The Rise And Fall Of Barbie: Why Girls Went After Something Real

by Kate Friedman

My mother didn't let me play with Barbies as a child.

Back then, I figured it was her way to avoid hosting playdates because she knew none of my friends would ever come to my house if she made it into a Barbie-free zone.

Though to her disappointment, each one of my friends surprised me with a Barbie doll on my 6th birthday.

My mother lost all of her authority then and there when she realized there was nothing she could do to tear me away from my new dolls.

Her Barbie-free zone had turned into my Barbie shrine. I worshiped them like they were my idols to the point that I actually wanted to become one.

My life plan was to grow up and find my Ken so that we could live in our Barbie Dreamhouse together.

It wasn't long until puberty hit, and my body went from resembling Barbie's slim figure to developing some unwanted curves.

As a result, I became insecure about my appearance and afraid that I might never find my Ken because I no longer looked like the standard of plastic perfection to which I had grown accustomed.

This, right here, is the kind of flawed logic my mother was afraid of. I realize now that she disagreed with what Barbies stood for because she was a feminist (and I mean that in the not-owning-a-bra and choosing-to-live-a-razor-free, makeup-free kind of way), and she might have actually had the right idea all along.

My mother feared that Barbies might introduce the first source of my insecurities, as they did for many other women of my generation.

She was right to try to keep me away from them, but I was lured in by Barbie's image.

The truth is, if Barbie were real, her proportions wouldn't allow her to walk and she would be dangerously underweight.

But even so, countless women have attempted to attain her figure by undergoing extreme plastic surgeries.

Although our generation's icons have shifted since our childhood Barbie obsessions, the bombshell look is still our standard of beauty.

Now, we aspire to look like Victoria's Secret angels, which is yet another unrealistic ideal for us to hold.

Arguments have been made to claim Barbie is, in fact, a healthy role model for girls because of "Career Girl Barbie," and the various roles Barbie has held.

However, she has maintained the same busty-yet-petite body type throughout all of her successes.

This sends the message to young girls that in order to achieve certain positions and be taken seriously by men in the workforce, women must look a certain way, and this plays back in to the unhealthy gender binary that my mother tried so hard to keep me away from.

Although the women of our generation were brainwashed as children by this portrayal of "perfection," which set us up to compare ourselves to irrational standards, the younger generation of women will not have to face this same problem.

Thankfully, companies have started to make dolls with healthier body images, which was not a readily available for girls my age.

In fact, just last year, when artist Nickolay Lamm showed the world what Barbie would actually look like as a 19-year-old woman with average proportions, he gained enough recognition and funding to create Lammily, an average size doll with the tagline, "Average is beautiful."

As a result, Barbie sales have declined as more mothers are buying Lammily dolls for their daughters. This is certainly something my feminist mother and I would both approve of.