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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Do Girls Really Want To Look Like Barbie?

Do Girls Really Want To Look Like Barbie?

"For decades journalists, feminists and social critics have assumed that young girls idolize Barbie dolls. Time magazine's Amy Dickinson claimed that "women my age know whom to blame for our own self-loathing, eating disorders and distorted body image: Barbie."

In her feminist best-seller "The Beauty Myth," Naomi Wolf claims Barbie is seen as an "ideal" woman. The claim is widely asserted and repeated...

Children play with many toys and see countless images, few of which they presumably see as realistic (or even attainable) ideals...

The extant literature about Barbie dolls tends to be opinionated and based on essays and popular media articles" instead of science or evidence-based research. This may be due partly to the widespread assumptions (promoted in part by Barbie's maker, Mattel) that the dolls are universally beloved...

The handful of research studies that have been done hold some surprising results. For example, the Kuther and McDonald study mentioned above concluded that "most notably girls reported ambivalence toward Barbie dolls."

In 2005 a team of British researchers from the University of Bath “found that many 7- to 11-year-old girls hate the doll so much that they physically attack it. ... Barbie is hated because she is 'babyish,' 'unfashionable,' 'plastic,' has multiple selves and because she is a feminine icon."

Not only do many of the girls dislike Barbie, they actively mutilate and torture their dolls. According to lead researcher Agnes Nairn, “the girls we spoke to see Barbie torture as a legitimate play activity. ... The types of mutilation are varied and creative, and range from removing the hair to decapitation, burning, breaking, and even microwaving."

The reason, Nairn said, was that girls saw Barbie as childish, an inanimate object instead of a treasured toy.

These studies and others suggest that the "Barbie ideal" may be based more on myth than truth. Instead of universally idolizing Barbie, many girls are ambivalent if not outright hostile to it. Nor is there good evidence that girls (or women) view the doll as a physical role model.

Thus the often-heard complaints that Barbie's dimensions are unhealthy or inhuman are beside the point, since Barbie is not real, and girls don't think of the doll as real (nor even potentially real)...

The physical idolization of Barbie by girls and young women is, thankfully, largely a media-created myth"
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