Summary: For over 50 years, Mattel’s Barbie doll has been a staple in the toy industry and has contributed to what some consider to be the idyllic female physique. With her flowing blonde hair, beaming blue eyes and striking hourglass figure, Barbie has often been criticized for representing an unrealistic and exclusionary standard of beauty.
This storm of controversy has swelled in recent years, resulting in an evolution of sorts for Barbie to be more representative of different body types and physical attributes, such as hair color and skin tone. This more inclusive idea of what image the most iconic of all dolls should portray also echoes recent shifts in cosmetic surgery trends with more and more people beginning to reevaluate their definition of beauty.
Barbie’s New Body
This spring, shoppers will still be able to purchase the “Original” Barbie but will also have a whole new variety of Barbie body types to choose from, including tall, petite and curvy. Public pressure combined with a healthy dose of scientific data helped to bring about this new emphasis on diversity in Barbie world.
A 2006 British study found that “girls exposed to Barbie reported lower body esteem and greater desire for a thinner body shape” than those who had been given no dolls at all or dolls with a larger body type. Many experts agree that it would be anatomically impossible for a woman to have Barbie-like measurements and proportions, but reality TV has no shortage of stories about women going to extreme lengths to attain a Barbie body.
For all these reasons, critics of the doll maintain that giving young girls a doll with such an unrealistic and arguably unhealthy body shape has contributed to body image issues and even dangerous eating disorders.
A More Natural Definition of Beauty
The transformation of Barbie could be called a situation where art imitates life. In recent years, there has been an expansion from what was historically a very narrow-minded definition of what constitutes beautiful.
Curvy celebrities, such as Kim Kardashian, are gracing magazine covers that were once reserved for stick-thin supermodels. Outspoken body image activists, such as Jamie Lee Curtis, are posing in natural photos, meaning no Photoshopping, in an effort to expose the phony nature of most magazine photos. In 2004, Dove started the “Campaign for Real Beauty” to spark an honest conversation about the need to expand the definition of beauty and encourage women to feel confident and sexy no matter their size or shape.
A Shift to Subtle Enhancement
This evolution in public perception is apparent when looking at cosmetic surgery trends in recent years. More and more women are finding confidence in their natural shape and are rejecting antiquated ideas of what is beautiful and what isn’t.
Plastic surgery still remains wildly popular. However, the goals and expectations have changed as a result of this new definition of beauty. Curvy women are seeking liposuction to accentuate their curves instead of fighting to minimize them. More and more women are also opting for a more naturally proportioned look when choosing their breast implant size, in contrast to the “bigger is better” mindset that seemed to dominate in the past.
In general, women seem to be viewing plastic surgery as a way to enhance and highlight their figures instead of approaching surgery with the goal of changing into a different body type altogether. Ultimately, it seems that women everywhere, with Barbie by their side, are taking a radical new stance and changing the definition of beautiful.