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Social Media Petition Calls For A Plus-Size Barbie

Could a more realistic Barbie create a more positive body image for some girls?

Rachel Pincus
Rachel Pincus on December 31, 2013.

A popular criticism of Mattel’s Barbie dolls that has been floating around the internet for years is that her proportions are unrealistic, perhaps to the point of even being fatal, and that this is potentially damaging to young girls. A popular article by Galia Slayen published by the Huffington Post a couple of years ago posited that “If Barbie were an actual wom[a]n, she would be 5’9″ tall, have a 39″ bust, an 18″ waist, 33″ hips and a size 3 shoe. Barbie calls this a ‘full figure’ and likes her weight at 110 lbs. If Barbie was a real woman, she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.”

The doll, which despite declining sales of toys in general remains an iconic American toy, a representation of beauty and perfection to the millions of little girls who hoard Barbies, has long received calls for a rethinking of its physical dimensions (to say nothing of Barbie’s ambitions, which seem to have been much easier to diversify). Nickolay Lamm made some tweaks so that she’d resemble an average 19-year-old woman – a slender age for many people. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

plus size barbie

In 2011, a digitally altered Barbie has popped up in a surprising place – on the photo editing website Worth1000, in first place in a (rather tastelessly titled) contest called “Feeding TIme” (“Won’t you please help feed these starving celebrities?”). It was finally brought to prominence last week by Plus-Size-Modeling.com’s Facebook page, which juxtaposed it with the question “Should toy companies start making Plus Size Barbie dolls?”

The image stirred up considerable discussion (along with over 36,000 likes), with some people commending the doll as beautiful – and familiar to them – and others saying that Barbie is a role model, and it’s a bad idea to normalize a figure that they think looked obese rather than curvy. Other commenters said that perhaps it would help our very superficial culture to have a Barbie who looks a little different but is essentially the same person. No doubt a curvy Barbie would require years of marketing research and redesigns, but a new incarnation is some nice food for thought.

Image: bakalia on Worth1000

Sources: The Huffington Post, Nickolay Lamm, Worth1000, Plus-Size-Modeling.com’s Facebook page, Dittmar study, Bustle

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