I saw this picture on Facebook the other day:
There were a few likes. The comments that followed were interesting to say the least. Most thought that having a fat Barbie would make kids aspire to grow up and be fat.
Let’s look at that.
I was a fat kid, fat teenager, and am now a fat adult. I grew up playing with my Barbies, making them go on adventures through the stars to the moon and being every occupation from a chef to a teacher to a rocket scientist.
I totally wanted to be Barbie: independent, adventurous, and brave.
I moved to a city with no family and only a couple of friends, learned to navigate it, and went through a trial that tested my courage. And I came through it with flying colors. I realized that dream.
I loved Barbie’s outfits; the fact she had enough clothes to take her through any situation. She had all types of prints and colors and sparkles and tutus. I had an organizer for the amount of shoes she had. I have an organizer for all of the shoes I have (and it’s too small), so I realized that dream.
What I didn’t aspire to was to look like her.
As I kid, I envisioned having Barbie’s persona. I never thought I would look like her.
Barbie isn’t real. So that was impossible.
But then, during the course of the discussion, my friend and fellow blogger Shecoul brought up a very good point:
How many of my female students thin or fat have self esteem issues? A good 90% of them because of things like this. And it starts with dolls and dress up at a young age in my opinion.
This is true. Kids tend to emulate what they see, as I did when I played with Barbies as a child. But in my opinion, my complex with my body didn’t come from the doll. It came from the peers who played with me and told me I wasn’t pretty like Barbie. Because I wasn’t pretty like Barbie, I couldn’t be an astronaut or rocket scientist. Until I looked like her, I was lacking.
And where did they get this idea? Likely from the adults that gave them the Barbie to begin with.
People have a habit of using characters and personas as a litmus test of how their lives should go. You can’t live a life based off of someone else’s experiences. But when you tell a child “Look at you! You’re pretty like Barbie!” then that child will measure his or her peers in the same manner.
And the next thing you know: the child who is fat is not pretty like Barbie. Now that child is ugly. Logically this child knows, as I did, that one can’t look like a piece of plastic. And yet, when I knew that this is what stood between me and acceptance I grasped for that goal like a thirsty person reaches for water.
Eventually I learned that goal was like the curse of Sisyphus: destined to fail from the beginning. Took me years to get there, though.
So what’s the answer? Making Barbie look normal? Now, that Barbie above is exaggerated to say the least. But who can say that isn’t someone else’s normal? Who is the arbiter of normal, anyway? Is there a council somewhere that decides these things?
There could be, in a perfect world. But until we get that perfect world, we have to make do with what we have. If we can’t get some diversity with Barbie’s body, then we need to get some diversity within our thought process. It begins with the adult that gives the child the doll. It begins at home.
May we all be like Barbie: adventurous, brave, and fabulous. That is an attainable goal in life.