Does Barbie make girls hate their bodies?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up and become a fashion and jewelry designer. I dabbled in both industries before I was old enough to wear a bra, even opening my own “jewelry store” called Dazzle by Leslie. I created – and sold, to various suckers compassionate family members – matching earrings, pins and barrettes made out of rhinestone-dusted Legos (yes) or splatter-painted wooden hearts of various sizes …again, bedazzled with fabulous faux crystals. Much like Adult Leslie, back then, there was no such thing as too much shiny. I even had my own sparkly business cards. (Of course, this was before email or Twitter, so customers had to contact me at my parents’ house on Ridgewood Lane.) Dazzle by Leslie was, plain and simple, a smash hit on the Buffalo Grove Bar Mitzvah circuit.

I also designed clothes for my Barbie dolls. I remember sewing my mom’s fabric scraps into deliriously glamorous outfits for my pint-sized babes – satin ball gowns, denim jumpsuits, gold lame bathing suits. And even though I was still a half-decade away from needing a bra, I recall having a hard time fitting Barbie’s enormous chest. As Joe Simpson once famously opined of his daughter, Jessica, “She’s got double D’s! You can’t cover those suckers up!” But while it was frustrating for this child designer to struggle to accommodate Barbie’s curves, I was also mesmerized by them. Barbie was everything I wasn’t: Thin, blonde, tan, blue-eyed, and a real woman.

But do I blame her for the eating disorder I developed in college? Only a tiny bit – about as much as you could fit into, say, her size 2 perma-pointed foot. It was Barbie, it was my dad’s Playboys, it was airbrushed ads (before I knew what airbrushing was),  Diet Coke and Snackwells, Howard Stern, MTV music videos, models on the runway, catcallers on the street, stories of liposuction and breast implants. It was genetics and family dynamics, nature and nurture.

I found myself assessing Barbie’s role as I flew to New York Sunday night for my Today Show appearance with – who else? – Barbie! Hamilton College student Galia Slayen constructed a life-sized Barbie doll by extrapolating her measurements to adult size. The result: A 6’0”, 11o-lb monstrosity, with Dolly Partonesque 39-18-33 proportions. Galia and I spoke with Natalie Morales (who actually interviewed me for my very first Today Show appearance, when my book, Locker Room Diaries debuted) Monday morning. Here’s what we had to say:

Watch Leslie go toe-to-toe with a life-sized Barbie doll on the Today Show.

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

Who’s Catcall Avenger Barbie? Locker Room Barbie?

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4 Responses to Does Barbie make girls hate their bodies?

  1. Tammy says:

    I’m so glad you’re addressing this. You made me think of my days as a “barbie designer”, and how I learned to sew and crochet with my grandma, making barbie’s clothes. As I got older, I was so unaware how much I was surrounded by body image stuff and how it impacted me-all of it together-I remember looking at teen beat magazines and wanting to look like the girls in them, and for a girl that already had a fragile image-it was detrimental. I now have a young daughter who has her first barbies, even though matel says Barbie is not based on a real person-they need to accept some responsibility. They cannot portray the new barbies with different careers and say it impacts young girls in a positive light, but then say the body part should have no impact! I find the idea a great one-career barbie, but she does not need to wear clothes so short and tight my daughter can barely get them on her! Having doctor friends I’ve also never seen those women head of to work looking like the doctor barbie….so how about they make it a little more realistic! Thank for writing-sorry for the long comment! :-)

  2. Leslie says:

    Tammy – as the inaugural’s commenter on my blog, you will always have a very special place in my heart!! But Barbie CAN’T be a doctor…don’t you remember her crying out, “Math is hard!”?

    I don’t have kids yet, but my thought is that, if i have a girl (or a boy) who wants to play with Barbie, that’s fine, but I’ll be sure to encourage a whole range of toys – trucks, arts and crafts, science stuff, etc, regardless of gender.

  3. Alyssa says:

    All I can say is that I’m SO glad my daughter is more interested in her plastic dinosaur than in Barbie!

    When I was a kid, my friends and I would throw our Barbies at the ceiling as hard as we could in order to see if she’d land in her pool. Fun times!

  4. Alyssa says:

    Oh, and LOVE the new site!

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