04 Nov Bye-Bye Barbie by Bernice Ho
Dear my five-year old self, next time you look at your Barbie doll, pick it up, walk outside, and burn it. Burn it until you see her plastic face melt into gooey goops onto your pretty dress, until her scalp becomes a burial ground for her remaining strands of dirty and jaundiced hair, until her petite waist shrinks and diminishes in the palms of your hands, until all that remains is her 5 millimetre platforms that you must, MUST, dump.
It is possible that I am being too disrespectful and inconsiderate to our culture’s iconic doll, however, this doll is the embodiment of our society’s depravity and obsession to what is deemed beautiful, an emphasis on deemed. What is beautiful? That has and always is the question, posed in 1959 when society first gave birth to Barbie. For half a century, we have breathed life into her, nurtured her, spoiled her, and placed her on the highest pedestal there is. She IS “beautiful.” For girls all around the world, she is a best friend but even more, a sample size of what they need to be. Girls spend endless afternoons, letting their imagination run free as they and Barbie go to the mall, hang out with friends, meet the perfect boy— living the hedonistic life. They know that whenever they are melancholy, all they need to do is work towards Barbie’s level of perfection.
This is what we have taught girls of all generations. The amount of youth continuing to bring Barbie home follows the line of individuals who are swept away by Barbie’s incredible body features, are brainwashed to believe that her body is what they want to call their own. In the years to come after childhood to the stages of puberty, individuals are left disappointed and ashamed of themselves. Endless nights of “Why do I not look like her?” “Why can’t my features look perfect?”. Prayers and prayers are said, but never an answer. An answer does not exist because, cheesy as it is, your features are who you are, and a world full of Barbie look-alikes are not only boring but even terrifying to think of. Society needs to recall the dolls and put forth a model of self positivity.
Isn’t it ironic that Barbie was first created as a token of a mother’s love for her daughter? She now acts as a mockery to millions of females around the world, who are taunted by Barbie’s immeasurable features, and find themselves gasping for air trying to catch up to Barbie’s latest slim down. The original Barbie stood tall with a 36-inch bust paired with a minuscule 18–inch waist. Over the course of a century, Mattel acknowledges the change for Barbie to embody a more realistic female figure, redesigning the doll’s figure by making her waist wider and her chest smaller. Still, Mattel’s Barbie never came close to the realistic proportions of a typical woman’s body.
Thus, we hear all about these women who try to compensate with these unfavourable odds and force themselves to live up to a Barbie-famous figure. There are always the latest bingeing techniques, magic pills you can take, and all sorts of Weight Watchers to turn a size 6 into a size 0. In Hollywood today, actresses are told if they do not have a certain look they will not get the role, while society gives the impression that girls will only be worthy of a relationship if they meet certain standards. Even the human Barbie, 23- year old Valerie Lukyanova, decided to stay true to her name by choosing not to eat or drink, living solely off of light and air in order to keep her Barbie-like body intact.
Barbie may be a puppet behind the worldwide standards for women, but she is only a figurine. Women are real, and much more than measurements and proportions. Nobody should be condemned to a set list of requirements; everybody needs to write a list of their own. If our society continues on the path to redefining beautiful, more and more women can confidently showcase who they are, and that’s a sight I’d like to see. The battle has already begun as back in 2013 when Sophia Bush declared War on Urban Outfitters for choosing to sell a shirt that said, “Eat Less.” She decided to boycott the entire fashion outlet and created her own shirt that said,“0 is not a size” in order to fight back against the company’s attempt to make profit off of an “anorexia-promoting t-shirt.” In this year’s New York Fashion Week, size 14 model, Denise Bidot was the first ever plus-sized model to walk two “straight-size’ runway shows and could not have look more beautiful. If Barbie was meant to be a symbol of empowerment, then these women are true Barbies of our society.
Bodies should never feel like a guillotine instead of a gift. Cosmopolitian should bite the dust, because you do not need to fit into a mold to be loved. Out with the dolls and in with the Rebel Wilsons, Jennifer Lawrences— women who are truly so much more than a clothing size. It is time for women of our age to let go of all their insecurities and fully embrace self-confidence, because their bodies are not what is wrong. They must not be defined by the norms of society, by what the media plasters across screens, by Barbie-doll archetypes, by mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, not by anybody but s beholder. In the wise words of Toni Morrison, “Beauty was not something to behold; it was something one could do.” If women wholly believe that they are beautiful, from the outer corners of their skin, to the depths of their heart, the “was” will return to “is.”
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman