Unrealistic Icon or Role Model?

Perusing my childhood bookshelves, I stumbled upon some of my most prized possessions as a young girl: my Barbie books. “Barbie: What a Doll!” and “Barbie Millicent Roberts: An Original” were the two books I begged my mother to read to me each night. And by “read” I actually mean flip through page after page, displaying the evolution of twentieth century Barbies. My four year old self was enamored by Barbie’s clothing and accessories, but my now seventeen year old self realizes Barbie’s controversy.


© Mary Kate Donahue, 2014

Is Barbie an unfit role model for the young girls who constantly attempt to emulate her?

This poignant question is the current controversy involving Barbie and her brand. From racial discrimination to scandalous clothing, Barbie has faced many charges. Although, one controversial topic continues to surface year after year: Barbie’s body. Her well-endowed chest, in contrast with her itty bitty waist and tall, thin legs have sparked discussion on body image for young girls. Speaking from experience, I constantly changed Barbie’s clothing as a girl, but never noticed anything strange about her proportions. In reality, “Her 16-inch waist would also be four inches thinner than her head, leaving room for only half a liver and a few inches of intestine” (Golgowski). Clearly, Barbie’s physical attributes are extremely and utterly rare or even impossible. Despite these shocking characteristics, Barbie’s external appearance does not determine what kind of doll she is.


© Mel Yates

Aside from her unrealistic body, Barbie lives each day as the perfect role model for young girls. As many Kindergarteners would know, Barbie has tons of different outfits (which they ask for each year at Christmas). Not only does Barbie have a wide array of ball gowns and bikinis, but she also has every kind of work attire ever imaginable. According to Barbie, “From secretary to executive, model to fashion designer, dancer to rocker, I have never been afraid to try new things. In fact, in 1986 I even wore a glittering pink spacesuit with a clear bubble helmet: the sky’s the limit for us women! Which is why I’ve made a point of playing so many different roles” (Jacobs 81). Barbie emphasizes how a woman is capable of anything she puts her mind to. In addition, With more than 130 careers on her resume, Barbie continues to take on aspirational and culturally relevant roles while also serving as a role model and agent of change for girls” (Barbie). Constantly climbing the career ladder, Barbie shows young girls that women can perform the same work as men, in super stylish outfit. 

Click here to learn more about Barbie’s different careers.


Works Cited

“Careers.” Barbie. Mattel, Inc., 2012. Web. 19 May 2014.

Golgowski, Nina. “Bones so frail it would be impossible to walk and room for only half a liver: Shocking research reveals what life would be like if a REAL woman had Barbie’s body.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd, 13 Apr. 2013. Web. 19 May 2014.

Jacobs, Laura. Barbie: What a Doll! New York: Abbeville Press, 1999. Print.

Yates, Mel. Barbie’s Body Image. Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 3 Feb. 2014. Web. 19 May 2014.



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