Toy-giant Mattel finally listened. After years of parents complaining that Barbie's body was problematic, the company has debuted three new Barbie body shapes: Tall, Petite and Curvy.
Of course, it's the curvy doll that's getting all the attention, with Internet comments going wild about how she is "too fat" — despite not looking obese or even overweight. Some have even claimed it's "unhealthy" for there to be a doll with more normal measurements.
But that's a strange argument when you consider that the original "classic" Barbie doll, which has been called "anatomically impossible," wouldn't be able to walk or bend at her 16-inch waist, and who was originally based on a German doll named Lilli, a "prostitute gag gift" created for bachelor parties. So a woman who can't move or walk with a pneumatic bust is a "healthier" example than one that's pear-shaped with a normal bust and strong thighs?
Consider the science showing that Barbie dolls can have a negative effect on young girls' body image, can impact how they see themselves in the future, and can contribute to kids seeing less-than-skinny people as having more negative traits, as this study showed. It's not surprising that so many parents have been avoiding buying Barbies. But Mattel didn't debut these new dolls due to this research, which is from 2006.
"Project Dawn" (the top-secret Barbie design mission) wasn't initiated until 2014. That was, as Time magazine reports in a cover story on the dolls, after "Barbie sales plummeted 20% from 2012 to 2014 and continued to fall last year."
So the company wasn't creating Barbies with more skin colors, hair colors, body types and heights because of the potential harm to young girls; the company did it for the bottom line.
Meanwhile, there's plenty of doll competition, including the "average is beautiful" Lammily doll (also called "fat"), and many other girl-positive dolls. (My personal favorite is the upcycled TreeChange Doll.)
Mattel COO Richard Dickson told Time that "Our brand represents female empowerment," but it seems the company dropped the ball on that issue by failing to respond to concerned parents more than a decade ago. Few critics suggested that the classic Barbie be eliminated, just that more options be available. Mattel turned a blind eye until 2016 ... until the company had to pay attention.
But with all this talk of what parents want for their kids, what do the kids themselves like? According to a playgroup that the Time magazine writer observed: "A curvy, blue-haired doll that many girls dub Katy Perry is by far the most popular." (That's this one, and I like her too. I'm pear-shaped, and I have been since I was 14.)
Let the children lead the way.