Being born in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s in New York, most Mamaroneck High School students have grown up in a similar environment—one filled with hours and hours watching Nickelodeon and trading Silly Bandz on the playground. Personally, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to spend my childhood living all over the world. In the first eight years of my life, I’ve lived on four different continents. Despite the fact that I spent my childhood years in so many different environments, there was one recurring theme that still persists today: the obsession with Barbie dolls.
Barbie dolls made their first appearance in 1959, and have since been a worldwide phenomenon. The company that produces the dolls, Mattel, has estimated that about 90 percent of girls in America between the ages of 3 and 10 own at least one Barbie doll, with girls between the ages of 3 and 6 owning an average of 12 dolls each. And who wouldn’t love them? You can buy new outfits for your doll, style her hair, and buy things such as mansions and even pets for your Barbie to make her life even more realistic.
Actually, realistic may not be the right word. In recent years, the company has come under fire for the doll’s unrealistic portrayal of women, with critics saying that Barbie’s appearance is unattainable.
Despite this, many have become a victim of “Barbie syndrome”—a term for when one attempts to resemble the doll, sometimes obsessing over it. The company has taken those statements to heart, resulting in a new line of Barbie dolls with tall, petite and curvy figures.
Considering the popularity of Barbies, this new line is vital to put the idea into young people’s minds that a certain figure is not a requirement for looking beautiful. Children will also be able to connect more with the dolls since they will look more like themselves.
There are still downsides that come with the new design, however. Even with the changes in appearance, the Barbie dolls still reinforce many stereotypes of girls and women today, focusing mainly on appearance, makeup and fashion. Barbie dolls still spread the idea that a girl needs to have the perfect clothes, hair and looks in order to be considered beautiful. It is also important to note that the change is not applicable to male Barbie dolls.
While this surface change may bring many benefits to a generation of young girls and boys playing with them, there are other reasons as to why the change is almost harmful as well. In the end, however, the doll’s new focus on how beauty takes many forms is one that shouldn’t be ignored.
By Lauren Kroell