Barbie and Body Image

The Barbie brand has made improvements to the body image they present with their dolls, however they still have work to do.

Barbie and Body Image

The Barbie brand has made improvements to the body image they present with their dolls, however they still have work to do in creating a body-positive image.


The first Barbie doll was launched by Mattel on March 9th, 1959, at the AmericanInternational Toy Fair. The doll was created by Ruth Handle with the purpose to “show little girls that they could be anything they wanted to be,” and, that “a woman has choices.”


The doll is supposed to represent a teenaged fashion model, but falls short of portraying arealistic image. The initial doll “was modelled after a doll named the Bild Lilli,” which was “aracy gag gift that men could buy,” that was made in 1955. Handle saw the doll on a trip toSwitzerland where she determined that “a more grown-up doll for kids could be successful.


The original Barbie doll presents unrealistic body proportions to girls from a young age andcan make them feel inadequate in not being able to achieve a similar body image. Based on an article from the Daily Mail, “Barbie’s head would be two inches larger than the averageAmerican woman’s while resting on a neck twice as long and six inches thinner.” This would mean that if Barbie were a real woman, she would be unable to support her own head.Having Barbie as the ideal to strive towards has negative consequences as it can lead to girls engaging in unhealthy lifestyles while trying to reach an impossible goal.


In 2016, a new “curvy” Barbie was released by Mattel as part of the “Fashionista” Barbie dolls line. This was a big step in creating a more realistic body image for young girls, however problems remain.


According to an article from Psychology Today, a study investigated which Barbie doll girls from different ages would prefer. Participants could choose the traditional skinny Barbie or a “curvy” Barbie, that when compared to a real woman would only be a “US size 4 or 6.” While this second doll could be considered more realistically-sized when compared to the original Barbie, the participant considered it too ‘curvy,” as in plus size. Most of the girls picked the traditional thinner dolls, and when asked why, “25 percent” of the girls said it was because curvy Barbie was “fat,” “chubby,” or “big.” This shows how even from a young age, girls are conditioned io believe that the unrealistic proportions of a typical Barbie are to be admired and emulated themselves.


It would be good if young girls had a realistically sized doll to look up to.