If there was any doubt to the sustaining iconic status of Barbie, the flurry of attention over the new Barbie movie has laid every bit of it to rest. The most famous doll in history is (once again) discussions about her influence on young girls' body image. The most recognized doll in the entire universe, often a staple in children's toy collection, triggers a tidal wave of thought. Has Barbie, with her unrealistically slim figure, influenced the dissatisfaction many women feel towards their bodies? Or are we just pinning society's mess on her plastic shoulders?
There is no denying Barbie’s unrealistically slender waist, long legs, and large breasts is a distorted depiction of a woman’s body. Were these proportions to exist in the real world, it would be physically impossible for Barbie to walk, let alone maintain good health.
Body-positive advocate and holistic beauty coach, Amanda Porta, wonders if Barbie planted the first seeds of today’s 'plastic' surgery syndrome pointing to the mere three-year gap between Barbie's introduction in 1959 and the first recorded breast implant surgery in 1962.
Her question isn’t unfounded. A study in 2006 found that girls exposed to Barbie expressed more concerns about maintaining thinness compared to those exposed to other dolls. Fast forward to the present, and we see that breast augmentation has topped the list of cosmetic surgeries for 17 consecutive years which indicates a sustained struggle with body satisfaction.
As a mom to three girls and the founder of a company championing body-confidence for women, this issue is close to my heart. I am careful about what I say about my myself in front of my girls. In our house, we eat vegetables to be healthy and exercise to be strong. We never talk about calories and there is a zero-tolerance policy for the “f” word (fat) and the “d” word (diet).
Yet despite this healthy atmosphere, my daughters did end up with Barbies. And the reality is Barbie can be both damaging to a young girls’ psyche and a plastic toy simply used for entertainment and enjoyment.
Our job isn't to insulate our kids from the world's harsh realities, but to prepare them for it. It's about teaching them to navigate society's expectations and pressures while nurturing a solid sense of self-worth that goes beyond their looks.
Beauty is diverse. It's inclusive.
Let’s refocus the conversation from "looking" a certain way to "feeling" good about ourselves. Here are five strategies for deflecting beauty standards and inspiring body positivity in our youth:
- Show Don't Tell: Walk the talk and embody the values you want your kids to adopt. Celebrating your own body tells them all bodies are worth celebrating.
- Open Communication: Keep the lines open about body image, beauty standards, and what they mean. Get them to question and dissect media messages.
- Promote Body Positivity: Encourage activities that boost body confidence. Help them find what makes them feel great about themselves. It could be sports, dance, or simply a casual walk.
- Broaden their Idea of Beauty: Cultivate a love for the diverse forms of human beauty. Teach them that beauty is a broad, welcoming concept that doesn't fit into any one box.
- Talk about Changes: Discuss the natural changes that happen in a woman's body over time, ensuring they understand and feel empowered on the journey of womanhood.
You are more than just your body. You are a powerhouse of strength, resilience, and love. Embrace your perfect imperfections, for they make you uniquely stunning.
Your worth isn't measured by your waist or bust size. It's all about the size of your dreams and the love in your heart. Your body is beautiful. Own it, love it, and the world will too.