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  • Dina Cohen

The Day My Daughter Got a Barbie Doll

Not my idea, as you might've predicted. But now that Barbie was here, I figured I might as well make the most of it and turn her into a teaching tool. There's actually quite a lot to learn from Barbie.

1) Real Women Don't Look Like This.

Barbie does not represent an actual female figure. As a college student, Galia Slayen decided to make a life-size Barbie in order to demonstrate how unrealistic standards affect women's self-image." The results were anything but lifelike. Galia wrote, "If Barbie were an actual woman, she would be 5'9" tall, have a 39" bust, an 18" waist, 33" hips and a size 3 shoe... she'd have to walk on all fours due to her proportions." Not everything we see out in the world depicts reality. We need to question what we see.

2) If Real Women Were This Thin, They Wouldn't Be Healthy.

Aside from being disproportionate, Barbie is also much thinner than would be healthy. Galia, who has struggled with anorexia, pointed out that Barbie's BMI would meet eating disorder criteria. Barbie would be starving and would likely have to be hospitalized. Not everything we see in the world is healthy. A healthy body is the one you have when you are eating well and have a healthy lifestyle, and it may look very far from Barbie's.

3) There's a Reason Barbie Looks Like This.

The promotion of impossible standards means that no woman can ever be happy as long as she's comparing herself to these standards. If a real body isn't good enough, then even a supermodel will stil be trying ever harder - which translates into buying more products and services aimed at weight loss and "body improvement". This ensures that many, many dollars steadily flow into the diet and beauty industries. We don't have to fall for it. Health and happiness result from treating your body well rather than holding it up for inspection.

4) A Body is An Instrument, Not Just an Ornament.

Here is where Barbie gets points. She has had over 200 careers ranging from teacher to surgeon to paratrooper to beekeeper. My little girl's Barbie is a pediatric nurse. There is more to life than looking pretty, and I'm grateful that at least Barbie has something else to do other than try on clothes.

5) We Can't Avoid Diet Culture; We Have to Work With It.

Playing with dolls is fun, and Barbies are fun too. While I'd prefer my children play with more realistic-looking dolls, the fact is that I can't shelter them forever. She'd come across one eventually, and to be honest, I quite enjoyed my Barbies as a kid. Most little girls would love all the pretty clothes and accesories! I want her to have a good time but also have the skills to differentiate between what's real and what's imaginary, and what's worth pursuing and what's worth leaving aside. Although we might wish it were different, the world is full of unhealthy influences, and since we can't raise our children (or keep ourselves) in a bubble, we need to teach them to think for themselves so that they don't get sucked in.

Now my kid knows that Barbies don't look like real people, bodies come in different shapes and sizes, some people might think a certain size is better but we don't believe that because bodies just "are", we need to listen to our bodies, bodies can do all kinds of things, which is pretty cool, and that information about this kind of thing should come from her mom. Plus she has new toy. So, Barbie, even if I didn't invite you, you've earned your keep.

Not bad, Barbie.

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