I loved playing Barbie with my sister. My sister’s Barbie was blonde and had a “bubble-cut” hair style. My Barbie was blonde as well, with longer hair. I thought Barbie was beautiful and could only dream of being like her. We had Barbie houses, Barbie cars, and all the Barbie clothes my mother would buy for us. My sister and I thought Barbie was the epitome of beauty.
I think I still carry with me the fallout from my “Barbie-obsessed” childhood. I spent years trying to be a size 4 or 6, while trying to look as perfect as possible. And I spent years in therapy trying to undo the harm my “Barbie-obsessed” childhood/adulthood had on me.
I recently read about Galia Slayen, a young woman who built a “real-life” Barbie when she was in high school in 2007. She was looking for a way to make her peers realize the importance of eating disorders and body image issues. She had quit the cheerleading squad, and was frustrated with pressures to look a certain way. She also had an eating disorder that had been controlling her life. She built a “Barbie come to life” for part of the first National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAW) at her high school and later introduced her “Barbie” to Hamilton College during its first NEDAW in 2011.
Galia’s Barbie stands about six feet tall with a 39″ bust, 18″ waist, and 33″ hips. These are the supposed measurements of Barbie if she were a real person. She would weigh 110 pounds.
I want to share some statistics with you:
-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.
-If Barbie were 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.”
I believe my life would be different if I had been able to understand some of this, way back then. I applaud Galia for her honesty and her mission – and I applaud all the women around the world who are advocates for change.
My daughter never liked Barbie as a little girl. I breathe a sigh of relief about that. I like to think that she will be moving into adulthood where the images of women are realistic and inclusive of all races and body types, allowing her to see that beauty lives within every human being. One step at a time…that’s what I tell myself.