Mattel announced this week that they are launching a new range of Barbie’s with variations of body size and ethnicity. I’ve seen lots of comment on social media about new Barbie, people seem to love them or hate them. I thought I’d give me 2 pence worth.
If you haven’t seem what new Barbie looks like here are some pictures that were featured in the Guardian news paper.
My beef with Barbie
I’ll be honest I’m not Barbie’s biggest fan. With her long blonde hair, tiny waist and pointy boobs to me Barbie represents quite a narrow ideal of beauty. I wasn’t very keen on Sofia to play with Barbie and had deliberately not bought her a Barbie doll. I played with dolls when I was little but was firmly on team Cindy (interestingly Cindy Dolls must have been a bit of a different shape as Barbie clothes were always too small for her).
Sofia has completely different ideas – Sofia bloody loves Barbie! I did resist for quite a long time but this only made Sofia more desperate for a Barbie. Sofia had two Disney Princess dolls and a Sparkle Girl doll – which are all quite similar to Barbie so it started to get a bit pointless to refuse. Sofia eventually bent my mum’s ear and she bought her a Barbie for Christmas (she did ask me if it was okay first).
I spent ages looking for the least trashy clothes that I could find for Sofia’s new Barbie. Surely they do scientist Barbie, fire fighter Barbie, explorer Barbie? If they do I couldn’t find them in any of our local shops.
I was pleased to see the pictures of the new diverse Barbie dolls. The new variations are the biggest change to Barbie’s design since 1959. There is one that is shorter than average, taller than average and more curvy than the traditional shape. There are now also 7 different skin tones and 24 different hair types. I like the idea that there is a bit of variety – the Barbie aisle is all a bit blonde and samey (don’t get me started on why everything has to be pink!). Sales of Barbie have been in decline for some time so there will clearly be a profit motive behind these changes.
What is fascinating are the comments that have been posted online about new Barbie. A lot of people are very pro new Barbie saying that they love that the dolls look more like real people and that a change is long overdue. These changes are possibly more about appealing to modern mums who are concerned about Barbie’s unrealistic body shape. The more cynical have pointed out that having different body shapes will give Mattel more opportunities to sell more Barbie clothes – you’ll need extra kit for your curvy, petite and taller dolls. Lots of people have pointed out that they played with Barbie and never aspired to look like her and doubted Barbie has any influence at all.
One comment that I do agree with is that it is parents job to teach our kids about healthy body image and there is only so much influence that you can attribute to the dolls that your kids play with (here’s a recent post about this Body Image Lessons for my Daughter).
As for Sofia’s Barbie. Letting her have one has taken away some of the Barbie fascination. She does play dressing her up and will put her with her soft toys in bed. On Saturday we made a zip line for Barbie and tried to zoom her down the stairs (she may be dressed really girly but she is quite the stunt woman).
The dolls go on sale in the UK in March 2016 – will you be buying one? I think I’ll get one or two to add a bit of diversity to Sofia’s doll collection.