So, Barbie has a new body shape (along with a wider range of skin tones and eye colours). Like real life women, her new figure is attracting an awful lot of discussion, and criticism from many. Over the years, Barbie's weight has been the continued centre of controversy. According to some, her body is anatomically impossible (although there have been challenges to that argument). Over the years, Barbie's appearance has been consistently attacked. Apparently she's an insult to feminism and women everywhere. She's an atrocious role model for impressionable young girls around the globe. She's the reason women have learnt to talk about their own bodies with contempt, constantly scrutinising cellulite and natural wobbly bits. Seriously?
Here's some news for you. I, lover of Simone de Beauvoir, Helene Cixous, Syliva Plath and Germaine Greer, always adored Barbie. My mum has boxes full of Barbie dolls and every imaginable accessory, collected excitedly by my sister and I, now waiting for my daughter to rediscover them. And you know what? I can't wait.
I don't believe that playing with Barbie is the cause of all of our body issues. Barbie is not to blame for every eating disorder (if you want to read a more intelligent discussion, take a look at Marya Hornbacher's Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia). What is damaging, however, is the constant media shouting that it is what Barbie (and women in general) look like that matters.
When I played with Barbie, I didn't care what she looked like. I wasn't interested in the size of her boobs or waist. I wasn't even particularly interested in her array of outfits or stilettos. Like thousands of other girls, I'm sure, I cared more about what she could be, what she could do.
When I played with Barbie, she always looked great. But that wasn't because she spent countless hours waxing, or toning her abs, or beating herself up about eating a cheeseburger. In fact, most of my Barbie's didn't take long to begin looking a little worse for wear. They were far too busy having adventures to brush their hair.
The Barbie I knew doted on her little sister, walked the dog, ate pastries in a French cafe and looked out for her friends. She rollerbladed, swam, went camping and slept under the stars. She made Ken do the housework because she was too busy. In other bedrooms around the world, she was an astronaut, a teacher, a doctor. Barbie could be anything she wanted, and because her destiny was my creation, so could I.
So Barbie has a new, slightly curvier, figure. Perhaps it'll make a few parents more comfortable about buying one. Perhaps not. But maybe our reaction to the new shape shows the real root of the problem. Because actually, does anyone have the right to tell a woman that she needs to look a different way to be acceptable? Barbie, just like thousands of girls who love you, your are perfect just the way you are. You don't need to change to make more people like you. Although if you could bend your legs like Climbing Sindy, it would make life a little easier for you.
P.S. Has anyone else noticed that even though Barbie now also comes in tall and petite varieties, it's the curvy one that's getting all the attention?