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Barbie doll and the unrealistic body image

Barbie finally becomes a real woman – with a more realistic figure

Share via Email Eva Wiseman: Rex It was a warm Berlin afternoon a year ago today when I was welcomed through a car park, past a 10ft stiletto, and into the life-size Barbie Dreamhouse. I remember inhaling that strawberry scent of new plastic and the mingling vanilla from a pavement peanut vendor, and thinking: If you care about the things I do, like girls and body imagethen you can't escape her, her huge tanned eyes illustrating magazine pieces, her dismembered torso the cover of a hundred post-feminist theses.

Last week it was announced that Barbie will star in a live-action filman "empowering buddy movie" based on a screenplay by a Sex and the City writer. No doubt this film will inspire debate, between feminists who despise Mattel for this sexualised image of impossible beauty and those who point at Barbie's 150 careers and talk about things like empowerment and other gentle synonyms for feminism.

Barbie’s New Look and Body Image

I was not hoping for much from the Barbie house, but I was hoping for more than this. Haribo secured beneath see-through plastic, the ultimate insult. A pretend toilet that opens to reveal Barbie's pet dolphin. A selection of "photo ops".

Barbie, sexualisation and body image: the debates rage on

And, in the final room, a catwalk where children are invited to dress up and be papped. Lori, an executive from Mattel, told me that Barbie was an "unapologetic" celebration of femininity, and when I said: The thoughtful nodding, the considered responses, the study of anti-pink literature and research on child development. And I wondered if, as sales plummetBarbie actually thrives on this conversation. If it's this feminist debate that keeps her relevant, keeps her iconic.

We Weren't Meant To Be Barbie

Lori maintained that Barbie was an aspirational, creative outlet. The most interesting argument she made was about Barbie's main threat, the Disney princess. The architecture of Barbie's world is pencilled in by Mattel, but her story changes for every child.

While Cinderella and Aurora have fixed narratives — they're waiting for their princes — she is a blank canvas. The evidence that shows Barbie's plastic dimensions can have negative effects on girls' body image proves that, far more than any toy, it is the mother's attitude that has the most impact on health.

To give Mattel its due, it would be difficult to quantify the positive effects of Barbie — the anecdotes about girls' creativity, about making their dolls have sex, get tattoos, lose their hair in Hoover accidents. And increasingly, the urge to demonise the colour pink feels as retrograde as a parent insisting upon it — one pushing, one pulling, both arrive at the same stereotype.

Barbie is too easy a target for feminist upset.

Barbie Body Image

Barbie isn't a feminist or a role model. Unless we choose otherwise, she is just a doll. Email Eva at e.