When I was a child, I desperately wanted a Barbie doll. Unfortunately, my mother didn’t allow me to have one. She had concerns about the negative impact Barbie could have on my body image and believed that the doll promoted materialism and vanity.
While other dolls like Cabbage Patch Dolls and Pound Puppies were deemed acceptable, my desire for Barbie grew stronger. Whenever I visited friends’ houses, I would secretly play with their Barbie dolls as soon as my mother wasn’t around.
There was one specific Barbie model, the 1985 Dream Glow doll, that I coveted. It had a glowing floor-length pink tulle dress adorned with white stars. I longed for it, but my mother remained firm in her decision.
Over time, my fascination with Barbie faded away, except for the occasional nostalgic dance to Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” at nightclubs. But now that I have children of my own, Barbie has made a comeback. My daughters have acquired several Barbie dolls, each with different roles and careers.
As I watch Barbie animated movies with my kids and find myself singing along, I can’t help but remember the criticisms my mother had about the doll. Barbie was often seen as materialistic, with an unrealistic body image and impractical fashion choices.
With Barbie’s resurgence in popularity and the release of new blockbuster movies, I wonder if I should be concerned about the influence of these dolls on my children.
To address my worries, I reached out to experts in the field. Dr. Stephanie Damiano, manager of Butterfly’s Body Bright program, points out that studies on the impact of Barbie on body image are mixed. Some suggest an increase in body dissatisfaction among girls exposed to Barbie, while others show no significant effect.
Rachel Tomlinson, a registered psychologist specializing in child development, agrees that Barbie alone does not hold immense power over children’s self-esteem. She believes that conversations within our families and communities about body acceptance and diversity have a more significant impact on children’s body image.
Both Damiano and Tomlinson emphasize the importance of instilling in children the value of who they are rather than what they look like. They believe that promoting a positive body image involves helping children understand that their worth goes beyond physical appearance.
Reflecting on my own experiences, I realize that my mother’s concerns may have had some positive effects on me. I don’t have an obsession with shopping or overly high heels, and I am comfortable with my own body.
Intrigued by the Barbie discussion, I casually asked my six-year-old daughter her thoughts on the doll. She described Barbie as a “bit of a show-off.” While it made me chuckle, it also indicated that she recognizes certain qualities in the doll that may not align with her own values.