foot.
  • Weigh 100 pounds.
  • Have a BMI of 16.24 and fit the medical weight criteria for anorexia.
  • Be forced to walk on all fours because her proportions are so demented.

It does not take Sheldon Cooper to realize that this is not a healthy image, and certainly not one we want to contaminate the minds of susceptible young girls who bring Barbie home and secretly wish that they could look just like her as well as have her Malibu mansion and endless wardrobe of size negative-12 ball gowns. Current Barbie is not the way forward, that much is clear. If people hate plus-Barbie for promoting obesity, then they must also realize that current Barbie promotes an eating disorder. I have said before, the glamorization of eating disorders is so prevalent in our culture that we truly do not need any more of it, let alone manifested as a doll manufactured primarily for pre-teen children.

Considering accepting people of all shapes and sizes is still not actually a thing, the better judgment call for Mattel may be more along the lines of artist Nicoklay Lamm's vision -- a Barbie created using CDC measurements of an average 19-year-old woman. She has curves. She has an actual derriere and bust and thighs that touch (because let's face it, most women don't have a thigh gap unless they are emaciated). And she is actually pretty beautiful.

Because I firmly believe that the term "obesity" has been transformed from something used primarily by the medical community simply as a measurement of BMI and NOT actual health into something vulgar and insulting and linked to poor health (for no reason at all other than that the masses assume all fat people are unhealthy), I do not think the world is ready for a bakalia-esque Barbie. What I can only imagine would be an immeasurably large amount of parents would refuse to buy the doll altogether for fear that their children would grow up wanting to be fat. But keeping Barbie as she is is no better. In this case, not enough parents don't purchase the doll that is promoting ridiculously implausible and deadly body standards.

Perhaps for now, until (someday?) the world is ready for an actual plus-size Barbie, Mattell needs to normalize her. It's good to be average. Average means you cannot be called out for being too big or too small. Average means you probably won't have people on either side of spectrum bitching at you for promoting obesity or anorexia. Average means normal. And maybe a dose of normality -- of reality -- is what children actually need when it comes to this sort of stuff. Maybe someone -- or something, like a doll -- needs to show that it's ok to be normal.


  1. It is fascinating how many things they make the future generations of our daughters, sisters and young ladies in general go through.

    I am horrified by this, there is so many things wrong with Mattell as a company and I am thinking perhaps they need to re-evaluate their decision making paradigm.

    1. I am as well. It's repulsive. And Barbie, especially, is one of the emblematic toys for young girls. At least the conversation is open; Barbie's obscene proportions weren't even discussed heavily until 2011. But nothing has been done, yet. They need to re-evaluate their morality if you ask me. You'd think creating a "normal" doll would not be such of a hard decision.

    2. There you are, that is the head of the nail no one wants to speak about. The morality is it, the fact that you have to even mention morality in the discussion of a doll makes me sick to my stomach.

    3. Common sense would suggest you wouldn't have to. But I don't think the manufacturers possess that either.

  2. Positive representation of body diversity has sooo far to go. It's really depressing.

    1. Depressing yes, but there is still hope in the world. Baby steps have been taken, at least let us build off of that.

  3. Is that a digital rendering or do they really have a Plus size Barbie?
    Mig, I think YOU should be the plus-size Barbie because you look amazing!


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