This week saw Barbie making a massive reappearance in our adult lives, in the news, on twitter and in the papers with the launch of their new line.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on the ‘tall’, ‘petite’, and particularly ‘curvy’, Barbie dolls. A long-awaited change according to many, with as many as 725,000 people suffering from eating disorders in the UK alone, according to b-eat (eating disorder website and helpline). This Barbie reinvention is supported by many eating disorder websites. Andrew Radford, B-eat’s chief executive claims he is “delighted” with the change.
The conventional skinny, blond gorgeous young girl we all know as Barbie has been replaced with several new versions of herself, ranging in race, weight and size. This attempt to reinforce the idea that all women are beautiful, or even just to eradicate the idea of perfection, is one that has dominated the media for several years now. It is true that when the first Barbie was issued, it was sold with a book offering weight-loss advice- an extremely controversial idea to place into young children’s heads! Barbie then joins the fight alongside plus-sized models to promote a healthier vision of beauty.
What’s in a label?
Is changing the appearance of the doll however enough? It is true that all these new versions have now been introduced, but still they are differentiated from the original Barbie by their labels ‘petite’ or ‘curvy’, and yet there is no label for the original. Our traditional Barbie then remains the standardised version to which we have to compare everything else. To say a doll is ‘curvy’ is perhaps to suggest she is not quite Barbie. Thus, although of course this introduction of newer models is a step in the right direction, perhaps it could have been improved even more by eradicating the labels altogether. After all, they are all Barbies.