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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Nov. 25, 1997)
Reshaping Barbie won’t fix
female body image problems
URVAKSH KARKARIA is a
columnist for the Indiana Daily
at Indiana University.
(U-WIRE) BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -
When I first heard Barbie had an appointment
with the plastic surgeon, I shed a silent tear for
her boyfriend, Ken. k
Despite having no job and just one outfit,
Ken was the envy of most guys. Barbie had
more curves than a Porsche, and a chest that
made Pamela Anderson’s look like a snooker
Being a ’90s kind of gal, she wasn’t shal
low either. If Ken was feeling kinky, Bizarre
Barbie would tease him. If he were sick,
Doctor Barbie would comfort him, and if his
Compaq Presario blew a microchip, Computer
Nerd Barbie would have it fixed in a snap.
Ken could also watch football and drink
beer all day without having his butt hauled off
the couch by a nagging Barbie. Wouldn’t we
all love a girlfriend who never talked back?
er’spoll in which 31 percent responded Barbie
ought to be remodeled, while 69 percent sug
gested Barbie be left alone.
Before the feminists give each other high
fives and arm-wrestle themselves to an
orgasm, let me assure them that Mattel has
agreed to put Barbie under the knife only
because there’s a quick buck to be made. A
new Barbie model will want her own fall and
summer collections, new shoes, treasure chests
of jewelry and a new Malibu mansion. All that
costs money and makes for a prettier balance
sheet for Mattel, Inc.
Barbie creates a magical world of unlimit
ed imagination where everyone is beautiful,
rich and accomplished. It’s an exaggerated
world of fun. Let kids enjoy the make-believe
of perky breasts and ultra-slim thighs while
They’ll have a lifetime to deal with the
reality of sagging assets and thunder thighs.
Dui, spoilsport teminists witn a Camille
Paglia fixation shattered Ken’s wonderful fairy
tale. They convinced Barbie to stop being
Ken’s bimbo and grow flabby thighs and a butt
the size of Roseanne’s.
Forgive me for sounding like a sexist, nar
row minded, un-PC lump of testosterone. I’m
trying so hard to be politically correct.
But with Barbie we’ve taken this political
correctness way too far.
Mattel is planning to downsize Barbie. The
new model, Really Rad Barbie, will have a
more contemporary look with a bigger waist,
flatter breasts and wider hips.
It is unfortunate that toddlers are being
forced into the straitjacket of political correct
ness while they are still figuring out the won
ders of poop.
Research says babies are influenced by
toys. I guess I should be wearing my under
wear over my pants and leaping off buildings. I
guess I should also be crawling up walls on all
Barbie bashers claim the 11-inch doll is
responsible for all our social problems except
Dan Quayle: bulimia, anorexia, low self
esteem - they blame it on a $15 doll.
You want the real answer to these prob
lems? Try Cindy Crawford, who has enough
silicon in her to operate a supercomputer. Or
how about Kate Moss, who’s so fragile you
could blow her off the laminated pages of
Don t these people have a greater influence
on a modern girl’s body image?
Has anyone mentioned the effects of
Hollywood bimbos and Madison Avenue mod
els on women’s self-esteem? These hollow
eyed models are revered and idolized, while
Barbie gets die boot.
What we’Ve gained in political correctness,
we’ve lost in common sense.
By that logic, why aren’t men schizo
phrenic, emotionally raped and psychological
ly scarred? After all, we played with He-Man.
Besides Fabio, few men care to have a body -
like that. Action heroes stimulated our imagi
nation and satisfied our fantasies, until we dis
covered the cute girl next door in her nappies.
We didn’t make our dolls into role models, and
we certainly didn’t expect to develop
physiques like theirs. And thank heavens!
Otherwise, they’d have to give G.I. Joe a beer
belly and a bad haircut.
Barbie is a doll made of cheap plastic.
Girls enjoy bullying her into a million uncom
fortable dresses, shoveling micro cups of tea
into her face and chaperoning her on dates
with Ken. If you read any deeper meanings
into that, I suggest you sell your imagination
Barbie is a symbol - not a problem. She’s a
symptom, not the disease. Long before Barbie
wobbled onto the scene in 9-inch heels,
Scarlett O’Hara was slipping her 17-inch waist
into a corset.
Have kids been asked if they want a fatter,
lumpier Barbie? Have we asked for permission
before barging into their fantasy land? The
Chicago Sun-Times recently reported a read
Kids know Barbie’s not real,
but Mattel makes right move
KAREN EPSTEIN is a columnist at
the Tufts Daily at Tufts University.
(U-WIRE) MEDFORD, Mass. — It wasn’t
her curvaceous hips. Or her Scarlett O’Hara-esque
waist Or even her unnaturally voluptuous bustline.
