Barbie positivity: new body shapes, skin tones to come this year

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The new line of Barbies features a variety of body shapes, hair types, and skin tones to better reflect the girls that buy the dolls. The official January Barbie press release stated, “With added diversity and more variety in styles, fashions, shoes, and accessories, girls everywhere will have infinitely more ways to spark their imagination and play out their stories.” Photo taken from barbiemedia.com

The Barbie doll was first released to the public in 1959 as a tall, blonde teenage girl. Nearly 60 years later, Barbie debuted three new body styles and a number of diverse skin tones, hairstyles and outfits.

Barbie, the “teenage fashion model” from the 50s, has evolved over the years as a reflection of beauty standards and trends. Beauty idols like Marilyn Monroe and nineteenth century fads have inspired different versions of Barbies such as “Barbie and the Rockers” from the 80s or “Malibu Barbie” from the 70s.

“Barbie reflects the world girls see around them. Her ability to evolve and grow with the times, while staying true to her spirit, is central to why Barbie is the number one fashion doll in the world,” Richard Dickson, President and Chief Operating Officer of Mattel, said a in Jan. 28 press release.

The top secret project was referred to within the company as “Project Dawn” and kept secret from employees’ families while it was in progress. Last October, the company announced its 14 percent drop in Barbie sales worldwide. The new Barbie styles are expected to revamp sales by reaching for a broader audience. The new dolls include changes such as petite, curvy, red hair, an afro, and lighter and darker skin tones.

“We are excited to literally be changing the face of the brand,” Evelyn Mazzocco, senior vice-president and Barbie’s global general manager, said in the press release. “These new dolls represent a line that is more reflective of the world girls see around them. The variety in body type, skin tones and style allows girls to find a doll that speaks to them.”

Throughout the years, Barbie dolls have been controversial on the grounds of sexism and unreachable standards for young girls. The 1992 “Teen Talk Barbie” said “math class is tough” when her button was pushed. In 2011, Hamilton College student Galia Slayen attempted to make a life size Barbie doll, and the end result was a deformed figure with a BMI associated with anorexia.

“If Barbie were an actual woman, she would be 5’9″ tall, have a 39″ bust, an 18″ waist, 33″ hips and a size 3 shoe,” Slayen wrote in the Huffington Post. “She likely would not menstruate and she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.”

In 2014, Barbie was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. In the article, a Mattel spokesman posing as Barbie told off the doll’s critics and explained her reasoning for being on the cover of an infamous, sexual magazine.

“Today, truly anything is possible for a girl. Let us place no limitations on her dreams, and that includes being girly if she likes. It’s easy to say the culprit is the color pink or the existence of makeup,” she told Sports Illustrated. “That’s easy, and predictable. Neither prevents girls from excelling in their own fashion. Let her grow up not judged by how she dresses, even if it’s in heels; not dismissed for how she looks, even if she’s pretty. Pink isn’t the problem.”

Despite a somewhat scandalous past, many mothers and siblings believe that Barbie expanding her horizon on skin, hair, and body types is a step in the right direction. Although Barbie’s stereotype has always been “tan, skinny, and blonde,” the new Barbies may change the company’s reputation.

By Sara Hagan

hagan.sara@oakwoodschools.org

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