OPINION: Toying with the absurd

The time has finally come. We've rooted out the problem of young girls' body issues--Barbie--and responded accordingly. Recently, Mattel released a new line on its most iconic doll, Barbie. After coming under increasing fire for "promoting" unrea...

Candy DenOuden
Candy DenOuden

The time has finally come. We've rooted out the problem of young girls' body issues-Barbie-and responded accordingly.

Recently, Mattel released a new line on its most iconic doll, Barbie. After coming under increasing fire for "promoting" unrealistic beauty standards with Barbie's anatomically impossible proportions, the toymaker announced the 2016 Barbie Fashionistas Dolls. The line includes four body types, seven skin tones, 22 eye colors, 24 hairstyles and "countless on-trend fashions and accessories."

A moment of sincerity: After years of whitewashing dolls, the new skin tones and eye colors are great. Good job getting there 50-ish years after the Civil Rights Movement.

More importantly, this whole kerfuffle has helped me understand where my misgivings about my appearance originated. They didn't come from real-world experiences-oh, no. They came from that Devil-in-a-fashionable-disguise, Barbie.

I was self-conscious about my body-my towering height, my muscular build, my weight and my shoe size when the Old Woman living in a shoe in Mother Goose Land considered renting out my boots as a spacious, weekend condo.


It couldn't have had anything to do with the actual, real-life kids who called me names like "Miss Piggy" or who helpfully suggested that maybe if I lost weight I could run faster. And it absolutely couldn't have been tied to the real-life girls I interacted with who were smaller, shorter, more athletic and much closer to the girls on TV and in movies than I, which made them, in my eyes, more attractive.

It turns out, the culprit of all this insecurity was strewn across my bedroom floor-Barbie and all her Mean Girl friends, conspiring to body shame me without ever blinking a freakishly large eye. Barbie, clearly, was the goal we all hoped to attain. Those real people were merely distractions.

If only Barbie's anatomy had been realistic. Everything else about her was. Her hair that never grew back when cut, her limbs that didn't bend without unfortunate consequences and her hands with opposable thumbs that didn't actually oppose.

My cowgirl Barbie could ride her plastic horses so much better than I could ride our real ones, which is probably the reason I didn't become a cowgirl. That Barbie had Ken is probably the reason I have unrealistic standards of marrying a man with arms that bend at the elbow.

Most notably, Barbie finally pays attention to us "curvy" girls with its Curvy Barbies. If you visit , you can see the whole line, which finally brings the ridiculous "curvy" label into mainstream toy mania. Brought to you by the same reliable narrators who label women like Drew Barrymore, Salma Hayek, Mariska Hargitay, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sofia Vergara as "curvy."

According to, the definition of curvy comes from measuring waist-hip proportions. For example, according to this source, a woman with a 36-inch hip is curvy if her waist is 27 inches or less. So, basically, if you're not shaped like a pencil because you have hips and breasts-which most women seem to have-you're "curvy."

So, don't worry, plus-sized women. Society, and Barbie, still don't care about you. Mattel just lurched from one anatomically weird standard to another. But the differences! The accessories!

And! Did you know women can have careers now, too? Barbie reflects that. Women can be teachers and game developers and politicians. Barbie even wants little girls to know they can work in espionage, as evidenced by its "Spy Squad" movie. Which, from what I can tell, teaches girls that with zero training and a fabulous wardrobe, they can solve crime. GENDER EQUALITY HAS ARRIVED!


If I'd had a Barbie that wore glasses and a power suit, maybe I could have realized that I can do stuff, like go to college and get a job in a highly competitive and challenging career. If only.

It's too late for me, but now we need to achieve realism in all other toys. My Little Pony, for instance, perpetuates the belief that ponies can have bejeweled backsides, multicolored manes and tails, and glittering wings. I'd like to see a new line, like Sway-Backed Sally, Pigeon-Toed Pony and Pot-Bellied Pete. Accessories could include fly spray, a mineral block and scented piles of dung. If we're going for realism.

And what about those Sky Dancer Fairy Flyers could make children question why they can't be launched into flight via a pull string? What about action figures? Can we get an overweight, middle-aged Superman who just wants a nap? Because kids are more likely to relate to that than shooting lazers out of their eyes or having perfectly chiseled abs from working a long day behind a computer as a reporter. (Trust me on this.)

Reality is a slippery slope, Barbie. I look forward to seeing your high-heeled Spy Squad try to navigate the terrain.

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