The only tilings that bothered me were her feet.
Those tiny little plastic feet were bent up in
this permanent high-heel position - that was
extremely aggravating, because I could never get
those itsy-bitsy high-heel pumps to stay on.
Ah, but the handsome Ken, he had these big,
wide, “manly” feet that were perfectly flat. Those
sensible shoes never fell off.
Poor Barbie, on the other hand, never got to
wear shoes in my house.
To my dismay, the Mattel toy company has not
yet announced whether they will bring in their
podiatry experts to examine 38-year-old Barbie’s
feet before her upcoming surgery.
Earlier this week, the company told the world
that the shapely Barbie is scheduled for
^ - ^
some extensive nips and tucks: a wider waist,
wider hips and a smaller bustline. She’s even get
ting a new face, minus the toothy grin.
Many who felt the pop-icon Barbie doll upheld
an unrealistic standard of beauty are hailing
Mattel’s decision to make her look more like a real
woman. According to them, her highly unrealistic
38-18-34 figure (according to some estimates)
gives girls a negative body ideal from a young age.
“I actually think it’s healthy because we are sur
rounded by cultural icons that create unrealistic
expectations in adult women_Barbie’s change is
a wholesome step in the right direction,” retired
plastic surgeon Sharon Webb told the Boston Globe.
I don’t know about you, but for me Barbie was
always, well, a doll.
When Barbie’s skinny plastic legs popped out of
their sockets, I knew she wasn’t real. When my
friend Lauren’s bratty, semi-cannibalistic 6-year-old
neighbor chewed ofFBarbie’s foot, and Barbie kept
up that same cheery grin, I knew she wasn’t real.
I never deluded myself into thinking we little
girls were supposed to grow up to have 38-18-34
figures. My mom didn’t look like that. My teen-age
sisters didn’t look like that. NO women I knew
looked like Barbie. She was fun. She was a fantasy.
And she sure did have some nice clothes.
I’ve always been a big fan of Barbie. I’m not
alone. According to M.G. Lord, the author of
“Forever Barbie,” the average American girl owns
eight Barbie dolls. Eight gals, that is, to “one
pathetic, overextended Ken,” she says.
That was the case with me, although I think
the number far exceeded eight. I don’t remember
all of their “official” names anymore, but I
remember many in the lineup: There wasjHHit^
Barbie (her outfit converted from a workr^m W
evening wear a la yuppie ’80s), the Barbie that
came with an assortment of “fashion wigs”,
the Barbie with the funky hair curler, birthday
Barbie, ballerina Barbie, and, my permanent
favorite - puckered kissing Barbie, who, at
the push of a button on her back, would give
Ken a big smooch. I was very upset when
Barbie’s “kissing button” stopped working.
Looking back on it, I realize perhaps she
just didn’t like Ken anymore.
My Ken was a busy fella. He was forced
to play the boyfriend, brother, father, huSbqrid,
“insert male role here” role in every one of my
Barbies’ adventures. What a nice guy.
And, oh, those adventures. I could dress her in
fancy clothes and send her on a romantic date
with Ken, give her a bath in my Barbie bubble
bath, put her to bed in the Barbie dream house (I
didn’t actually have one, but I could pretend). It
was a fantasy.
‘1 mean, they say Barbie is unrealistic. But
shefc got a Ferrari, a Malibu dream house, and big
plastic boobs. Here in LA, you can’t get more
realistic than that,” said late-night TV host Jay
Leno earlier this week.
Don’t get me wrong. I do understand the con
cern many have with Barbie’s current look. And,
although her incredibly unrealistic body image
did not consciously affect me as a child, there is a
good chance it did affect me unconsciously.
There is no one cause of the obsession with
body image in this country and the' rampant eating
disorders young girls and women develop.
While I place more of the blame on unattain
able images of sickly thin women in advertising,
movies and television for the perpetuation of
unrealistic standards of beauty, I must say that,
despite my love for the Barbie with whom I grew
up, Mattel is making die right move. If it helps
one girl not internalize the ridiculous ideal of big
busted thinness as perfection, it s worth it
But I’ll never forget ray Barbie.
Even Christina Hoff Sommers, the author of a
book entitled “Who Stole Feminism” told the
Globe, “The new Barbie is more attractive, and
she did need a makeover. But I didn’t mind die
fact the older one reflected earlier ideals of femi
nine beauty. I liked Barbie as a child. She was
glamorous. And part of being a child is fantasy
and play, not an exercise in self-esteem.”
In the end, she’s a doll A fantasy Anun
anatomically correct piece of plastic with a ridicu
lously extensive wardrobe.
And funny feet
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