It’s no secret that Barbie, the world’s best selling doll, has long been anatomically unrealistic and way out of proportion. If she were real, she’d tip over.
Well, Mattel has heard the criticism and is giving Barbie a makeover. In an attempt to take steps to address diversity, the toy company is releasing 3 new Barbie bodies: Tall, Petite and Curvy.
Now, arguably the tall version isn’t really necessary, considering that, translated to real measurements, the classic Barbie would be over seven feet tall. But the curvy and petite versions are welcome. A toy that has done so much to give girls unrealistic body images and feed into low self-esteem has a lot to answer for.
Let’s have a look at Petite Barbie, shall we.
The first thing that’s obvious is that she’s ridiculously tiny. BBC scaled up the dolls to human proportions to estimate that Petite Barbie in real life would be 4’11”, and somewhere around a UK size 2 (US size 00). Sure, there are petite women who fit that description, but there are plenty more who don’t.
It’s a bit dismaying to see that “curvy” and “petite” Barbie are two separate dolls. This perpetuates the myth that petite ladies can’t be curvy or plus sized, which, of course, isn’t even remotely true. How about a “petite curvy” Barbie, Mattel? Anyway, “curvy” Barbie isn’t really all that curvy, considering she’d only be a UK size 8 / US size 4 in real life. That’s not even close to the average clothing size, which is a US size 14. So much for that.
But, okay, I still gotta say, this is a baby step in the right direction. Sure, it’s just a doll. But it’s a doll that has tremendous influence on how little girls grow up to see themselves.
When Barbie was first released, she was a housewife and had few skills other than dressing in little outfits. That changed with the introduction of career Barbies in different professions, teaching girls that yes, they can grow up to be doctors and scientists and engineers, too. Then, Barbie recognized it had a race problem and started introducing Barbies of different ethnicities and skin colours, to let girls know that they don’t have to have white skin and blonde hair to be pretty.
Now, finally, some recognition that petite can be pretty, too. This has the power to change how a generation of kids see height and beauty, especially in a fashion industry that is still so tall-dominated.
I just hope that Petite Barbie doesn’t have as much trouble finding clothes that fit as the rest of us do.