Barbie's 50th Birthday: Is She Bad for Body Image?

10
Barbie 50th birthday

1974 Barbie Town House/Mattel.com

Did you play with Barbies as a kid?

I adored mine. I kept her perfectly coiffed; I married her off to various Ken dolls; I and saved the boxes each one came in. I would play Barbies with my friends and, if they were nice to me, I'd share my Barbie Town House. Maybe I'd even let them put their shabbier-looking Barbies into my Barbie Star Vette.

Today is Barbie's 50th Birthday.  She is middle-aged, but she sure doesn't look like it. I loved my Barbies, and I don't think she caused my body image issues. I blame those on Miami Vice and Falcon Crest.

Some of my mommy friends are very anti-Barbie. So much so that they won't let their kids play with her.

My girls already have a few Polly Pockets, and I will get them a Barbie if and when they ask for one. I try to give them confidence in their looks in many ways, like encouraging sports and going outside to swim and play. But they have so many more dolls and toys to choose from than I did. We didn't have American Girl and Bratz in the early '80s.

I think Barbie is just trying to make her way in the changing landscape--like the rest of us. Mattel (also the maker of Polly Pocket and American Girl) is promoting Barbie heavily on her birthday and offering new versions of the doll. This week, you can buy a Barbie for just $3, the price she was when she debuted in 1959. She is wearing a '50s-style bikini.

Meanwhile, some people charge Barbie with ruining girls' body image. She does have very large boobs, an impossibly tiny waist, and she has worked at McDonald's. But at least Barbie was also an Olympic athlete. The new tattoo Barbie also caused quite a stir last week. See the discussion about it in the Answers section where one CafeMom asked, What do you think of Tattoo Barbie?

I hope I'm cool enough to get a tattoo when I'm 50.

What do you think? Does Barbie harm our body image? Or is she innocent?

aging, body image, breasts, emotional health, in the news, mental health, products

10 Comments

To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

MyGod... MyGodSent

My 7 and 2 year old loves barbies. A couple of years ago before my youngest was born i was talking to hailey and she said (as she is playing with her barbies) i need to get skinner. she is in dance and super skinny. it made my mad because she is comparing herself to a perfect barbie and she does not understand that is not how the world works. Now real quik question Do I let my now year old play with them??

mtnma... mtnmama111

I grew up with my dad's Playboys back when they looked beautiful naturally! We do not *do* Barbie, Bratz, or *princess* stuff. Also no ridiculously overpriced *big* dolls- American girl stuff. They DO have dolls- mostly the stuff gets left alone while they play outside or do art ("crafts"). I try and steer them away from aimed at preteen/teen low talent overly marketed crap i.e. Hannah Montana/Jonas Bros...

Mikos... MikosGirl

My daughters have Barbies although I initially swore they would not.   Did you know that different Barbies are built differently - the clothes on Mommy Barbie will not fit on the original Barbie?  I wrote my experience with Barbie stereotypes here.

emils... emilsmama

before i had a daughter i bought into the crap of barbie being bad for body image. then my child got a barbie as a gift and loved it. so we buy her barbies and barbie type dolls now.


if a kid is going to obsess over a barbie, thinking the dolls body type is an ideal way to look as a human being...something is wrong and i doubt its the dolls fault. you dont see skinny kids crying in the mirror because they dont look like a cabbage patch.

micha... michaelam

"Barbie" is simply a toy doll she was never intended to be taken too entirely seriously. 


It is me, as my childs mother, that is on the front line of responsibility to set the example that she receives about her own body image.  It is MY responsibility to open the lines of communication with her about the images that she views in magazines, television and movies. 


I believe that regardless of what a doll "looks" like, we can allow our children to play with them with the understanding that there is a level of responsibility on us as parents to teach them about healthy and realistic body images while continuing to reassure them that ultimately we are judged based on who we are on the inside rather than on the outside.  There can be a "healthy" balance between inner and outer beauty.  Instead of taking their cool toys away or depriving them of something that their other friends are allowed to play with, it's important for us to teach our children balance.... of how to be comfortable in their skin and the importance of taking care of ourselves as beautiful women (inside AND out) and that looks eventually fade with time however it's who we are inside that counts forever :)

ErinH... ErinHill226

When I was growing up, I ADORED my barbies! I never looked at them and thought "Gee, this is who a woman should be." Yeah, Barbie is pretty and all, but come on. She's made of plastic. I never related her perfectly molded body to those of real women. I think that it is too easy to point the finger at Barbie when it comes to body image. Personally, I always looked to real women to show me the way on that one. When my daughter is big enough, if she wants Barbie dolls I will have no problem with that. Barbie is make believe, and as long as I encourage my children to eat right, exercise, take care of themselves inside and out, no plastic doll is going to ruin them. What's the difference between that and seeing the girls on TV (even on kids shows) or seeing some random "hot" stranger in the store? I like to think that if I set the example on taking care of myself and not self judge---she won't either.

aajsl... aajsluckymommy

the bich is bad for my body image. i wanna know her plastic surgeon / maker & tell him/her at 50 barbies perkies should b slackin some...hahahah

forev... forevermom75

All these fat mom's need to get off their lazy butts and start excersizing and they wouldnt be so jealous of barbie. She is unproportioned, but not rediculous. Who wants to play with an over weight doll? I guess she should come with a 2-liter coke, a pizza, a couch, and some bedroom shoes so lazy mom's will think, "oh, how cute, she's just like me."

Morniel Morniel

Just so you know, the original 1959 doll was NOT blonde. I know.  For a fact.


Because I still have mine.

nonmember avatar Nicole

I'm 19 and I grew up with Barbies. I battled anorexia and bulimia. Yea I do think Barbies had a little to do with it. They put this image into your mind that makes you think, "Wow, if I was that pretty and thin I'd be popular and cool". Its not entirely Mattel's Fault. But I believe if they make Barbies more realistic instead of huge boobs, tiny waist, huge butt, perfect blonde hair, pout lips, blue eyes, and constantly on their tiny feet (yea i kinda have big feet) that little girls wouldn't feel so threatened by it. Oh and forevermom75, just because someone complains about barbies doesnt mean they're a fat mom. Thats being ignorant.

1-10 of 10 comments