Thursday, August 5, 2010

"I Can Be... Barbie." - A Look Into the Effects Barbie Has On Young Girl's Body Image.

When it came time to buy my younger cousin Tiff a birthday present, I had no idea what to get her. I decided to go to a toy store for some inspiration, hoping something would hit me. I hadn’t been in a toy store in a while, but nothing much had changed since I was young. Marketing had created a segregated toy store where boy’s toys were on the left, and girl’s toys on the right. It was so clear what these advertisers were trying to do; to sell more products, the companies followed the social norms that differentiated girls and boys. Girls were “pretty in pink” while boys were “rough and tough.” To reinforce these norms, the toys themselves were even different, not only the packaging. Boys had action figures, tool sets, model cars, and sports equipment. Girls, on the other hand, had dolls, tea sets, dress up clothes, and stuffed animals. Ignoring the obvious messages that the marketing industry was trying to send to these young children, I continued on with my pursuit for Tiff’s present. I rounded the first aisle in the store and was overwhelmed by the hot pink and sparkly boxes: it was the Barbie aisle. Barbie was one of my favorite toys as a young child, but I never thought much into the marketing or the social values that Barbie embodied. What kind of messages was she sending to young girls? Sure she was successful, intelligent, and pretty, but her unobtainable body was not a good image for girls to want to emulate. With body measurements of 39”/19”/33”, she’d be 6 feet tall, weigh around 100 pounds, and fit into a size four dress. The culture we live in promotes a thin body image, and what a better way to promote this to young girls than through their toys. 

Barbie’s image is by no stretch of the imagination a bad body image to promote to young girls. Mattel, the creator of Barbie, would argue that girls do not try to emulate Barbie and rather just play with her for her clothes and shoes, but Jean Kilbourne would argue differently. Kilbourne writes in her article that, “… girls are not just influenced by the images of other girls. They are even more powerfully attuned to the images of women,” (259). Women, such as Barbie, portray a fake and unobtainable image of beauty. No girl could ever naturally grow into Barbie’s proportions, so Barbie also unintentionally promotes body modification. Barbie’s message may have started off positive, showing girls they could be whatever they wanted to be, but her unrealistic body has created a disproportioned sense of beauty in today’s adolescent girls.

Being a pop culture icon, Barbie can also send any message she’d like. Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber touches on this media control in her book entitled The Cult of Thinness. She explains that, “As ‘guidelines about how to behave, young adolescents may be particularly susceptible to popular media stereotypes, especially those values and ideas presented by entertainment and fashion industries as a vital element of ‘youth culture,’” (189).  Basically saying that due to Barbie’s overpowering role in today’s culture, she controls young girl’s idea of the perfect body. Even with her demented proportions, Barbie still sends the message that “thin is in.” What an idea to be sending to young girls; you can do anything if you’re thin and pretty.

Work Cited (Quotes) 

Kilbourne, Jean. “The More You Subtract, the More You Add: Cutting Girls Down To Size.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Eds. Gail Dines, and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications Inc., 2001. 258-267. Print.

Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. "Becoming a Certain Body." The Cult of Thinness. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press Inc., 2007. 108-130. Print. 

Work Cited (Pictures) 

“R4474_BARBIE VINTAGE CAREER DOLL (ASTRONAUT).” Online Image. 2010. Pink Ponytail Presents- Collectible Barbies. August 5, 2010. []

“1999workingwoman-171x300.” Online Image. March 29, 2009. The Next Woman. August 5, 2010. []

“Barbie’s-New-Career.” Online Image. February 15, 2010. Your Funny Stuff. August 5, 2010. [’s-new-career/] 

“07topmodel.” Online Image. January 2, 2008. Cosforums. August 5, 2010. [] 

“barbie41-300x249.” Online Image. June 20, 2010. Feminist Fatale. August 5, 2010. []

“Barbie-Logo-.” Online Image. January 17, 2010. Common Sense with Money. August 5, 2010. []

“barbie_store3.” Online Images. December 26, 2007. Hype Desire. August 5, 2010. []

“tattoo-barbie-7616.” Online Image. March 6, 2010. Tiny Prints. August 5, 2010. []

“barbie-logo_112813a.” Online Image. May 16, 2010. News of the World. August 2, 2010. []

“6a01156e9cba4c970c0120a927c008970b-popup.” Online Image. March 11, 2010. Geek Out. August 5, 2010. []

“Pink-Barbie-Shoes.” Online Images. Princess Buy August 5, 2010. []

“ctr.” Online Images. Barbie Girls – The World of Barbie. August 5, 2010. [] 

“barbie-pink-w500.” Online Image. May 13, 2010. Modern Vespa. August 5, 2010. []

“barbietwins.” Online Image. September 18, 2007. Available for Panto. August 5, 2010. []

“ barbiecopy.” Online Image. November 23, 2009. Between the Sheets Women Revealed. August 5, 2010. []

“mr_9146464104b576.” Online Image. February 22, 2010. Shine, August 5, 2010. []

“4427-dcc barbie.preview.” Online Image. November 27, 2007. Buzz Sugar. August 5, 2010. []

Nicolas, Harmony. “Clear.” Online Image. 2008. Red Bubble. August 5 ,2010. []

* Just a note: the websites are in brackets rather than "<>" because it wouldn't show up in the blog.