Criticisms and counter efforts on the influence of the “Barbie Image” in America
In a world where body image and the pursuit of perfection have taken center stage, one of America’s iconic female personalities has come under fire. Due to this heightened level of criticism, Mattel has been forced to re-evaluate the physical appearance of the classic Barbie. When converting her measurements to that of a person’s, there is a “probability of fewer than 1 in 100,000 women having her body proportions” (Rintala & Mustajoki, 1992). This unrealistic portrayal of the female form has led to the questioning of Barbie’s value as a role model, counter efforts on the part of Mattel and American families to resolve this, and a renewed concept of how Barbie is to be portrayed and perceived by America. Barbie is one of the first adult figures in the child’s life. Barbie has become an icon, and a role model to young girls everywhere. Ninety percent of American girls own at least one Barbie, and most girls own many more (Half Century Barbie, Mary_RD, 2009). In this day in age many young girls are comparing themselves to Barbie’s; wanting to be just like them. Even though most young girls grow up to realize that Barbie is not a real person, but rather a public figure, some do not.


Cindy Jackson, now a public figure known as “The life size Barbie”, has taken the Barbie image to the next level. She grew up in a small Ohio farming community, where at the age of 6 she looked at a Barbie doll and said “I want to look just like her”. After undergoing over 20 cosmetic surgeries and spending around 200,000 dollars, Cindy Jackson looks like a living Barbie doll. Although Cindy Jackson is a rare case of taking Barbie to the next level, it none the less demonstrates Barbie’s influence. The effects Barbie has on young girls it almost makes us ask the question, “Is Barbie a good role model and public figure?” (Anecdote : The Effects Of The Barbie Image On Someone I Once Knew)

Barbie has a huge influence on young girls and how they view beauty. However, Barbie is not the only toy or doll effecting how young girls view beauty. As new group of dolls have been introduced (Bratz) changing young girls views on beauty. Bratz (Barbie’s rivals) and opposites have changed young girl’s minds. Bratz has changed the views of beauty with big checks, lips, eyes and a very small nose all promoting todays plastic surgery options. According to Tasha Curry-Corcoran a mother of young girls has said "Bratz are trashy: They wear too much makeup. Their clothing is too short; their boots are too high. They look like prostitutes. That's why we don't have them in our house." Most people can’t help but agree with Tasha but they still own Barbie and Brats dolls. They dress in skimpy outfits. They party all night and day giving young girls’ ideas of how to live their lives. Every line of dolls has an image and a version of how girls ought to look in the eyes of the makers. Barbie may of been the face of beauty for more than 50 years, but other dolls and cartoon characters are becoming more modernized and are being introduced to young girls influencing and polluting their minds to think of looking and acting in a certain way, media and toymakers try to shape and mold young girls into their version of beauty with their benefits in mind such as profit. Sadly , these dolls are successful worldwide and there is no possible way of protecting young girls from playing with these dolls, But by strengthening young girls self-esteem and teaching them to love them self’s can go a long way in their life instead of trying to be something they are not. Whether it’s Barbie, Bratz, or any other type of doll they are all created implying if a woman does not look like this she is less succesful. maha_41.jpg maha_40.jpg
As a means of counteracting this, Mattel has become far more proactive. In previous years, they have been guilty of promoting this unnatural stance on beauty and shape. One glaring example of this was the “Slumber Party” Barbie. Her packaging included outrageous items such as a scale that was permanently set at 110 lbs, and a book titled “How to lose weight”, bearing the words “Don’t Eat” (Pendergast, 2002). barbie.jpg

Barbie was created in 1959 and since then has been a staple in the Matel line-up of girls play toys. The initial idea behind the Barbie doll was to provide young girls with an adult doll that they could use to initiate job oriented roles and themes with. Prior to the Barbie doll American girls played with paper dolls and infant dolls, but unfortunately they also wanted adult themed dolls to play make believe with. The goal of the Barbie doll was never to influence the dietary routines of young girls, but rather to give them a role model who is a strong woman. The real problem we are facing here is how popular media influences the body image of young girls. Due to shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians, America’s Next Top Model, and even network news. “In 2003, Teen magazine reported that 35 per cent of girls 6 to 12 years old have been on at least one [[#|diet]], and that 50 to 70 per cent of normal weight girls believe they are overweight. Overall research indicates that 90% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance in some way.” (Media Awareness Network, 2010). The women portrayed in these shows due not show any signs of ageing, fattening, or faltering. This has had a much more adverse effect on young girls than Barbie ever has. Barbie sales have been unstable since popular media began revamping female body image about ten years ago. Now as Matel has started to make its Barbie dolls look more like the women portrayed on television and in movies, Barbie sales are seeing a sharp increase. This is "by far the biggest increase in Barbie sales in over 10 years," Needham & Co. analyst Sean McGowan said. (Andrejczak, 2010). So it is clear here that because of the media girls are starving themselves, not to look like Barbie, but rather to mimic the false body image portrayed on TV.

