The other day a package arrived. ‘Girls!’ I called, ‘I’ve got something special here for you…’
‘A new Barbie!’ they squealed, recognising the packaging. I handed over the dolls, then watched for their reactions. ‘Heeeeeeey,’ seven-year-old Big Sis exclaimed, ‘there’s something different about these!’ ‘Is there?’ I feigned ignorance. ‘What, exactly?’
She studied them for a while, before holding one up. ‘Well, this one is bigger than the others.’ I nodded. ‘Do you know why that is?’ She shook her head. ‘In the real world, does everyone look like the old Barbie, or do some people look more this new one?’ She thought for a while, before answering: ‘Some people look more like this new one.’
‘What can you tell me about your doll?’ I asked five-year-old Lil Sis. ‘Her skin is very brown,’ she replied. ‘And what do you think about that?’ ‘I think she looks beautiful,’ she replied.
I grew up playing with Barbies, but back then the only body shape was super skinny, and the only variation was blonde or brunette. Thirty years later not much had changed, which – if I’m honest – gave me slight reservations about my own girls playing with the dolls.
I loved seeing them role playing and using their imaginations, but was also conscious that they’re growing up in a world that already places too much importance on looks. I didn’t want them getting a skewed view about what was a ‘normal’ look; I wanted them to understand that beauty comes in EVERY shape, size and skin colour.
Which is why I was so excited to hear that Mattel were releasing Barbies with three new body shapes (curvy, tall and petite), seven skin tones and 24 different hairstyles. AND they’ve reconfigured the doll’s dimensions to remove the unrealistic (dangerous, even) thigh gap. You can see more about THE EVOLUTION here.
What a brilliant leap in the right direction: I love that the toy industry is finally breaking out of the ‘blonde hair, blue eyes’ beauty stereotype, and that my girls will be learning about diversity while they play. Now every little girl will be able to go BARBIE shopping, and find one they can identify with.
Isn’t that amazing?!