Friday, 29 January 2016

Barbie's new body types! Good news?

So we only have two toys outlawed in our house,  Barbie and toy guns. Based on the design for a German erotic doll, Barbie's unattainable physique designed to titillate adult men was not, in our opinion, the ideal toy for our young children. When Great Granny give our 3 year old daughter one for Christmas, we promptly disappeared it to the shed and said no more about it!

But after 57 years, the toy manufacturer Mattel has finally caught up with the 21st century and recognised that women come in different shapes, sizes and skin tones. Their new range includes "curvy", "petite" and "tall". Do I welcome this? Absolutely. It's a long overdue step in the right direction. Now when kids go to toy shops, they don't see a single size zero blonde presented as the ideal woman but an array of dolls which are more reflective of the society we live in.

Of course, for many people who grew up with toys like Barbie and Action Man, changing the traditional, iconic doll is heresy!  But the way I see it, toys aren't harmless. Toys convey messages about what is desirable. Barbie with her adult design, numerous outfits and accessories is about the cult of the skinny blonde leading an existence based on materialism and consumption. Young children are impressionable and absorb the values of those around them. By presenting Barbie as the ideal woman to girls and boys, we aren't giving them the healthy role models they deserve.

We only have a short window to boost young children's self esteem and help them develop a healthy body image. A time to build their resilience in preparation for the difficult teenage years ahead. I want my children to grow up knowing they have amazing bodies that can help them have incredible adventures. I want them to feel secure and confident in themselves when faced with airbrushed images of perfection on telly and in magazines.

We have to remember too that Barbie is an adult with a boyfriend. She takes part in adult pursuits. While Barbie has moved on in terms of gender stereotyping, she does get to be a doctor or a vet sometimes, the emphasis is still on flicking her blonde hair while she does it. There are other dolls out there on the market that are actually designed for children! I am a fan of the Lottie doll - based on the proportions of a 9 year old girl, Lottie gets to do things kids like to do. Karate, ballet, fossil hunting and football. And so does her platonic male pal, the Finn doll.

So Mattel is catching up, responding to market forces rather than suddenly having an ethical awakening! I'm not sure if we will suddenly be down toy r us buying up Barbie dolls. But I do appreciate that for all the Barbie fans out there this is progress. Next step? The overhaul of Ken!

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