The Barbie Effect — Dolls, Beauty Standards and Body Image Issues

Vitamin Stree
2 min readNov 26, 2018


“ …the strings of beauty standards are being pulled by our doll makers..”

Young girls have been playing with Barbie dolls for decades now. Caveat Emptor! This is not necessarily a toy story, with a very happy ending. While playing with a doll might seem completely harmless, playtime really escalated when the popular playmate started giving serious body image issues to entire generations.

Since its invention in 1959, Barbie doll has been setting unrealistic beauty standards, influencing a lot of young girls around the world to believe that being 5’9”, weighing about 50 kilos, having F-cup breasts and stick thin limbs is the way to go! All while completely ignoring the fact that a real body with these dimensions will be physically incapable of supporting itself and will collapse.

Research has shown that girls playing with Barbies are prone to eating disorders and low self esteem, that can sustain into adulthood. Add the doll’s unrealistic physical proportions to the pre-existing societal beauty standards, and you end up with several women in real life spending thousands of dollars on plastic surgery to get the “Barbie look”. But now that finally an era of self-love and mental health awareness is dawning, people, more importantly women are slowly beginning to shun these unrealistic demands.

Mattel too seems to have finally undergone a change of mind. Realising that toys have the power to shape the psyche of a child, and also as a bid to tackle the drop in their sales, Mattel has now started working on an inclusive range of Barbies. Called Project Dawn, these new range of Barbie dolls will celebrate diverse body types. In fact, this Women’s Day, they launched the Role Model Barbie series featuring role-models from various fields like artist Frida Kahlo, Chef Hélène Darroze, NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, and pilot Amelia Earhart.

It has taken more than half a century for the toy giant to change its ways, and there’s still a long way to go in dismantling the unhealthy and incorrect standards Mattel has managed to create. But hey, every change starts with one positive step, right? We hope this change sustains, and continues promoting a more healthy and fun playtime!

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