BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
Barbie is finally going to look more real, which I'm all about. Her unrealistic body type has often been a point of contention for many critics over the years. And really, who can blame them? Mattel just announced in TIME magazine that Barbie will now come in three new body shapes: "petite," "tall," and "curvy," which is great, but also problematic considering that's a gross oversimplification. She also has seven new skin tones, because you know, real people aren't all the same skin color.
Mattel, according to their website, wants to illustrate more feminist ideals:
"By introducing more variety into the line, Barbie is offering girls choices that are better reflective of the world they see today. The new 2016 Barbie Fashionistas collection includes 4 body types, 7 skin tones, 18 eye colors, 18 hairstyles, and countless on-trend fashions and accessories."
The ugly fact of the matter is it's still seen as a massive risk for the company (though, it's super sad we live in a world where being diverse is a risk), since young kids by age 6 are already conditioned to like a certain silhouette in their dolls, according to TIME.
Evelyn Mazzocco, head of the Barbie brand, stated:
"I do all kinds of things for my kids that they don’t like or understand, from telling them to do their homework to eating their vegetables. This is very similar. It’s my responsibility to make sure that they have inclusivity in their lives even if it doesn’t register for them."
Of course, the new curvy doll isn't necessarily that curvy--which some have already stated in the focus groups run by Mattel. One mom commented: "I wish that she were curvier." It's also important to note that while it's amazing Mattel is trying, women's bodies are shaped much differently than the ol'hourglass shape we idolize in the media. I don't have to tell you that women come in all shapes and sizes. Or don't all want to wear heels and miniskirts.
As a feminist who grew up playing with Barbie dolls, I'm all about changing the early ideas we plant into our children's minds (whether intentional or not), and educate our girls that bodies are beautiful no matter what shape or skin color they come in. But, I don't think offering three different body shapes is enough, either. Or seven skin colors. Is it really that hard for Barbie to sell customizable dolls? Or just have more options?
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015) & Marys of the Sea (forthcoming 2016, ELJ Publications). Her chapbook XENOS is forthcoming from Imaginary Friend Press in 2016. She received her MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the chief editor for Luna Luna Magazine.