Mattel recently released its new line of Barbie dolls, called “Fashionistas“. Have a look; I’ll wait.
I am thrilled. As someone who struggled with weight most of my adult life, and now with a daughter, I think it has been a long time coming. It is a huge step towards body normativity and ending the shaming that surrounds body size and weight.
Or is it?
It’s taken me a few days to mull this over, because what they are doing is incredibly fantastic for our girls, for women, but I think how they are going about it only perpetuates the problem.
The dolls are awesome, yes. That Mattel had the forethought to do it (finally!) at all? Yes – awesome. A completely separate line, with its own name?
Absolutely not awesome at all.
If we are to have a conversation about body normativity and ending size-shaming, why can’t they all just be “Barbies”? Why aren’t all Barbies “Fashionistas”? With categories like Petite, Tall, and Curvy, it sets them apart from the rest of the collection and to throw in Original as a category just sets my teeth on edge.
I have a daughter now, and I want to start overpowering negative messages NOW while her inner voice is just beginning to have an impact. I want her to hear the messages that tell her she is a valuable human being regardless of her size, shape, or height.
It is sad that, after writing that sentence, I am ready to write “I know that is a pipe dream.”.
While the dolls will help drown out that message, their very name and separation of them from the “regular” dolls only perpetuates the stigma of size.
The world our daughters will grow up in includes girls who are famous for dropping out of school and having children at the age of 16 (thanks, MTV). Those girls are now getting butt lifts (yes, they are) and doing anal sex movies to try and stay “relevant” in the eyes of Hollywood.
Thankfully, this is a small sample of “role models”, but that is what they are, nonetheless. Our daughters will look to film television, magazines, and all forms of social media for information on how they should be, just like we did.
As a parent, it is absolutely my responsibility to drown out those messages. I am not asking Mattel to raise my child with a healthy sense of self-esteem and value; it is my job to make sure of those things, and it is Mattel’s job to sell toys – and with these dolls, I feel like those goals are aligning more than they ever did before.
And again, I wholeheartedly endorse the dolls. They are wonderful and beautiful, in and of themselves. I love the reactions of the little girls in the video, and I think they will make a difference. I simply question why they need to be categorized at all.