Barbie's body 'not meant to be realistic'

21:28, Feb 04 2014
NOT REAL: Barbie was never meant to be realistic. But does that make it okay? (Even her dog suffers from lollipop head syndrome.)

In a recent interview with Fast Company, the vice president of design for Barbie at Mattel, Kim Culmone, had a rather baffling explanation for Barbie's unrealistic body proportions. 

"Barbie's body was never designed to be realistic," she said. "She was designed for girls to easily dress and undress." 

Now, I think we can all agree here, Barbie's is not an easy figure to dress. I remember that pulling a skimpy tank top over those pointy, shiny breasts could take a whole afternoon - get it over one, and then whoop, it'd ping off the other one. And don't even get me started on the arm length v arm-hole equation. It was a logistical nightmare, to put it mildly. 

NOT ACHIEVABLE: Children are so impressionable, so is it right to give them the impression that these legs are 'beauty'?

But I digress. 

Culmone's message is confusing. During the interview she says that Barbie has sported "many bodies over the years, ones that are poseable, ones that are cut for princess cuts, ones that are more realistic," but then also explains that changing Barbie's body is a difficult prospect, given "the issue of heritage."



ART PROJECT: Artist Nickolay Lamm made a Barbie using the average proportions of a 19-year-old girl.

"This is a 55-year-old brand where moms are handing clothes down to their daughters, and so keeping the integrity of that is really important. Everything may not always be able to fit every doll, but it's important to me that the majority of it does, because that was my experience as a little girl. There's an obligation to consistency. Unless for some reason in the future, there's a real reason to change the body-because of either a design imperative or functional imperative-heritage is important to us."

As Julia Sonenshein of The Gloss ponders; must we then assume that when Culmone says there is as of yet no "objective to change the proportion of Barbie," she is blissfully unaware of the existence of studies that tell us that unrealistic, thin dolls actually have a poor impact on the lives of her small customers

Well, no, because she later references studies on the influencers of poor self esteem on young girls, but blames it on the children's parents and peers

"You have to remember that girls' perceptions are so different than grown ups' perceptions about what real is and what real isn't, and what the influences are...Girls view the world completely differently than grown-ups do. They don't come at it with the same angles and baggage and all that stuff that we do." 

Sonenshein says Culmone's reasoning is "completely illogical and patently wrong."

"Does Culmone think we all just woke up one day feeling shitty about ourselves and found Barbie to be a handy scapegoat?" she writes angrily.

OK, so it's not all Barbie's fault. Young women learn important lessons on self-worth and body acceptance from their mothers, grandmothers, and other adult role models - it's something we pass from one generation to another. But that skinny b----h sure has a lot to answer for.

See what Barbie would look like if blown up to human-sized proportions ...