If Barbie Were Real…

negative body image barbie - is she really responsible

Galia and Her Life-Sized Barbie

I’ve written before about Negative Body Image Barbie based on University research, but here’s something I wish I’d done instead, or also.

But since someone else has done it, I can help spread the word and get more people thinking….

Barbie isn’t Real. But Ken Is?

In 1996 researchers at the University of South Australia scaled up both Barbie and Ken to adult human size.

They found that one in 50 men would have Ken’s proportions, whereas not 1 in 100,000 women would have anything close to Barbie’s:

  • if she were a real woman, she’d have such a small waist that she’d like only have room for half a liver and a few inches of intestines
  • her legs are 50% longer than her arms (average woman’s: 20%)
  • her neck is twice as long as an average woman’s, so she probably wouldn’t be able to hold up her head
  • she’d have a BMI of 16.24 (18.5 is the lowest end of ‘normal’) and likely not menstruate.

In other words she’d look so massively different to every other woman that she would be stared at wherever she went. And she’d tick a few boxes for a diagnosis of anorexia.

It also means that Barbie is 2000 times less realistic than Ken.

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But what does that actually look like? (also see the video below)

Galia Slayen with her life-size Barbie model

Galia Slayen is a 20 year old college student in the US. She’s also recovered from anorexia and as part of that journey in high school, she made a real-life size Barbie which made real the stunningly inaccurate shape of Barbie’s body.

And So What?

Galia’s Barbie helps us understand just how unreal Barbie actually is. Mattell, Barbie’s maker, have always said “she’s not scaled to human measurements “, and we’ve known that, of course.

But Barbie has ‘careers’ and boyfriends and friends and gorgeous clothes and houses and shoes and bags and makeup, all the things real people have. Of course, My Little Pony also has gorgeous locks, eyelashes to die for, and hairbrushes. None of it is real, but Barbie is certainly easier to relate to as a ‘real’ woman than is a My Little Pony. Anyway – Galia’s model has given us a way to open the conversation about just how much of a toy Barbie is, that’s not what real women look like, and not something to aspire to look like.

Should we have dolls that are more realistic shaped? We already do – the Emme doll, American Girl, even Australian Girl. They’re not exactly like Barbie and they cost more (Iwas going to say ‘nor as cheap’ but that didn’t sound right :)) but if you want an alternative, they’re out there. Meanwhile, this work of Galia’s helps you have the conversation with girls – and boys – and women – and maybe even blokes – about what’s real and what’s not.

Everything changes when we open our minds.

Good on you Galia 🙂

See what Galia had to say at the Huffington Post, and check out the story from msnbc:




  1. Natalie Hennessey on April 29, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I actually wrote an article about how we got from this – Imagine picture of Venus of Willendorf ( the full, voluptuous image of the creator goddeess) to this – picture barbie ( the toy). How far we have removed ourselves from our sacredness.

    • Sandy on April 29, 2011 at 12:51 pm

      @Natalie, for sure – so far away! I wonder sometimes if it’s about control, or just money… and some days I think one thing, some days another. I”ll go read your article 🙂

  2. Natalie Hennessey on May 1, 2011 at 3:17 am

    Yes, I think it is in our control in terms of educating our young women about this distortion, but it can be difficult with the influence of the media. I haven’t actually posted that article yet. Pop it up soon.

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