Home BeautyBody Image O Magazine Answers: How Different Is Barbie From The Average Woman?

O Magazine Answers: How Different Is Barbie From The Average Woman?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

I’m just… I’m just gon’ leave this right here.

From BlissTree:

O Magazine just hit stores with its first ever nude photo shoot enclosed, depicting Katie Halchishick, a plus-sized model and founder of the site “Healthy Is The New Skinny,” naked and covered in dotted lines that suggest what a surgeon might have to “cut away” to give her the same proportions as the doll she’s holding. The photo is a striking depiction of the warped beauty standards that women hold ourselves up against; if a gorgeous model is this far from what our cultural icons dictate as ideal, what hope do the rest of us have?

Now, we’ve discussed Barbie in all her glory here before, and I’m not interested in rehashing the “does Barbie even matter to us?” argument, but I’ve got to wonder. While there were a few women who admitted to wanting to look like Barbie growing up as a kid, there were many more who said Barbie never affected them in any way. That being said, you could easily swap out “Barbie” and swap in any other celebrity image or replica (photo, wax figure, doll, etc) and have to ask yourself the same question. We could easily swap out “Barbie doll” and swap in “Beyonce doll.” Maybe that’d help?

Or how about a Rihanna doll?

From RihannaDaily.com

I know that many of us might not’ve felt the same connection to our dolls as kids, but dolls are far more diverse nowadays and, quite frankly, I have to wonder if we’re making the message clear for our girls. I mean, I had to make it clear to my Mini-me that “No, dogs don’t talk,” and “No, even though the other four are real animals, you will never see a Uniqua in real life,” but do I make it clear that “Your neck and your waist should never be almost identical in width?” It’s not the kind of doll that matters, it’s the debunking of the unrealistic imagery – be it photoshop or otherwise.

Just something to think about. I’m (clearly) an advocate for changing our bodies, but I am not down with unrealistic goals. Thoughts?

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Erica October 18, 2011 - 10:09 AM

My daughter came home from school with an “activity book” that was an advertisement for a Barbie Charm School Princess DVD. Not even getting into the problems that movie has with “advanced” education for young women, or the very, very white faces at Princess Charm School, the pamphlet has a picture of Barbie and her two friends — and they’re stick thin, short skirts, big boobs etc. like any good Barbie doll.

Barbie’s branching out, and it’s not just the dolls that are loaded with problematic images.

Dina D October 18, 2011 - 11:14 AM

I think maybe the more important conversation is about healthy bodies and really, it’s not so much a conversation as it is modeling healthy behaviors and thoughts. At 31 years old, I look back and wish that my mom had modeled healthy, normal behaviors re: food & bodies. We always had all sorts of weird diet food around the house and she was always on or off some sort of exercise or diet plan. She also was very clear about how much she disliked her post-pregnancy, aging body. I think those negative messages were more overwhelming than any of the negative images I received via “the media”. Overall it seems like building a positive body image from day one is more important than negating any particular source of negativity. Similar issues come up with other issues like dark skinned/light skinned, natural hair/relaxed hair/weave/hair in general, etc. If you model and teach loving yourself and who you are and making choices that are healthy and make you happy a lot of times the other issues take care of themselves…At least that’s what I see with the girls I know.

Erika Nicole Kendall October 18, 2011 - 12:44 PM

I don’t think I agree with that – outside of what’s shown IN the home, messages are constantly being sent outside of the home as well and there needs to be plain language had between the parents and the child regarding how to feel about those messages. You can show self-love all you want, but if a child never learns to understand it in multiple contexts then how successful is the lesson?

Jeannine Sloan October 18, 2011 - 2:25 PM

I think I agree with both of you. There needs to be both for it to truly work for most children. Some don’t get the message no matter how much self-love you exhibit. My sister has great self-esteem and does not hold herself to anyone else’s standards but her own. She is a great example for her daughter, who is now 18, but somehow my neice still got the message to look for everything wrong with her body or those parts that do not conform to what she sees and pick them apart instead of loving herself and her looks. She is a gorgeous girl with a magnificent body by virtually anyone’s standards, but she is obsessed with her weight and thinks she’s too big. I talk to her about it all the time. But our talking with her and our examples are not enough. She still sees something different. She still compares her body to these images and thinks she has to look like that. It’s sad for many of our girls out here and I used to think as long as you teach them otherwise they will be fine. BuUnfortunately, I have learned that is not always the case. I watched it happen in my family.

Another thing I had to admit myself was that it did have an effect on me too. I have never thought I was unattractive or had self-esteem issues, but I always thought I was “fat” even when I wasn’t. I may not have fit into the charts at the exact spot they said I was supposed to but I was very fit and I looked and felt great! But because I wasn’t a size 2 I was “fat”, I was a size 8 by the way. So I honestly thought I was fat but I was cool with it because I still looked good. It took me so long to realize I had gained so much weight because the “fat” girl I am now was the one I always saw anyway. I already thought I was fat, so when I actually got fat, I honestly didn’t notice right away. It wasn’t until the back rolls happened that I noticed it! LOL Because even as big as I am I still have an hourglass figure and a small waistline in proportion to the rest. Took me 60lbs before any of it went to my midsection and I got those back “rolls”!

