So I read a story today on CNN that states that Barbie now has new shapes, sizes, hair types, and skin colors. I don’t know how I feel about this. I mean, in some ways, it’s good right? According to Time Magazine, there were a number of factors that were attributed to the change, but what it seemed to boil down to was business, not altruism. “American beauty standards have evolved” wrote Eliana Dockterman in the Time article linked. She cites Kim Kardashian, Beyonce and Christina Hendricks as examples of how American beauty standards have changed. She goes on to state “in this environment, a new generation of mothers favor what they perceive as more empowering toys for their daughters.” Later in the article we learn that in 2012, Barbie global sales dropped 3%. They dropped another 6% in 2013 and a whopping 16% in 2014. She’s been overshadowed by more comparatively progressive Disney princesses (like Merida and Elsa).
So a part of me is happy that my daughter will see different versions of beauty, but at the end of the day, it’s only that. Barbie has been and still is only a body and perhaps that’s all she will be. The message that it sends to my daughter and other little girls is that they’re seemingly only bodies, without much of anything else to back them up or fall back on. They get the message that the only thing that counts IS their body and how it looks for the consumption of other people (mostly men and the male gaze) and NOT for what they can accomplish as people. It discounts their intellectual, emotional and spiritual capabilities and accomplishments, if it gives them any credit for those aspects at all. She’s literally the epitome of objectification. Oh and she’s PLASTIC!!! (Think the Plastics in Mean Girls).
So at the end of the day, I’m not impressed by Mattel and the new Barbie doll. I find it a play to get my business as the mother of a young, biracial daughter and that’s insulting to me. It’s superficial and as fake as the plastic that the doll is made out of.