She’s a doctor, a pilot, and more recently a whimsical island princess. She’s also a hazard to little girls.
Since her debut to the world in 1959, Barbie has been creating quite a commotion with her unachievable proportions. She has been marketed to little girls as the doll that can do it all: be a doctor and look fabulous while doing it.
Simultaneously, the doll we’ve all come to know and love has also come to be a sexual icon. With the large bust, cinched waist and legs for days, Barbie sends a message to its young owners that this is what young women are supposed to look like.
Mattel, Inc., the creators of Barbie, may not have predicted all the negative effects their precious doll would have on generations of girls all over the world.
Barbie originally came to life from the inspiration of Ruth Handler and her idea of having a doll in which “girls could play out their dreams,” as it says in Mattel’s history of the doll on their website.
What Handler, or other executives at Mattel, may not have known is while little girls play with the plastic doll their beliefs on beauty and body image are being molded to inevitably have a destructive effect on them in the future.
The awareness of the harmful psychological effects of Barbie is nothing new in the United States. The subject is now on the minds of Iranian political officials as well.
On April 28, the Associated Press reported that an Iranian judiciary official deemed the perky blonde piece of plastic “destructive” to the Iranian culture.
The Iranian government has not made the importing of Western toys illegal. However, they discourage it in order to protect their constituents from, what Prosecutor General Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabadi said in a letter to Vice President Parviz Davoudi, the “danger” of Western toys, as said in the article.
The Iranian culture has never been known for their acceptance of sexually charged images, especially one targeted to children. With women in their country forced to wear head scarves to cover every strand of hair, having a Western image invade their country and influence the younger generation is not sitting well with the government.
It seems only fitting that they would want to intervene and attempt to stop the importing of Barbie and other Western toys they deem to be “destructive.”
As justifiable as the Iranian government could make their intervention to stop the importing of Western toys, what about a country like the United States where sex is part of every aspect of our culture?
The misrepresentation of what a woman’s body should look like was molded into a plastic doll back in 1959 and continues to be one of the first images little girls are subjected to. Most parents do not realize that when they buy their daughter a Barbie they are handing them a false reality. To many people Barbie is just a toy, and to some she is a weapon of mass destruction of female body image.
Before girls begin reading teen magazines and watching MTV, they play with their Barbie dolls. It is thanks to the countless hours spent with the plastic phenomenon and her sidekicks that teenage girls have issues with body image in this country.
As much as Mattel would like to stress that Barbie stands for an image of independence and showing girls they can do whatever they set their minds to, at the end of the day the only image that stays in people’s minds is of Barbie in a scantly clad outfit living a glamorous life doing a fabulous job, all with the perfect dream house and perfect Ken doll.
In order to stop the vicious psychological cycle, should the U.S. contemplate placing a ban on a pop culture phenomenon? The answer to that question would be a definite no. Banning the doll will not keep people from getting their hands on it, whether it is in this country or in Iran.
The best way to counter attack the harmful effects of Barbie is to educate girls on the subject of body image at an early age, and most importantly, to stress that she is just a doll and not a real person. In addition, Mattel would need to do their part and change the main image of Barbie that is projected into the minds of little girls. That way we will be on the path toward getting out of the destructive zone.