Beauty & the beast: Barbie world

When people think of the word Barbie, it’s natural to envision a tall, blonde doll covered in pink and chalked up with all sorts of blame and negative connotation. Barbie dolls have long been accused of instilling a false image of beauty to young girls all around the world, linking Barbie dolls to low self-esteem and eating disorders.
But that’s because people tend to focus solely on Barbie’s outer appearances, a tendency which is innately shallow and sets a bad example for children. Barbie teaches us lessons about pursuing dreams.
Keeping in mind the generations and the decades Barbie dolls appealed to, Barbie broke the typical domestic housewife stereotype of woman. There is a Barbie doll for every profession I can think of, including male dominant professions, such as scientists and athletes.
This is not only refreshing, it is inspiring and instills confidence in aspiring young children all around the world.
As a child I probably recognized Barbie’s beauty, but I focused more on her outfits and accessories, which portrayed her various personas. I do not believe I noticed the unrealistic details of Barbie’s beauty, like the gigantic boobs and the itty bitty waist.
Sure, Barbie’s beauty may be unattainable, but I think it’s more likely a young girl internalizes Barbie’s lesson to be an individual and stay true to her own goals rather than strive for her unrealistic beauty.
Barbie is a prime example of how people tend to dwell on superficial aspects, such as appearances and outer looks, rather than seeking within. As a result, Barbie’s positive, empowering messages to young girls are often overlooked or ignored.
Appearances do matter to some extent, even though it really shouldn’t. This week in my Interpersonal Communication class, Professor Catherine Puckering taught us the Implicit Personality Theory. Basically, we tend to group personality characteristics together, and since attractiveness is positive, it is usually connected with positive personality traits. For example, given the words tall and handsome, you would more likely pair it with the word friendly than unfriendly.
However, I think as a society, we have put beauty on a pedestal. Our focus on appearances is unhealthy and distracts us from more important aspects.
Furthermore, our definition of beautiful has become essentially unachievable. It is unhealthy for girls to compare themselves to these unrealistic portrayals of beauty.
Whether Barbie factors into self-image issues in young girls is debatable. It is very possible that a child raised in this appearance-obsessed society would adopt the mindset to focus on looks and unconsciously internalize Barbie’s beauty. But one thing for sure is that Barbie dolls are definitely is not alone or the major aspect of the blame.
There are plenty of other “barbies” little girls look up to, and unlike actual Barbie dolls, these include real humans, so it makes it seem like a more realistic goal for girls who strive to look like them.
I know in high school I was shown in health class that Barbie’s beauty is unhealthy, but once again, Barbie is just a doll. It would be much more effective if kids were educated more about the reality of the real life Barbie dolls we all look up to.
Victoria Secret Angels come to mind when I think of real life Barbies. Unlike Barbie dolls, which are plastic, these are actual humans. This makes it seem a lot more attainable to young girls around the world, thinking along the lines of “If Miranda Kerr, a real human being, can have that figure, maybe if I starve myself some more, I can too.”
Well, I read an article that said a week before the show, they are not allowed to have any solid food, and two days before the show they only drink water.

This is not exclusive to just Victoria Secret models, or even models.

It seems to me that everyone in television shows, even characters who are supposed to be plain, meet conventional beauty standards. It seems natural, but we don’t think about the professional make up and editing procedures they go through. They also probably have professional nutritionists or trainers to cater to their specific body needs in order to achieve the look they desire.
The same goes with magazines covers, commercials or ads. They select beautiful people to begin with, and then on top of that, have professionals airbrush them to complete perfection. A computer can easily fake what we deem as beauty by simply adding a bra size, blurring cellulite, skimming down unwanted areas, deleting a pimple … essentially completely transforming the original picture.
My high school had a mandatory health class which addressed this issue. I think the education system should continue exposing the ugly truth so that adolescents know that what they are comparing themselves to are fake, like a Barbie doll.
Although the typical tall, thin model still dominates, there seems to be more models of different shapes and sizes out there these past few years.
It’s crucial to counter the lies the media is bombarding us with today and let everyone know that they’re beautiful in their own unique way.

EUGENIA CHUNG can be reached at ehchung@ucdavis.edu.

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