When I was a little girl, one of my favorite pastimes, like most little girls I assume, was playing with my sizable collection of the classic, iconic dolls we’ve come to know and love as Barbie. I’d spend hours combing those luscious masses of bleached blonde hair, changing outfits and accessorizing them, prepping them for newest scenario I’d imagined in my head.
I can only speak from personal experience, but I never once thought to myself, how come my waist isn’t as tiny as Barbie’s? Why am I not that tall? Why is her chest so big and mine so small? None of my friends looked anything like her, nor did any of the women I knew personally or saw on the street everyday.
When I heard the news that Mattel is releasing a new, diversified line of the iconic doll, with seven new skin colors and three new body types (petite, tall, and curvy), my reaction was mixed. On the one hand, I probably would have loved this as a child. It got pretty old pretty quick having ten dolls that all looked alike. But when I read about what caused this push for diversification, when I read all the social media comments about how these changes can positively affect little girls’ self-esteem, I thought to myself, this probably isn’t the direction we should be taking.
When I was a little girl, I struggled with self-esteem. Not so much in terms of my body, though. That came later as a teenager, I suppose. I was the quiet kid. I was the kid who never raised her hand in class, the kid who got taken advantage of a lot because she’d never speak up or stand up for herself. Looking back on it now, I had no sense of self-worth because I felt that I wasn’t particularly good at anything. I had no value. I was an average student that got A’s and B’s. I never joined any groups or extracurricular activities. I went to school, came home, and isolated myself from the world everyday.
However, when I finally got to my freshman year of high school, my perspective of myself shifted. After handing in a few writing assignments, my English teacher, Ms. Santo, realized I had a knack for writing. After receiving a consistent stream of A’s and having a few of my essays read aloud to the whole class, my self-esteem soared.
At the end of the year, I was ecstatic when Ms. Santo moved to have me placed in an advanced English class the following year.
The point I’m trying to make is that we, as women, can’t look to images from the media to achieve a sense of validation and self-worth, and in turn, we need to teach our young girls this as well, starting at a very early age. The coddling and consistent blaming of the media for why young girls’ self-esteem has reached an all-time low has got to stop.
We cannot keep giving the media and toy companies like Mattel, which only exist to sell things and make a profit, the power to dictate how we view ourselves and others. It’s not the media’s responsibility to show us the images we want to see to make ourselves feel validated and special; its responsibility is to sell and make a profit.
As a society, we need to start taking responsibility for how we choose to view the media and the images it bombards us with everyday. As women, we can choose to look at the cover of a Sports Illustrated magazine and think to ourselves, “I’m so unattractive and worthless because I don’t have this model’s toned thighs and abs, let me feel bad about myself and forget all the other positive qualities I do have.”
Or, we can think to ourselves, “Here’s another model trying to sell me a magazine. I don’t look exactly like her, but it’s not really important. I have talents beyond just looking hot for a magazine cover.”
We have more power than we think. It’s not always easy, but if we set this example, young girls will follow suit.
I recently read in a Time Magazine article that Evelyn Mazzocco, the head of the Barbie brand, “routinely receives hate mail and even death threats over Barbie’s body.” Please. Let’s stop pointing the finger at Barbie and take a deeper look at what we’re doing or not doing to foster a healthy sense of self-image in today’s generation of young girls.
Leave Barbie alone to do what she does best: shop and hang out with Ken.