Women and Body Dysmorphia

In case you haven’t been following the story in the news of Barbie, Mattel has been losing market shares to other dolls, such as Elsa from the movie, Frozen, who sings “Let It Go”.  An interesting fact for me, that was quoted in the February issue of Time Magazine, was that Barbie was introduced in 1959 at the New York Toy Fair. Her body was based on a German doll named Lilli, a prostitute gag gift handed out at bachelor parties. Barbie has run into a great deal of controversy over the years, especially when she said “Math class is tough.” Mattel argues that Barbie was liberated, being a business woman in 1963, an astronaut in 1965, and a surgeon in 1973.

Mattel has finally decided that Barbie should have some different body types: original, petite, tall, and curvy. When introducing the new Barbie Mattel had a focus group of little girls. When they played with the Barbie they did not call curvy Barbie “fat” in front of the adults, but when left alone, they did use the “f” word.

barbie time


Why am I writing this blog? Because, as an adult woman, who often works with teens and young adult women with body image issues and disordered eating, I can tell you that most women I know are not very satisfied with the way they look in the mirror. Do any of these negative feelings and thoughts come from our early relationship with our Barbies? So many women spend a great deal of time obsessing about calories, food, and dieting. A book recommended to me by a clinic specializing in working with girls and women with disorder eating is called Intuitive Eating. One of the main points of the book is that we should be more aware during the day of how hungry we are and if we are eating to self soothe emotions or are we really hungry? Many women have become obsessed that they do not have an awareness of when they are physiologically hungry versus just eating out of boredom or stress.

Hillary at our office says, “As a young girl I had a Barbie closet at my house. Barbie had a great impact on me and taught me how to play well with others. I’m looking forward to seeing Barbie evolve for my future daughter to play with one day.”

Whatever happens with Barbie, we can say that we ALL need to be very aware of how our subtle judgements of women’s body types can have a HUGE impact on young girls. Many girls go through a very common and predictable pre-puberty stage that may include putting on a little weight. Women who have children also need to be patient as they gradually and healthily lose the extra weight from carrying a baby. We applaud Mattel making this change and hope all of us can learn to be kinder and friendlier to our bodies.

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