I hate Barbie Dolls. These plastic, large breasted, out of proportion dolls create unrealistic images in children’s minds of a woman’s body. As Empowered Parents explains,
If she were alive, Barbie would be a woman standing 7 feet tall with a waistline of 18 inches and a bustling of 38-40. In fact, she would need to walk on all fours just to support her peculiar proportions. Yet media advertising, television and Hollywood would reinforce her message, influencing what would become the American ideal of beauty.
And what’s up with Ken being an eunuch? Leave it to artists to find a creative use for Barbie and comment on this cultural icon.
Chris Jordan is famous for using photography to explore American consumerism. In one of his latest pieces, Chris uses Barbie dolls to demonstrate how this doll has affected American women’s body images. Empowered Parents further explains:
Barbie holds the distinction of being the first doll to become an adult figure in the child’s life…She would ultimately become a representative of our own culture. Mothers, as well as their daughters took in Barbie’s messages about how shape and size matters at the very brink of our society’s revolution for women who were becoming liberated, entering the professions in greater numbers, becoming divorced, participating in the sexual revolution, blending families, and abandoning mealtimes and family rituals in favor of work force and the work out.
Chris’ “Barbie” (2008) is a 60″ x 80″ piece depicting 32,000 Barbies, equal to the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the US in 2006. Did I say 32,000 boob jobs a month? This is reason enough not to allow my daughter to play with Barbie. Whether her breasts turn out large or small, I want her to be happy with her body and even happier with her soul!
Margaux Lange is making jewelry from Barbie doll parts. Margaux explains,
Whether you love her or hate her, there are few who feel neutral about the plastic princess. I am fascinated with who she is as a cultural icon, her distinguished celebrity status, and the enormous impact she has had on our society. Specifically, I’m intrigued with her influence in defining gender roles of women in contemporary American culture.
At least Margaux has found a way to reuse this mass produced toy into something unique, preventing a few Barbie dolls from entering our landfills.
For another artist’s use of plastic dolls, please visit our post “Finally, a Use for Plastic Baby Dolls“.
Images courtesy of Margaux Lange and Chris Jordan.
Kendra Holliday says
Awesome, awesome, awesome article. Did I mention awesome?
I hate Barbies too! And boob jobs even more! I hate that so many women bleach their hair, coat their fingernails with bright poison, spray orange stuff on their skin, inject plastic and shave all their body hair off – mannequins, life size Barbies. Gross.
My man wanted to give my daughter a Barbie for her birthday….along with a blow torch. Sounds destructive, but nah, it’s art! 🙂
I wonder if anyone has done research on how many Barbies turn up in landfills every year and all of the environmental pollution they create (beyond just what I consider cultural pollution.)
Jennifer Lance says
I wondered about that too Sharon. Barbie dolls do not last. Their hair gets matted, the plastic skin dirty, and the clothes tear easily. I think that a great number must end up in landfills, as they are not durable enough to be passed on from kid to kid.
Thomas Zirkle says
While I abhor boob jobs and applaud girls/women being happy with their bodies, these articles about Barbie seem to be scapegoating.
I disagree strongly with a number of the statements in this article:
Barbie is a girl’s first doll representation of a woman’s body? True, but doesn’t Mom’s body and self-image have a much stronger influence on the girl?
What’s up with Ken being a eunuch? What would be the point in giving a child a doll with an erect penis? As discussed above, these dolls are cheap. Maybe when Ken’s penis breaks off the girl can learn a new word–castration. For that matter, Ken has a build that the vast majority of men will never achieve. Assuming that the girl grows up to want men, do you think that she’ll be comparing her boyfriends to her childhood doll’s metrosexual boyfriend?
I’m rambling a bit (and I mean for this comment to be tongue-in-cheek), but I do think that the blame for female self image problems doesn’t reside in Barbie. It also doesn’t reside in the fashion industry–which is run by women and gay men for the most part. It doesn’t reside in men’s choices in women (which tend to much curvier shapes than are seen in women’s magazines). The problem lies with the advertising industry that is trying to motivate women to spend money on beauty/fitness products. [And I do admit that this industry is not only driven by men, but that it is selling Barbie Dolls.]
Jennifer Lance says
Thomas, thanks for your opinions. It is true that there is more than just Barbie behind the breast augmentation craze. As far as Ken’s body, I don’t think he needs an erection to be anatomically correct. My daughter has toy horses that have all their parts. I think Ken looks strange with nothing down there.
Kendra Holliday says
I told a male friend about this article and he said, “Girls don’t run around wanting to look like Barbie, that’s silly!”
I corrected him. Not ONLY is there Jesse Jane, Pamela Anderson, the Barbee Twins and all these other women who do the B&B routine (bleach and boob job) but get this:
One day I saw my little 4 yr old neighbor girl across the street walking around on her tippy toes. I asked, “Why are you walking like that?” I thought she would tell me she was pretending to walk on a tightrope or that the ground was made of hot lava or something. Instead, she said, “I’m walking like Barbie!”
PS: I think it’s funny that Thomas made the leap from “anatomically correct” Ken to “erect penis” !
Sue Wiggins says
We need to get over ourselves. One influence is not responsible for boob jobs. Barbie has been the scapegoat for ages for body image, she also did not marry (she did have wedding gowns), she had several careers – what other doll did that at the time?
It was fantasy play – no different from playing with trucks or dragons or cowboys and indians, watching Yosemite Sam cartoons. Am I damaged from any of that?
I seriously doubt it. I was influenced by my parents, my teachers, and raising animals more than by having a Barbie doll.
I tend to agree with Thomas, we can’t blame our greatly distorted idea of the perfect female form on Barbie, the problem most definatly lies with the advertising industry. Whilst as an adult I feel impowered and informed enough not be beaten down by the supposed quest for ‘perfection’ of the female form, I fear that my daughters aged 6,7 and 9 are constantly bombarded by inapropriate imagery and slogans inticing them into a world of absurdity.
Barbie I can cope with, but what is going on with BRATZ dolls!!!!
Vintage Barbies says
The idea that Barbie is responsible for all our body image woes is ridiculous and all of the reams of paper written to politically analyze her never stop to think why she is proportioned the way she is.
Ruth Bandler wasn’t plotting to change the way women look at themselves. She based the doll upon a doll that already existed in Germany, called the Bild Lily. As for the proportions, they exist that way mostly because they are proportions that make it easy to create clothing for the doll to wear and keep things from bunching up oddly.
And actually Barbie dolls last a good long time. There are still many examples of the original doll from the 1960s in great condition and there are many Barbie dolls in great condition from the late 60s and 70s and they are highly collectible. Do some dolls end up in landfills? Of course, but so does everything else in our children’s toy closets, so why blame Barbie in particular?
Barbie is ONLY FANTASY and not reality. I love model ships and planes but hate real ones. I cannot swim and have a fear of great heights. I have GI Joe but never joined the miklitary nor my hearing could endure the blast from a gun. I have had Barbies for over three decades but never considered it astandard for REAL females. Toys provide an escape from the reality of life. Why do we watch movies like Transformers? We enjoy that time of not dealing with the reality of life for that brief moment of time. It is for entertainment. I love Barbie ONLY as a TOY. It allowed me to not judge females on outward appearance. It solidified my gender identity as a male because of my attraction for it. I never thought that my wife needed to change her body to satisfy some unhealthy view of real women. Do I like Barbies to be in their unrealistic form? Yea. Do I want real females to emulate Barbie? No. The toy is to be treated ONLY as a fantasy creation. My wife wasa over 376 opounds. I never tried to marry the urealistic image of a toy.