THE BLOG

Should Barbie Get a Plus Size Make Over?

03/01/2014 16:16 GMT | Updated 05/03/2014 10:59 GMT

Ever since moving my fashion work into the realm of plus size, it's fair to say I have become somewhat of an obsessive campaigner for all things curvy.

If there is a panel discussion or television show going on somewhere about plus size, I know about it... A chat show with a phone in? I'm there, ready to dial in... And my nightly Google alert email? - Search words... 'plus size'.

With the plus size industry seeing a real surge in press column inches of late, it's all I can do to stay up to date with the days plus size stories but the one that has dominated my list since before Christmas is that of Plus Size Barbie. Still the world's best selling doll, it seems some would like to see the plastic blondes, pencil theme frame filled out to create a plus size Barbie, complete with pink satin frock and three chins to boot.

While I'd normally expect a story like this to float around for a couple of days, Plus Size Barbie is a fortnight in and still going strong as the image of 'fat' Barbie is used as a catalyst to discuss body image amongst young girls about what is an 'acceptable' and 'aspirational' body size.

The argument against Plus Size Barbie is the usual diatribe that suggests we would be promoting obesity, diabetes and a long list of other health issues associated with plus size.

But realistically the debate was over long before it started - The question should have been... Does Barbie need to gain some more realistic measurements? Instead what we have is shock and shame tactics, that use a caricature image to represent a plus size woman that is already marginalised and ridiculed by the media and once again opens the industry up to mockery.

Essentially what we're left with is one extreme to another. It's well known that Barbie's measurements are so unrealistic that if she were real, she'd barely be able to carry her own frame and would spend most of her life falling over face first. So shouldn't we be asking Mattel to create super awesome average Barbie? One that doesn't take measurements from one extreme to another, but hovers in the middle - not promoting a glamorous life of boob jobs and eating disorders or three chins either, just middle of the road, good grades, friendly, happy and healthy Barbie?

Ironically the more I read up on Plus Size Barbie, the more irritated I am, not by the latest discussion, but the origin of the digital enhancement itself which was first created for 'Worth 1000's' - 'Feeding Time 9' competition (yes that really is what it's called). Where artists digitally alter celebrities to make them larger. The image of triple chin Barbie was submitted and in fact won the competition in 2011 by a user called Bakalia and beat off stiff competition from a digitally enhanced fat Lindsay Lohan "Chubby Lindsay" and a chunky Jennifer 'Jennifat' Aniston. The mere fact that this competition takes place at all is at the very heart of the problem. To photoshop anyone's size (bigger or smaller) with the final intention of poking fun at them is body shaming and it is this that effects women's self esteem at all ages.

If we think that altering Barbie's shape will cure the way young girls feel about their bodies then we are sorely deluded as all the external factors constantly remind women that fat is not acceptable - whether we get a toy or not.

Ironically when I asked mother and plus size blogger, Becky Barnes (who by the way Bakalia, doesn't have three chins) whether she has ever bought her daughter a Barbie? 'To be honest, my problem isn't with Barbie's figure. It's with what Barbie represents in general, she's vacuous regardless of her figure. So no, I wouldn't by her Barbie, fat or thin'.

Scrap fat Barbie, what we need is 'Glass Ceiling Smashing Barbie'.