I wish I could tell myself at 16 when I was a size 8 that I was not fat,Even at 25 when I was a size 12 that I was not fat but could have done better at being fit. It’s amazing what thoe images tell you, even if you have great self-esteem.

Dina October 19, 2011 - 8:25 AM

I don’t think conversations are unnecessary, but I don’t know if you can have one beforehand about images specifically. You can have one about how the media works though. In the interest of complete disclosure, both of my parents were involved in the media at various points in their careers so I probably had a more realistic view of the behind the scenes stuff than most kids would. I think maybe if there’s a conversation, it’s talking about how tv and other media for the most part are as pretend as Barbie are. Maybe it’s drawing the line between “real people” and “tv people”. When I’ve worked with girls in the past, we’ve talked about it from a point of view focused more on how media actually works and letting them lead themselves to conclusions.. Thinking back, maybe because I had so much exposure from so young, I inherently understood tv was pretend and I thought of the people on it as pretend. I think for a lot of kids though, the media is a jumping off point. What they see/hear from friends/family is what pushes those negative messages home. I saw skinny models/dolls/people on tv daily. I knew I didn’t look like them, but it wasn’t until friends and boys at school started calling me fat that I really got freaked out about my weight. So to some extent I agree with what alicia said. I worry about what those messages and images are doing to people in terms of what their expectations are of real people. Those same girls who are comparing themselves to Barbie or Beyonce or whoever are also comparing their best friend and neither of them are coming out favorably.

So I guess I’ve kind of come full circle from my initial position, or maybe not…I think you have to know what conversation to have with what girl or boy. I think understanding how media works in general can combat a lot of the image/message issues out there, but if the grown ups don’t get it, neither will the kids…So I guess I’m saying teach healthy/happy body/self love + realistic understanding of what media is and how it works.

Erika Nicole Kendall October 19, 2011 - 8:47 AM

I agree with you – I’m also a pro-active parent when it comes to my Mini-me, and I think that works best with her. I try to head all the foolishness of at the pass, so that way if I’ve already planted the seeds in her early, all it’ll take is gentle reinforcement to ensure that the plant grows healthily, if my analogy makes sense.

I also think that being a part of (r growing up in) media plays a HUGE role in your perspective! What kind of mind game must it’ve been for you to realize you’re being compared to something you KNOW isn’t real, and you’re the only one who seems to KNOW it’s not real?! Jeez.

Eva April 25, 2013 - 11:45 AM

When I was 5 years old, there was a commercial on TV for Heinz ketchup that showed the Brand X ketchup flowing like water, while Heinz ketchup was thick and slow, therefore Heinz was better.

My mother shook her head and told me, at 5 that commercials used trickery to get you to buy. She told me that they put the Heinz bottle in the refrigerator and left the other bottle out all night. I knew that if you put ketchup in the refrigerator, it did come out slower, so I believed what she said, plus I knew my mom was smarter than everybody else. From then on I stopped trusting commercials, the media everything.

The only time I realized I was overweight was when I was 44 and saw back fat and my behind kept jiggling when I ran. I do know that I wanted a bigger bust when I was a teenager, but that came back and bit me when I was 30 and a double D.

alicia October 18, 2011 - 3:50 PM

although i absolutely cannot speak for everybody, i never once compared myself to barbie….she was just a doll. i thought dolls were inherently funny looking, barbie included. still fun to play with and dress up, but funny looking. i thought maybe the plastic was just very hard to mold and they weren’t able to make a normal looking doll.
that being said, i do take major issue with how women are represented in the media, and how this affects us. i would say one of my main concerns is how the media affects how MEN see women. being in my very early 20s, most of the boys i know are still quite immature, so i’ll give them that…but still. the amount of conversation i witness regarding girls, “hot girls”, girls’ bodies, boobs, butts, legs, etc., both infuriates me and affects my self esteem more than i should let it. every time i hear or see some kind of “ew too skinny bones are for dogs i want a woman not a little boy” or “ew too fat she needs to get in shape stop eating mcdonalds” or anything to that effect, i die a little inside. even from my friends, mostly just your average joe, nice guys, i hear comments about who’s hot and who’s not. of course we all admire and talk about attractive people, but the frequency is astounding sometimes. and the media is to blame. how else would this picture of the ideal woman get shoved into men’s heads over and over again?

Brianna Leigh October 19, 2011 - 4:09 PM

This isn’t exactly on-topic (or maybe it is) but those dolls are really…white. Maybe it’s just the lighting though. *shrug*

Erika Nicole Kendall October 19, 2011 - 7:07 PM

Nope. Very on topic. *whistles*

Janine March 26, 2013 - 7:21 AM

Girl, if your friends are saying things in your presence that have a negative impact on you, empower yourself to call them out on it! If they are your friends they won’t want to hurt you.

Cassie October 8, 2012 - 9:45 PM

Yes, Backyardigans reference! … Err, sorry, I’m a preschool teacher….

Rebehair July 3, 2013 - 3:46 AM

When I was a child I love barbie dolls, because I think her hair is very beautiful, and she has a beautiful skirt.

Karen September 21, 2013 - 6:20 PM

Barbie is a pretty obvious example of a BAD role model, but I don’t think a plus size woman is exactly a healthy alternative. And if you posed a woman with a healthy BMI next to Barbie, it would still show how unnatural Barbie’s look really is.

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