A new debate on female body image has been sparked with the creation of a plus size Barbie doll side by side a traditional Barbie doll.
Seeking to inspire commentary, the Facebook group Plus Size Modeling shared the post a week ago, with the question: ‘Should toy companies start making plus-sized Barbie dolls? In all honesty, we want to know…’
“Plus-size” models (or any models above the super-skinny norm, for that matter) serve a dual purpose: They showcase plus-size clothing for a growing market… and they also provide women with a more diverse range of bodies to look up to.’
Since then, the post has generated nearly 37,000 likes and over 1,800 shares – as well as mostly negative comments from many who felt the plus-size Barbie was an inaccurate representation of curvy women.
Told a variety of users: ‘Yeah lets promote poor health and eating habits. Just what America needs.’
Commented Lindsay Keg-leg Kahlig: ‘[The] average [dress] size these days is 14-16. A doll that shows real life perspective, rather than the ideal unhealthy weight like 0 or unhealthy negative display of obese is a better more healthy approach [sic].’
Melissa Audet added: ‘I hope she comes with a blood pressure cuff to show young girls that how many chins she has is not what’s important but the health issues that could come along with being this size.’
The doll’s chins hardly went down well, instead going on to prompt wide ridicule.
Told one commentator, MaryBeth Gafford: ‘The triple chin is too much. Most overweight people (me included) only have a double chin no matter what size they are. This Barbie is inaccurate.’
The dominant opinion, though, was that that there should be a middle ground. Rather than promoting an exaggerated ‘obese’ Barbie, young girls should have a healthy-looking doll that is neither too fat nor too thin.
‘Why not have a realistically proportioned Barbie that promotes healthy diet and exercise?‘ Michelle Ashford suggested, while Bec Bailey wrote: ‘Not plus size but definitely healthy weight. A size 12-14 girl would be a great image. Too low or too high a BMI promotes unhealthy living.’
Told another commentator, Wanda Ward: ‘Not every big girl is unfit or unhealthy! I’m sick of people saying someone is unhealthy because of their size!!! An average size Barbie would be awesome and would probably boost confidence to millions of little girls everywhere!!!!! Being yourself is one of the most beautiful things!!!’
The image was produced by Worth1000.com rather than Barbie’s manufacturer, Mattel, and so if the company was to consider a plus-size Barbie, it might look very different.
And nor is Worth1000 the first to have considered the concept of a larger doll.
Artist Nickolay Lamm, 24, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, created a Barbie-like doll based on CDC measurements of the average 19-year-old woman, and photographed it alongside a traditional Barbie doll.
Lamm has told if Barbie did exist in the real world she would weigh about 110lbs – or 7 stone, 8lbs – and would have a BMI of 16.24. This would fit the weight criteria for anorexia.
Going on to tell the Huffington Post: ‘A realistically-proportioned Barbie actually looks pretty good in the pictures I produced.
‘So, if there’s even a small chance of Barbie in its present form negatively influencing girls, and if Barbie looks good as an average sized woman in America, what’s stopping Mattel from making one?’
Which raises the question what is a healthy guide to a normal looking Barbie doll and why hasn’t the retailer set out to make one to date?