Blaming Barbie and Beyond

Layma Yutsyute

When I saw the title of the study, “Dying to be Barbie”, I thought, “here we go again, blame the poor Barbie”. After several minutes, I realized that there was more to it than just Barbie.  Growing up, I spent many hours playing with my Barbies. My dolls opened up a whole new world of my imagination and they were perfect, but never have I thought to alter my body to match theirs. That’s why I struggled understanding how Barbie contributes to the development of eating disorders. After reading this article, I had a realization. When I was young, I was not exposed to so many ads, magazines and social networks.  While media culture can be entertaining, it constantly displays images of women who have everything they want, but with one condition…they have to be skinny. Our media culture praises a thin image for women and devalues any woman who does not fit in that “norm”.

42% of girls ages 6-10 wish they were thinner! It starts with Barbie, but it could also end there. Barbie could stay a wonderful childhood memory filled with imagination. It does not stay there because we are surrounded with airbrushed, unrealistic images. In a study of anorexic women, many reported using fashion and beauty magazines to compare their own bodies to the thin ideal shown within. Those images have been retouched and changed into an unrealistic idea of perfection. Yes, models can be thin or have unique body features, but most of their images are still being airbrushed. We are taught to strive to be someone that is not real.

Another contributing factor to ‘ideal body sizes’ is the introduction of the television.  A study of prime-time sitcoms found that 95% of lead female characters are thin or average, while only 5% are above average in weight. In fact, the only overweight characters I can think of are Mike and Molly. There are hundreds of characters in my mind that are thin. Overweight characters are often made fun of and degraded. There is something wrong with this picture. Now we think that being thin will bring us happiness, career and a great life. Often, it does not.

In our society today, women are being taught to scrutinize their bodies no matter what size or shape they are. Much of this is caused by our media culture that shows models who are unrealistically thin and digitally altered bodies instead of real, healthy women. Being aware of this can help prevent eating disorders and support others who are fighting it. There is something all of us can do to change this. Make sure you know what you are watching and what effect it can have on your self-image and the self-image of those around you. Don’t spend your life dying to be Barbie.


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