By Sarah A.
Body image refers to thoughts and feelings that an individual has towards his or her body and physical appearance. From a young age, media is influencing girls on the ideal female body image. On TV, in movies, and in stores girls are being bombarded with images of thin, beautiful women. Although men objectification is also common, it does not seem to have the same effect on young men as it does young women.
Over the years models, TV actresses, and Miss America contestants have been getting thinner and the pressure to meet these ideals are increasing tremendously. In the 1940s/1950s the ideal female body was a busty, voluptuous full figure, with an hourglass shape. As the 60s and 70s rolled around this ideal body image was changed, and “thin was in”. As years went on, the ideal body image for women began to be more and more unrealistic and unachievable. Young girls are constantly reminded of the importance of being thin and beautiful with toys such as Barbies and Brats Dolls.
Much like the ideal body image of women has changed over the years, the size of Barbies has also. In the 1990s, the average Barbie had a larger bust and waist circumference (although still unrealistic) than that of the Barbies sold today. If Barbie represented a real life women she would roughly be 5’9’’ and 110lbs. Growing up I loved playing with my Barbies. I wanted to look my Barbie, have the same clothes as my Barbie, and even drive the same pink convertible as my Barbie. With proper guidance from my parents I learned that I didn’t need to BE Barbie. As a 5’9’’ girl, I couldn’t imagine aspiring to be 110lbs, but with the increase in media influence, young girls may grow up with the hope of achieving an unrealistic body image. These pressures could eventually lead to eating disorders and body dysmorphia. Is this the body type that we are encouraging young girls to aspire to? Children are like sponges, they learn what they see, hear, and are surrounded with.
A women from Tasmania took it upon herself to re-create old Brats dolls into modern, natural, realistic young girls. She called it a make-under. By removing the drastic makeup that is painted on the dolls faces, and drawing on more natural eyes and lips, Sonia was able to create a doll that better represented children today. The feedback that she received from children was great, they loved them. Kids are not born with the desire to be thin and beautiful, they are exposed to it.
A study done on a local elementary school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, presented young boys and girls with a Barbie sold in stores and a realistically proportioned doll. The students related the realistically proportioned doll to themselves, friends, and family. The students were asked to describe what kind of job each doll would have. The Barbie was suggested to be a cook, model, fashion-star and make-up artist whereas Lammily (the realistic doll) was suggested to be a teacher, a pilot, a computer person ect. Children were found to prefer Lammily over the Barbie because they thought she better represented them. If we offered children an alternative to the outrageously unrealistic, body idealistic Barbies, according to studies, they would be just as happy (if not happier) to play with them.
Children need role models and people to look up to as they go through life, and giving them toys that add additional unrealistic pressures is surely not helping them. It is our responsibility to shape the children of the future and supplying them with toys such as Barbies, whose make up is perfect and body is symmetrical, is only giving them unachievable, unhealthy goals to work towards. We should be encouraging girls to love their bodies. We should be teaching them about health not unrealistic beauty standards. In the end HEALTH=BEAUTY.
Do you think replacing the thin, unrealistic Barbies in stores with more natural dolls, such as Lammily, will help encourage young children to aspire to a healthy body image?
Tree-change-doll video :
Hargreaves, D. A., & Tiggemann, M. (January 01, 2006). ‘Body image is for girls’: a qualitative study of boys’ body image. Journal of Health Psychology, 11, 4, 567-76.
Kuther, T. L., & McDonald, E. (2004). Early adolescents’ experiences with, and views of, Barbie. Adolescence, 39(153), 39-51
Food for thought