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Battle of the Barbies. December 30, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I noticed an article on Yahoo! News yesterday about a furore over a “plus-size Barbie” that had appeared on some plus-size modeling website. The creators of the image had taken a current, actual Barbie and ballooned her out to plus-size proportions, with meaty thighs (all too apparent under her micro-outfit) and triple chins.

People who identify as plus-size rightly rose up in anger and condemned the balloon Barbie, noting that they didn’t have triple chins. Hopefully, they also don’t wear micro-mini, figure-hugging outfits, and at 19 or whatever age Barbie is supposed to be, look fresh and youthful and sport firm flesh, whatever its size.

I was sorry that what was obviously supposed to be a well-intentioned effort had crashed and burned, but honestly, a modeling site should have known better in an era when a “plus-sized” model can be a size 8, as opposed to size 00 or 000. Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Jayne Mansfield, Joan Crawford, and pretty much every sex symbol who ever lived would be considered “plus-sized” by today’s standards. As would Madonna, Kate Winslet, and Jennifer Lawrence (though she does share Barbie’s super-elongated legs). Even the lovely Heidi Klum, with her ample curves, is in danger of being labeled “plus-sized.”

But what really horrified me was the supposedly “real” Barbie that was shown next to the plus-sized doll for purposes of comparison. I could not believe that the anorexic stick figure, with its toothpick arms and legs, its flat, tube-shaped, curveless body, and its comparatively monstrously huge head with outsize eyes and lips and a teensy-tinesy nose, could be an actual Barbie.

I grew up playing with Barbies, which in those days also had outrageously long legs, a trim waist, and large, cone-shaped breasts, along with tons of (usually blonde) hair, always in some kind of ponytail, perpetually red-painted nails, and lots-o-makeup. The Barbies of my era also all had feet so totally deformed—in order to wear high heels, of course—that their like had not been seen since the days when female courtiers’ feet were broken and bound in Imperial China. The dolls also had wardrobes, which always struck me as pretty dorky. They ended up looking like B-movie bimbos from a beach-blanket Elvis extravaganza who happened to have deformed feet.

But, bad feet and bad clothes aside, these Barbies’ bodies weren’t unattainable. At 5’5″, I was never going to have Barbie’s ultralong legs. But at Barbie’s supposed age, I had a perfect 34-17-34 figure, complete with concave stomach, and I never dieted, exercised, or even gave it a second thought. It was just the way it was. (Sigh.) This wasn’t the Fifties, when the “Sweater Girl” was in and curves were everything (and, I’m assuming, the first Barbie was born), or the Sixties, when Twiggy made anorexia and stick-thinness the unattainable ideal. (Check her out now! She’s by no means fat, but those natural woman-curves are definitely in evidence.)

But no one on earth ever looked like the Barbie I was seeing in the comparison photo. Even a victim of starvation would have a swollen belly, not a tube-body like this Barbie, though they would share the outsize head and stick arms and legs. I would like to know why this is considered attractive, a role model for young girls. Of course no one wants their daughters to look like Honey Boo Boo or Mama June. But there is a vast middle ground between obese and skeletal, and in that ground lies normalcy, health, and beauty.

‘Til next time,