Present a detailed, critical analysis of a cultural text.
Barbie is a fashion doll manufactured by the American toy-company Mattel Inc., launched in March 1959. She is the cultural icon of female beauty and role model for young girls, mostly in Western culture. In the image created by Mattel Inc., Barbie is shown as an image of successful woman in all areas of her life, which is result of her perfect appearance. Her image sends to children powerful message about body ideals, nevertheless she is the posthuman body doll with unrealistic body measurements. My aim in the essay is to prove that her image has negative impact on young girls.
Kim Toffoletti in her book ‘Cyborgs and Barbie dolls’ states that ‘Barbie is said to teach girls the codes of femininity through standards of dress, bodily ideas and models of behaviour. ‘ Her unreachable and unhealthy body proportions give bad body image to young girls, who are acquainted with the fact, that Barbie is the post human body doll. Barbie’s disproportional body measurements are impossible standards for girls to become. According to ideal image of Barbie created by Mattel, success in life, seem to be achievable by having perfect body shape.
According to Bandura social learning theory, ‘learning can occur by observing the actions of others. ‘ This theory applies to young girls; playing with the dolls, and watching her commercials allow them to think that to be popular and successful in life , they have to be perfect looking, just like ‘Barbie ‘As it’s shown in Barbie commercials and film series, the world that this doll lives in seem to be ”perfectly perfect”. Barbie’s career is filled with good role model jobs; these include a teacher, nurse, vet, police officer. In contrast with Sojourner Truth born into slavery who was fighting for rights of black woman who were slavers, Barbie is example of successful white female. ‘Ain’t I a woman’ is a powerful speech delivered by Sojourner Truth, where she tries to persuade , that black woman are equal to man and are able to work. Starting from the first Barbie commercial that was shown to public 56 years ago, Mattel managed to persuade young girls to believe that Barbie should be their role model. ‘Barbie used to be my favourite doll when I was little. She was just so perfect. I felt that Barbie could do anything she wanted because she was loved by everyone. ‘ This is one of the memories taken from a young girl, from the book ‘Barbie culture’. Although Barbie is popular among young girls, her image of perfection is fulfilled with falsity and post humanism, as the measurements of her body could never be achieved by females. ‘If Barbie were an actual women, she would be 5’9″ tall, have a 39″ bust, an 18″ waist, 33″ hips and a size 3 shoes. ‘ ‘The Yale Centre for Eating and Weight Disorders’ discovered that if women looked like Barbie, ‘they’d would have to grow two feet taller, extend their neck length by 3.2 inches, gain 5 inches in chest size, and lose 6 inches in waist. The facts about falsity of Barbie state about the post humanism which Mattel Company used to create an image of perfect femininity. Barbie seems to be ‘an icon of the femininity associated with the middle reaches of contemporary Western societies.’ In a book ‘’cyborgs and Barbie dolls’’ the author states ‘In my mind, Barbie acts a ‘bridging’ figure between debates surrounding gender and representation, and post human, post-gender figurations because she displays aspects of both the modern and postmodern cultural condition.’
The experiences of having a Barbie from childhood leaves conviction in the subconscious minds of young girls; femininity should look perfect, having thin legs is important and inherent factor providing happiness and success in life. Today’s socio-cultural environment if filled with images of beautiful, slim females, leading to excessive dissatisfaction with the outward appearance among young girls. Females compare themselves with the image created by the media, which is perception of sliminess as a necessity of being happy and successful woman, like Barbie is, thanks to her attributes of inhumanly slim shaped body.
Starting from childhood, girls are introduced to the body ideals by playing with Barbie; later in life they are surrounded by fashion magazines and mass media, all suggesting that the key to be a successful woman is necessary to have a perfect, thin body. In the book ‘Unbearable weight’, author Susan Bordo argues that’ anorexia and bulimia (as mass phenomena, not as the isolated cases that have been reported throughout history) have been culturally produced’ For years, the media have been blamed for the rise in eating disorders, and similar to Barbie, they promote unhealthy thin models as ideals of femininity. Similarly, social culture is steeped with supposition that the only one way to be beautiful, is to be thin.
Mary Rogers, in her book ‘The Barbie culture’ states that ‘Barbie has a great deal to show us about who we are, who we want to be, and who we fear we might be or might become. ‘ Exaggerated worrying about weight, and slim body shape, foster to eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, which leads to annihilation of body. The desire for perfection doesn’t image an intended effect, but rather a look of poverty and sickness. In a nutshell attenuated bodily ideal should not be seen as an embodiment of perfection.
The conviction and image of a perfect femininity rooted in females in childhood keeps evolving throughout teenage years; during this time, young girls are surrounded by ”perfect” thin mannequins in clothing shops and images of unrealistically thin females in fashion magazines. This can raise body concerns among susceptible teens and make them feel inadequate. The pressure and conviction of femininity rooted in childhood by experiencing Barbie are the main factors causing body dissatisfactions and eating disorders among young girls. Beside of all this negative impact of Barbie, there is also positive side of the power of her image- she is embodiment of successful woman, and it can be motivating factor for young girls.