We've come a long way, baby.
Anorexia is common knowledge to most of us now, but it certainly wasn't 40 or so years ago. That's why in 1965, Mattel could release a Slumber Party Barbie Doll complete not only with robe, mirror and slippers, but also a scale set permanently at 110 pounds, and a diet book that informed its young readers that the successful way to lose weight was to not eat. What??!!
Perhaps everyone thought of it as a joke at the time, but the majority of parents now would instantly be aware of what bad advice that was. The fact of the matter is, some children don't eat. They literally starve themselves to death rather than risk gaining weight.
The doll was released without outrage then, but it certainly produces outrage now! It's hard to know what influence an impossibly thin doll with a weight loss book and scale could have on impressionable little girls. I loved Barbies growing up, though mine didn't come with any weight-loss books. The dolls' controversial figures seemed plastic and fake to me, and I didn't worry about what having (or not having) such a figure would mean for me.
I would think that many had a similar experience. However, one brave author shared her love story in one of her books. It seems the biggest tension between her and her future husband during their dating days was his idea of an "ideal" woman (formed at a young age) from the Barbie dolls his sister owned. This unfair perspective dims my childhood joy in my dolls. Their story is just one of many.
Regardless, I'm glad that the latest Pajama Barbie doll comes with a curling iron and stuffed bunny rather than a diet book and a scale. Now, if only the next model came with a pile of books to read herself to sleep, I'd feel that Barbie was finally sharing some of my childhood habits.
Related post on MNN: Men and boys have eating disorders, too