What a doll!

Devon McManama

Posted on February 14 2018

What a doll

It took a long time for change to come to Barbie’s world

Barbie was introduced in 1959 and – despite criticism - for decades she pranced around on tiny arched feet that could only accommodate high heels.  A few years ago, a high school student named Galia Slaven actually made a life-sized version of Barbie based on the doll’s proportions.  CBS News reported (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/life-size-barbies-shocking-dimensions-photo-would-she-be-anorexic/) that the result was “a freakish woman with pencil-thin legs, breasts that threatened to topple her over, and a body mass index (BMI) that would put her squarely in the anorexia camp.” 

Galia, who had battled with an eating disorder wrote about her project in the Huffington Post, where she said, "If Barbie were an actual woman, she would be 5'9" tall, have a 39" bust, an 18" waist, 33" hips and a size 3 shoe." 

Fortunately, in 2016, Barbie had a little work done.  Or as Wired.com put it, “Barbie just got a redesign. The iconic doll now comes in four different sizes: petite, tall, curvy, and original.” 

Popsugar.com added that, “The new collection of dolls, called the 2016 Barbie Fashionistas, includes the original Barbie but also features seven diverse skin shades, 22 different eye colors, and 24 unique hairstyles. Plus, many of the dolls now have flat feet, in case a lifetime wearing heels also feels unrealistic.”  

At the time, Barbie made the cover of TIME, which ran a story that covered the economic and social factors that motivated the change. “ Barbie has courted controversy since her birth,” the magazine said. “Her creator, Ruth Handler, based Barbie’s body on a German doll called Lilli, a prostitute gag gift handed out at bachelor parties. Her proportions were designed accordingly.” 

Yes, you read that correctly.  The doll millions of American women grew up idolizing, the doll that seemed to define beauty for generations was based on a lewd gag gift.  You really have to wonder about Handler. Not only did she give her doll freakish proportions, she named it after her daughter Barbara. Not exactly mother-of-the-year material. 

Handler introduced the doll in 1959 at the New York Toy Fair, where according to the TIME report, “Her male competitors laughed her out of the room: nobody, they insisted, would want to play with a doll with breasts. Still, Barbie’s sales took off, but by 1963 women were protesting the same body men had ridiculed.” 

In 1963 TIME said, “A teen Barbie was sold with a diet book that recommended simply, “Don’t eat.” When a Barbie with pre-programmed phrases uttered, “Math class is tough,” a group called the Barbie Liberation Organization said the doll taught girls that it was more important to be pretty than smart.” 

“When I was a little girl, I played with my Barbie in her playhouse, sending her and Ken on dates that always ended with a goodnight kiss,” Galia said in her Huffington Post essay. “I had fond times with my Barbie, and I admired her perfect blonde locks and slim figure. Barbie represented beauty, perfection and the ideal for young girls around the world. At least, as a seven-year-old, that is what she was to me.” 

It took a long time – too long, really – for change to come to Barbie’s world. And more change is needed in our world!  Our daughters are still getting plenty of unhealthy messages about body image and what constitutes beauty.  It’s all around them.  We are starting to see curvy models on the runways and in magazines, but once again, change is slow in coming.  

Here at Me and Kay, we want girls to know that they are beautiful and awesome and amazing. Every girl deserves to feel good about herself! When a girl feels good about herself she radiates confidence – and that is beautiful! Whatever makes your kid special – whether it’s her aptitude in math, her love of animals, her athletic ability or her way with words – that is what makes her beautiful.  

When she opened the store, Devon said “Every girl needs to bring out her inner Beyoncé, and totally rock it! The earlier we can teach them how awesome they are, the earlier they will believe it!” 

We hope the styles, fabrics, cuts and colors that you find at Me and Kay will help your daughter, granddaughter or niece explore her individuality and express her own unique personality.  Whether she’s diving into the waves in Submarine Swim, hitting the beach in a Flared Neon Bikni from Stella Cove or making a statement in a Unicorns & Rainbows Tie Dye Scoop Swimsuit from Shade Critters, we want her to feel comfortable in her own skin. And whether she’s taking center stage in a Rock Star Sweatshirt from Flowers by Zoe, showing her true colors in a Metallic Pink Tank from MIA New York, or curling up with homework in Emoji Terez Kids Leggings, we hope she’ll know how special she is. 

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