They have taken accountability for this disproportionate figure by changing the actual body mold for their newer lines of Barbie dolls. In an attempt to become more identifiable and consistent with the true image of the American female body type, they have increased the hip size and reduced the bust measurements (Gorchov, 2000). Additionally, they have recognized that their initial Caucasian female doll was limited in its cultural reach. In an attempt to broaden their customer base and demonstrate multi-cultural beauty, they have created the So In Style Collection (S.I.S.) intended to be “culturally relevant to young multi-ethnic girls in their fashions, facial features and hairstyles” (Breyer, 2009).

In conjunction with these efforts, the American families can play a part in the transformation themselves. By ensuring that communication with their children involves conveying the realities of a healthy self image, these falsehoods can be neutralized. This can be accomplished through discussions on internal beauty and self worth, sensible body composition and individuality. It is a parent’s responsibility to convey these positive messages to their children, rather than relying on the mass media and toy manufacturers. After all, these are toys intended to spark imagination and playful interaction, not to raise children. Through this combined effort, there can emerge a renewed concept of how Barbie is to be portrayed and perceived by America. Barbie has made 120 careers, “spanning from registered nurse to rock star, veterinarian to aerobics instructor, pilot to police officer - Barbie(R) doll continues to take on aspirational and culturally relevant roles while also serving as a role model and agent of change for girls”, but this fact has often been overlooked (Mattel, 2010)
Too many of the criticisms of Barbie do not really seem justified when, instead of criticizing Barbie on her figure, more emphasis can be placed on the positives of being a successful woman. The new Barbie can be wonderful regardless of race, size, or weight, just like all real little girls can.
Counter Argument - Rebuttal
While Barbie experienced unparalleled popularity here in the USA, as well as most countries around the world, the American Icon was not welcomed as affectionately in some foreign nations. In fact, in some countries, Barbie was regarded as less than perfect and an image that was totally counter to some cultural norms. For instance, in Iran, Her image was one of white superiority and was regarded with disdain in the Muslim culture.
In Malaysia, for example, that countries consumer group called the Consumer’s Association for Penanghas called for an outright ban on all Barbie Dolls. According to that agency, “The doll's blond, leggy and non-Asian appearance promotes the wrong aesthetics.” The doll also does not encourage any type of creativity due to its fixed and ready-made structure.
The government of Iran condemned both Barbie and Ken because there are no plans for any impending marriage, something regarded as a threat to the traditional culture that embraces marriage in that country. Because Barbie and Ken enjoy great popularity in that country in spite of the state’s efforts, the government has sanctioned the manufacture of their own dolls to counter the Barbie and Ken’s popularity. They are named “Sara and Dara.” Still, the popularity of Barbie and Ken, even at the colossal price of $700.00 each, sells briskly in comparison.
Most counties embrace Barbie and some hold her as an anti-culture to their people. There is little doubt, however, that when Barbie was first in the thinking and initial development stages, Mattel’s main and probably only market target was the U.S.A. Over time the success of Barbie has been noted worldwide, yet, for a doll that is basically unchanged, save for a few cosmetic changes, Mattel seems to still keep the U.S.A. as their target market.

Breyer, M. (2009). “New Black Barbies Get it Half Right”. Retrieved on March 1, 2011, from:
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Mattel, Inc (2010). “Barbie® Celebrates 125th Career with Global Initiative to Inspire Girls”.
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Pendergast, S. (2002) “Barbie.” Gale Encyclopedia of Popular Culture.
Rintala, M., & Mustajoki, P. (1992). Could mannequins menstruate?British Medical Journal,
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Barbie vs. Bratz battle rages on to the end, December 12, 2008 , By Debra Alban
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Toddlers and Tiaras

Andrejczak, M. (2010, January 29). Mattel's fourth-quarter profit jumps 86%. Retrieved April 14, 2011, from Market Watch:
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By: Christopher Berardi, Shayna Binette, Katie Haggerty, Mary Kasper