There’s been a lot of buzz lately about a new Barbie doll who has the “average woman’s” proportions. [whatever that means!]. Artist Nickolay Lamm created a computer rendition of a doll that had the proportions of an actual teenage woman and has garnered an immense amount of attention for pointing to the ridiculous bodily proportions on standard Barbies.
Laura Stample from TIME magazine states:
“So rather than just waiting for some other toy company to bring a Barbie with realistic proportions to life, he decided to do it himself. Wednesday, Lamm launched his own CrowdtiltOpen crowd funding project to raise $95,000 to begin production on a doll that has a real woman’s proportions. The line is called Lammily and its tagline is: ‘Average is beautiful.'”
Okay, does anyone else see a problem with this? Newsflash: girls aren’t necessarily starving themselves and developing low self-esteem because the Barbie’s they own are thin. In reality, these girls are bombarded with horrible messages from mainstream culture that dictate what should be important in their lives. To assume that it’s *just* the Barbie is problematic. The reason why Barbie looks like that in the first place isn’t’ because of some nebulous, random concept that fell from the sky. Barbie is generally blonde, with blue eyes, and thin because those are the types of women who are STILL prized in our culture…because we’re not racist or anything.
Adding in different “ethnic” barbies was similarly meant to disrupt white-blonde-haired barbie’s empire…but even with different ethnic origins, the problem still wasn’t solved. In fact, the very same problems were reproduced. We were still telling girls to prize their beauty first above everything else and barbies became the ultimate epitome of who they were to become: silent, one-dimensional, quiet, pretty beings who existed to be gazed at.
Why do we keep giving our girls inanimate objects to look up to, rather than awesome, REAL-LIFE role models?
Can we get to a place where our boys and girls can both play with barbies without defining their self-worth by what the doll looks like? That should be the goal. We should be developing girls who understand that they are more than their looks. The fact that there is so much attention on changing the look of Barbie SO THAT we can change the ways girls view themselves sounds outrageous to me.
The problem doesn’t start with Barbie—it starts with a media culture that is saturated with ridiculous images of women. Women are only granted visibility when they are “sexy” in a super one-dimensional way, and perhaps that’s where we should start with changes.
I also find it extremely problematic that the tagline emphasizes beauty AGAIN. “Average is beautiful.” Gosh—can women get a day off from being beautiful? Is that possible? It reminds me of all of those slogans that emphasize sexiness to get women to do things like: “voting is sexy.” Like—really? In our culture, there’s this horrible trend where we assume the only way to get women to do anything, is to emphasize their looks first.
Photo for “Voting is Sexy” campaign. CC BY
Rather than challenging the archaic idea that women have to be beautiful in every space of their lives, we further this idea by re-framing everything as beautiful. That’s what this “average” Barbie does. She normalizes the idea that being a woman means being beautiful. Being average is now beautiful….whatever average means. Eating is sexy. Driving is sexy. Education is sexy. Breathing is beautiful. Blinking is beautiful. Get it?
How do we escape this bubble of beauty which is regularly employed to enforce a sexist agenda where women valuing themselves for their beauty only is disguised as empowerment.