Bodies, Mattel, And Barbie Fashionistas

Both the text, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, and the Keyword essay Body by Kelly Hager illustrate the negative connotations of idealizing only specific body attributes and marginalizing minority bodies.  Body discusses how certain types are “marginalized bodies” (p.18) which includes minority races and ethnicities, as well as the “fat body” (p.18); basically any “physical nature of the human body” (p.17) that does not conform to the supposed ideal of white and thin.  In The Bluest Eye, the negative effects of the marginalization of certain types of bodies is starkly represented.  In this text the body is shown through a multitude of forms both sexually and racially. It is seen that white bodies, and representations thereof such as white dolls, are more prized than black bodies.  Even within the primarily black community in which the story is set, Black bodies are marginalized and looked down upon. The main character a young Black girl, Pecola, is bullied at school, her own beauty is not acknowledged by anyone, and the character who is treated the best is Maureen who is half white and therefore closer to the ideal.  It is this almost worshipful way that people regard white bodies that primarily drives Pecola to wish for blue eyes.  This in turn leads to a series of negative experiences eventually resulting in the breakdown of her sanity.  In Body the point is made that “children’s culture reveals an overwhelming interest in describing, depicting, and reproducing images of the body to educate, orient, and delight the child consumer” (p.17) but there has been very little positive representation of minority bodies or attributes other than slim Caucasian models.  What doesn’t conform to the “ideal” of the body has been marginalized, but in contrast to this, Mattel has begun producing a line of ‘Fashionista’ Barbie dolls which celebrate diversity and diverse body types.  They have created a line that includes different races and different body types.  They are all called Fashionistas, they are all treated as equally fashionable and provide inclusive models for children to identify themselves with. This is a step forward in promoting the idea that all different kinds of bodies are positive. 

6 thoughts on “Bodies, Mattel, And Barbie Fashionistas”

  1. It is important that a popular brand like Mattel is forming a new line of Barbies where each of them were equally fashionable. Hopefully, young girls will realize that beauty comes from within and that no matter your skin color or body type, you are still beautiful. Last semester I did a research project on Barbies and came to the conclusion that they play a large role on how girls view their future. Because Barbies are dolls who are adults, and not companions to the girls who play with them, they look up to Barbie as a role model. Realistically, I think it is important to have diverse role models to prove that anyone can and should be able to achieve their dreams no matter how they look on the outside.

  2. I strongly appreciate the work that Mattel has done to diversify their line of dolls. It is important, as a child, to become confident and feel strong self worth. If all people were portrayed as the ideal, we would find children to be more confident in themselves. What I think would be an interesting concept is if they were to allow doll customization in any form to buy dolls that look exactly like you.

  3. I really like the idea of this new Barbie doll. My mom didn’t really encourage me to play with Barbies when I was younger. I did have dolls, but no barbies. Part of this I found out was due to the fear of creating body image issues. The outcome of body image issues is very evident in “The Bluest Eye” through wanting blue eyes and Pecola not liking Shirley Temple. It will be interesting to see if the conflict around Barbie dolls change with this new type of doll.

  4. Your post reminds me of the Doll Test conducted by psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark. You probably have heard of it before or watched videos in class, but children of different ages are brought into a room and asked specific questions about dolls that they prefer to play with and why. Having a white doll and a doll of color, the children (of both races) tended to pick the white doll as the prettier doll. On the other hand, they chose the doll of color as the scarier and more dangerous doll. Similar to your post, the representation of white dolls by both media and other children, show white dolls as being “prized” dolls, whereas dolls of color are normally over looked or not talked about. Furthermore, from personal experience, many of the dolls that I grew up playing with were extremely thin and always had make up on. Also, they were almost always white dolls unless they were a popular disney princess.

  5. I think that it is absolutely awesome that Mattel is making more of an effort to make a line of dolls that will include more than just the stereotypical “blonde-hair, blue-eyed” girl with which most of us grew up. Although creating a more inclusive line of children’s toys may not seem like much to some people, I truly believe that both boys and girls begin developing an image of themselves and whether or not they are “pretty” or “normal” at a very young age. By creating this new line, hopefully some of the beauty stereotypes that reach our younger population will be destroyed and replaced with more inclusive standards of beauty.

  6. I think the Barbie doll has played a major role in creating what the perfect body is. Barbie has blue eyes, long blonde hair, curves, and is stick thin. This is the body that many people try to obtain yet is impossible. Many children play with these dolls growing up and start to idolize them and as a result, want to be just like her. I’ve even seen stories of both women and men who get plastic surgery just to look more Barbie and Ken. Mattel creating this new type of Barbie is a step in the right direction to try to combat the highly prevalent issue of negative body image.

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