The Truth About Barbie: Galia Slayen’s Life-Size Barbie on The Today Show

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_S5BXoUL-8]

We all know her.  Barbie was part of many children’s childhoods.  She is often thought of an icon of beauty and a symbol of perfection. How could we ever measure up to the ideal she portrays?

Turns out, what molded into plastic perfection isn’t always what it seems. Galia Slayen created a life-size model of Barbie in order to prove that very point.  Standing at about 6 feet tall, with a 39” bust, 18” waist, and 33” hips, Galia used the stats published in Margo Maine’s fabulous book, Body Wars, to construct the details.

I was interviewed for this segment on The Today Show and here are some of the questions that were asked during that interview:

So does this mean we need to ban all Barbies? Not necessarily—after all, she is just a doll. ONE DOLL.  And that’s really the point here. Children need to be exposed to a multitude of dolls and toys that represent our values—and that depict different sizes, shapes, colors, and backgrounds so that our children see more than one image.  When we only show them one image, the scope of what is beautiful and acceptable is so narrow—many children can’t “fit into that mold” so they must therefore, squeeze themselves into the narrowed view of beauty even if it’s unattainable. The message becomes– compromise yourself in order to fit in—or feel bad about yourself if you don’t fit in.

Can a doll be the cause of an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are complicated. They are a compilation of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.  Barbie may be one trigger that can aid in the fruition of an underlying eating disorder—but no, Barbie is not the cause.

Do people put too much stake in this doll?

It’s important to also note that you can’t get sustained confidence from a doll—or from TV—or from a piece of clothing—confidence comes from within and is encouraged by those who love us, and know us…and who we trust…our parents, our good friends, our teachers, and our mentors. It is their words and actions that tell us that what is in depicted in the media or, in this case, on the toy shelves is really what we should all look like—or just one of the many ways a girl might look.

Is Galia Slayen’s life-size Barbie doll a good tool?

“As a pop-cultural icon, Barbie is often used as art to express one’s own personal opinions and views,” “Girls see female body images everywhere today and it’s critical that parents and caregivers provide perspective on what they are seeing. It’s important to remember that Barbie is a doll who stands 11.5 inches tall and weighs 7.25 ounces — she was never modeled on the proportions of a real person.” — a Mattel spokesperson said in an email to Today.

While we can’t blame Barbie for all of our body image woes, this life size model of Barbie is a terrific tool for both girls who’ve compared themselves to an inanimate plastic, blond, blue-eyed ideal for all too long and for their parents, who can say with confidence, that Barbie may be fun to play with but she is not real, she could never be real, and if she was real, she wouldn’t actually be so ideal after all.

What do you think of Galia’s Barbie project? (Interesting note- I happened to bump into Galia as I was walking out of 30 Rock after my interview. She was gracious, sweet, and so excited for her segment.  I applaud her for her project and bringing this conversation about– a great tool indeed!)

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7 replies
  1. Becky Henry
    Becky Henry says:

    Thank you Dr. Robyn for talking about this and sharing this important information: “They are a compilation of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.” I was disappointed that this wasn’t brought up in Galia’s interview. I was glad to hear Barbie isn’t being blamed as the “cause” of the eating disorder but wish that when the complexities were discussed that the genetic component had been mentioned. Thank you for completing the story.
    Becky Henry

  2. DrRobyn
    DrRobyn says:

    Great, Nancy! Thanks for getting in touch. I look forward to learning more about what you do. I talk about sibling bullying a bit in my book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It. Check out Chapter 3, in particular. Talk to you soon!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. [...] amerikanska studenten Galia Slayen, som tidigare varit sjuk i anorexia, har skapat en ”riktig” Barbie-docka, som ser ut [...]

  2. [...] Dr. Robyn Silverman was also interviewed for the segment. Check out her take on Barbie here. [...]

  3. [...] Dr. Robyn Silverman was also interviewed for the segment. Check out her take on Barbie here. [...]

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