Barbie and Body Image – Is the Tide Turning?

barbie-losing-appeal Mattel, the maker of world-dominating dolly Barbie, have released new figures which show that Barbie’s sales have dropped 15% worldwide over the last quarter. Sales have fallen in eight of the last ten quarters says the Telegraph, possibly putting Barbie’s best days behind it.

There is loads of research backing up Mattel’s insistence that Barbie was never meant to look realistic and that Barbie is just a dolly that girls like to play with. There’s even more research which says Barbie’s size and shape influences – negatively – girls’ self-esteem and body image.

There are many many discussions about Barbie, from women making themselves over with cosmetic surgery so they look like the doll, to life-size representations of it which show that clearly it was never based on real women!

Body-Conscious Barbie

Thing is, Barbie’s clothing has always been designed to show off its body. Doctor, astronaut or even roller-skating, the emphasis on the clothing design has always been on showing lots of leg, lots of chest and making sure the tiny waist was emphasised.

Yes yes I know – that’s how you have to make dolls’ clothes, so that they don’t fall off. Well – there are many other kinds of doll that don’t have the uber-form-fitting shortie styles that Barbie is famous for, and their clothing stays put just fine. So I don’t buy that argument at all!

I do think though that a lot of our automatic programming IS influenced by the body-consciousness of Barbie, I’ve written about that before.

And just maybe all the research and all the conversations and all the activism are making mums think twice about automatically buying a Barbie for their daughters.

And maybe just maybe Mattel will now pull their heads out of the sand, pay attention to the research they haven’t funded and give Barbie a makeover that convinces mothers Mattel actually cares about the influence their icon has had on generations of girls.

They’ve really done some dumb things in the last year that’s clearly shown they don’t get it – like the Barbie issue of Sports Illustrated. Yes really.

No wonder sales have fallen!

The recent creation of Entrepreneur Barbie hasn’t improved things, because – a bit like saying beauty pageants are about achievements and not looks – the problem isn’t the careers, it’s the body-as-object stuff that’s really the problem!

But what to do if you still have that idealised version of a female shape embedded deeply in your own subconscious mind, firmly programmed by years of playing with Barbie and seeing that influence everywhere in the world?

You can change it

body-bliss-breakthrough Early programming is just early programming – it will keep running the show as long as you’re not aware of it but you can change it!

Once you are aware of it, or think there might be something to it, you can breakthrough that programming to consciously choose your beliefs about your body and your value as a woman, even if you don’t look have that ideal Barbie-like beauty.

The first part of the Body Bliss Breakthrough program takes a deep dive into your body beliefs and uses a beautiful and effective process to let you transform the old and consciously choose the new.

Take a look at the program here, I promise you it will change your life!


  1. valleycat1 on July 23, 2014 at 2:14 am

    Maybe Barbie has just finally over-saturated the market, and adults are overreacting or taking her a lot more seriously than children would if we simply treated her and her extensive product line as another toy.

    I was around 7 years old when Barbie first hit the toy aisles, and I remember that the toy was targeted toward what is now called the tween crowd and my friends and I were deemed too young for one, by our parents. Girls my age played with baby dolls. I was probably 10 before I owned a Barbie, Ken, Marge. I remember one of my parents’ bigger objections was all the accessories, new wardrobe, and continual onslaught of related products Mattel marketed. And my older brother was supremely embarrassed when we left Barbie out unclothed.

    But, having had many years of experience playing with dolls and other make-believe, I merely saw her as that. I do not think I ever imagined her as a role model or anything to do with real life, but just as another toy representing a fantasy world. Her ‘dream house’ was just a doll house, though a really cool one! Her dream car was a pink fantasy. My daughter was not much for playing with dolls other than some stuffed animals. My granddaughter is even less interested in dolls.

    I would say that part of the loss of market share by Barbie is more about the trend toward young girls having a lot more options in what play activities are ‘acceptable’ and the kinds of activities they see their moms and other adult women doing – they do not just hang around the house playing house any more (moms or their children!). Remembering my past enjoyment of playing with dolls, I have shopped recently for my very young granddaughter and the dolls share of the toy aisles is greatly diminished overall, and most of those are specific product lines, not more generic ‘baby dolls’ or ‘fashion dolls.’

    • Sandy Ross on July 23, 2014 at 7:29 am

      That’s a really good point!

      As a side note, I was reading a new Terry Pratchett Discworld yesterday (he’s SO funny!) and in one scene the characters were looking at an item which had a long and mysterious history including not knowing who had made it. One of the characters remarked “Well you know it wasn’t made by a girl aged 7 – 11”. “Why do you say that?”asked another. “Because it’s not pink,” said the character.

      To me there’s no doubt at all that Barbie has also driven the “pink is for girls” thing. Interestingly when a London store introduced gendered items for babies in the late 1880s, pink was for boys, blue for girls. It was just someone’s opinion to start with ๐Ÿ™‚

      I think a lot of the trend about girls having more choices too is that mothers are more conscious about what they offer their girls – my own daughters didn’t get a barbie until they were nearly 10, then it was a gift from a friend! So I do come from a biased perspective, I’ve always had a less-gendered approach ๐Ÿ™‚

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