The fat’s in the fire. Hear it spit and sizzle. And about time. For years I’ve fought the Barbie Doll myth, but even on my home ground (that would be on my body) I haven’t won. I don’t know of a woman who, going into a fitting room to try on a new dress, is comfortable in her body. Turning slowly (like a pig on a rotisserie) in front of a three-way mirror, we women look at the dress and by extension, our body. The dress is either too tight or too matronly. Do I look fat? is the question on every woman’s lips. And whether or not we are fat, the answer is always YES!
Where did all this loathing come from? Although I was born before Barbie (who came to life in 1959) her tiny waist, perky boobs and incredibly long legs reinforced my poor self-image. I was determined that my daughters would not have a Barbie. That said, a well-meaning friend felt so sorry for my first-born that she bought Dana a Barbie AND a curling iron.
According to the Willett Survey, 99 percent of American 3 to 10-year-olds own at least one Barbie, and yes, girls exposed to Barbie report lower body self-esteem and greater desire for a thinner body. If you translated Barbie’s torso to real inches and compared Barbie’s body to the average woman, you would see the distortion immediately. Barbie’s original waist translated to only 16″ while a real woman’s waist is 35″; Barbie’s hips were only 29″ while the average woman’s hips are 40″; finally, Barbie’s thighs were only 16″ while the average women’s are 25″. And Barbie’s legs! Look at the photo to the right and be amazed.
Slowly Barbie has evolved. The biggest change is her ankles are now flexible so she can wear flats, athletic shoes or combat boots. No longer is Barbie required to wear stilettos. That is a giant leap forward… not only for her but for mankind: it is very possible that Barbie can now aspire to being an astronaut.
Due to popular demand, Barbie now comes in 7 skin tones, and children can choose from 24 hairstyles. (Although research has shown that young children only recognize the blonde figures as ‘Barbie’… those with other hair colors are just ‘dolls.) Mattel’s most recent change is that Barbie now comes in three body types: tall, petite, and curvy. “Curvy” Barbie has blue hair. Love it.
Writing in Time Magazine, Eliana Docklerman wrote about the shallowness of Barbie. “As much as Mattel has tried to market her as a feminist […] at her core, she’s just a body, not a character, a canvas upon which society can project its anxieties about body image.” (See <time.com/barbie-new-body-cover-story>.)
Last week a friend gave me a copy of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Denver author Mona Awad. I was thrilled. I had heard National Public Radio interviews with the author on both KRCC Colorado Springs and on CPR Denver. In both cases, Awad read laugh-aloud snippets from the book. Well… she read some funny bits – she left out the painful parts to be read by readers… in the privacy of their bedrooms with the covers pulled up and the lights dimmed. Plot-wise, I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s not easy being fat. Not that we don’t already know that, but the on-going fight to be thin… as thin as Barbie, can be as painful as being fat.
It’s time to show moderation and let the anxieties go.