Today is Sunday, July 14, 2013.
The other day, “Good Morning America” did a report on artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm, 24, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who wanted to know what Mattel’s famous Barbie doll would look like if she were a real American girl. Lamm used average measurements for a 19-year-old girl from the Center for Disease Control, then spent six weeks creating a 3D digital model of Barbie as a real woman. “The fact that I used very close to average proportions made people realize average is beautiful,” Lamm told GoodMorningAmerica.com.
Lamm is right. Average is beautiful. The “real” Barbie’s face is fuller, and her eyes are smaller, but more alive, somehow Her neck looks like it could really support her head, versus the stretched neck of the toy Barbie. The “real” Barbie has wider hips with legs that have muscles and feet that are normal-sized, arms that look like they can actually lift and carry, and hands that look relaxed and not posed.
Here are some statistics about the Barbie doll that girls have played with since the early 1960s, courtesy of Body Wars, by Margo Maine, Ph.D., published in 2000 by Gurze Books.
• There are two Barbie dolls sold every second in the world.
• The target market for Barbie doll sales is young girls ages 3-12 years of age.
• A girl usually has her first Barbie by age 3, and collects a total of seven dolls during her childhood.
• Over a billion dollars worth of Barbie dolls and accessories were sold in 1993, making this doll big business and one of the top 10 toys sold.
• If Barbie were an actual women, she would be 5’9″ tall, have a 39″ bust, an 18″ waist, 33″ hips and a size 3 shoe.
• Barbie calls this a “full figure” and likes her weight at 110 lbs.
• At 5’9″ tall and weighing 110 lbs, Barbie would have a BMI of 16.24 and fit the weight criteria for anorexia. She likely would not menstruate. (Anorexia nervosa is a preoccupation with dieting and thinness that affects 1 percent of girls in the U.S. Up to 10 percent of those with anorexia die from the condition.)
• If Barbie was a real woman, she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.
• Slumber Party Barbie was introduced in 1965 and came with a bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs with a book entitled “How to Lose Weight” with directions inside stating simply “Don’t eat.”
For more information, call the South Shore Eating Disorders Collaborative at 508-230-1732 or visit the National Eating Disorders Association at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.
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If girls were allowed to play with a doll based on real human proportions instead of a fantasy, would we be able to teach young girls to have a more realistic view of themselves? Would we see fewer girls suffer from anorexia? Would the number of cosmetic plastic surgeries on women aged 20 to 29 decrease? There is evidence to suggest that this might be the case, but time will tell. Among those born after 1980, cosmetic procedures have increased. In 2011, just under 800,000 procedures were done in the United States on people in their 20s.
Right now there is no “real Barbie” doll. There is, however, an Emme doll. Manufactured by the Tonner Doll Company, Emme is plus-sized (U.S. size 16). She was introduced in 2002. Like her older sister, Barbie, Emme is a little pricy, especially when you start buying the clothes. The “Red Carpet” model shown here is about three times as expensive as the basic doll. Many modern parents are buying Emme dolls for their daughters in the hope that they will not acquire unrealistic expectations of female physical beauty by which to measure themselves.
I’m glad to see that people are starting to champion a wholesale revision of the way we judge women, physically, but I think that what doll a little girl plays with isn’t the whole story. Does she see Mommy dieting all the time? Does your family all sit down together to watch the Miss America pageant? Do you have fashion magazines on the coffee table in your living room? Do your kids watch a lot of TV?
Not only women, but men are going to have to change the way they judge women. It’s fine if all your girlfriends think it’s OK to be a size sixteen, but what do the boys think? For a (heterosexual) girl in her teens and twenties – and even into her thirties – that’s important.