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Barbie Beauty Standards Affect Girls’ Body Image

By , 17, Author Originally Published: September 11, 2003 Revised: October 5, 2016

Just recently I’ve begun to scrutinize every angle on my nose. I’ve noticed I seem to have a little “dent” on the front. I’ve also noticed that my nose looks totally different from every angle. No, it’s not that I have nothing else to do with my time; it’s just that every day I seem to compare my looks more and more to other girls’. It’s awful. It’s shameful. And it’s only partially my fault.

I remember those days around 4th or 5th grade. Those were the days when Barbie was the center of my everyday life. I’d come home from school and mentally plan out Barbie’s activities for the day. “Today is Barbie’s day at the beach,” or “Today Barbie and Ken go out for a special dinner.”

Not once did I say, “Today is Barbie’s day at the gym,” or “Today is Barbie’s appointment at the plastic surgeon’s office.”

No, with the innocence of childhood comes the oblivion to body image. As a nine- or ten-year-old girl, you don’t ever really notice Barbie’s “perfect” body (OK, her portrayalof a perfect body, because she’s plastic). You do like to comb her long pretty hair and change her into all kinds of different colorful (mostly pink) outfits. But you never actually wish to look like her. To be her. To be “perfect.”

The younger we are, the more logical we are. We just saw Barbie as a doll—a pretty doll—but just that, a doll. Now that we’re older, and supposedly “wiser,” we see girls that almost resemble the “perfect” Barbie doll (and yes, these girls do exist).

When we see them, we don’t think of Barbie, we think of ourselves. We begin to wonder why she hit the genetic jackpot, and why we got stuck with the oily, pimply skin or the overlapping rolls of fat on our stomachs. It hardly seems fair.

But is it really such an injustice? If it were such a necessity to be beautiful, wouldn’t most of us be beautiful? (And by the way, most of us aren’t.) It’s a necessity for us to be physically able to walk and talk, that’s why most of us can. But it’s not a necessity for us to be beautiful. Most of us know that and understand it well, but we still can’t stop wondering, What it would be like to be her?

Come to think of it, who decides what’s beautiful and what’s not? How dare anyone, including ourselves, compare us to anyone else? Our looks are in no way representative of who we are. At least they shouldn’t be.

And why is being fat such a bad thing? Did you know that being plump and chubby was actually considered sexy in the 1700’s?

Or why is nappy hair the undesirable hair?

And what in the heck is so wrong with body hair?! Girls are “supposed” to shave everything from their legs to their armpits and other small areas (think bikinis). Guys don’t have to shave unless they want to. How unfair.

You know, it’s so easy to say we shouldn’t give so much importance to beauty and our bodies, but it’s easier said than done. No matter how much we deny it, deep down inside we still wonder. We wonder what it’d be like to look like Cameron Diaz, tall and beautiful. Or Liv Tyler, with her long, beautiful dark hair and gorgeous face.

Why do we want to look like these women? I don’t know about you, but I’ve thought that if I looked like Diaz or Tyler, I could get any guy I want (if I wanted to) and people would automatically gravitate to me. I thought, If I looked like her, I wouldn’t have to worry about my looks, and I could just focus on other thingslike career success and even internal beauty.

A lot of us think we should be beautiful on the outside, before we start working on the inside. Honestly, most people don’t buy that story about “real beauty comes from within.”

Although it’s 100-percent true, the beauty we mainly focus on is the outside one. External beauty and internal beauty are two completely different things, but we have to decide which one of the two will be a priority.

Most of us claim not to be superficial and shallow, but the truth is, we are. And it’s not our fault, really. It’s not so subtle anymore. We all know how the media influence us. Even though they shoulder some of the blame, we still choose whether or not we want to give in to this incredible shallowness.

I’m tired of hearing about girls who cut themselves and girls with eating disorders, always thinking they’re fat, especially when most of them aren’t. It’s not that I don’t sympathize with them, of course I do (I’ve got my own issues). It’s just that I’m literally tired of it.

Most of my friends think they’re fat. Everyone thinks they’re fat. That’s one issue I thank God I never had to deal with. I’m not fat. I know I’m not, I weigh like 110 pounds. I love food. I don’t have any illnesses, especially any dealing with food and weight and stuff like that.

Even though I’m physically and mentally healthy, I have developed a bad habit: the habit of comparison. Yes, deadly thing that is. We all have issues with ourselves, some people have more serious problems than others, but even the healthiest of us wants to change or get rid of something.

Although a few girls may look like Barbie, most girls don’t. So instead of selling Beach-Blonde Barbie, Super-Skinny Barbie and Perfect-Haired Barbie (“Perfect” Ken dolls sold separately), let’s see some Plus-Size and Oily-Pimply Barbie dolls on Toys “R” Us shelves.

Oh, and one more thing, let’s tone down the blonde thing and add a little more variety and diversity to these dolls. And Barbie, I just gotta let you know, no hard feelings.

Photo by Laura Lewis

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