Barbie's controversies
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Bild-Lilli, Barbie's predecessor

Barbie's Introduction

Barbie's early history

Barbie's biography

Barbie the doll

Barbie's Manufacturers Markings

Barbie's friends and relatives

Ethnic Barbie's

Barbie's fashion

Barbie through the ages, 1959 - 2009

Barbie luxury doll to massproduction

Barbie as collectors object

Silkstone Barbie doll

How to care Barbie's head?

How to care Barbie's body?

How to care Barbie's clothes?

Barbie versus Bratz

Dolls of the My Scene-line

The five different collector types

Glossary of Abbreviations


  Already the first Barbie doll was criticized that she promotes an unrealistic idea of body image
(39-18-33 inches or 29-46-84 cm) which corresponded rather to the male fantasy instead to the
actual measurements of a normal young woman. Thus the self-confidence of girls could suffer
more than it would encourage them.
Thus, Jack Ryan, the sixth husband of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, redesigned the doll.
The chest width was reduced while the waist slightly widened
(however even these new measurements did not match the reality, but the critics ceased).

1991 a doll named "Happy to be Me" was brought in the shelves by another manufacturer,
her proportions looked more realistic, but she did not sell and disappeared after a few Years
from the market. Repeatedly Barbie’s figure was blamed to lead to eating disturbances and
girls who attempt to emulate her will become anorexic. Barbie-dolls could become a
bad example for young girls. According to a British research,of the University of Sussex,
the blonde toy-dolls with their ultra narrow waist suggest children to be a role model,
as a result even small girls will be dissatisfied with their own bodies,reported the Sunday Times.

For this study pychologist Helga Dittmar showed pictures of different dolls to  200 girls,
aged from five to eight Years – among them were Barbies and other dolls with more
natural proportions. At the end the children had been interviewed how they liked their own bodies.
And to the girls in the  «Barbie-Group» the dissatisfaction was notably higher.

A speaker of the Barbie-manufacturer: Mattel defended their dolls: «Barbie is not created to
scale with the human body. Barbie allows every girl to dream about the adult world and
that they can be whatever they wish», he quoted. The actual reason for this might be
the unnatural beauty ideals of the western world, which are not caused by the doll,
but simply reflect a logical symptom.

Feminist groups regularely criticized Barbie, claiming she would represent a status symbol
of a traditional female image and animate women for noncritic consuming.
Although Ruth Handler planned the doll as an alternative to all the babydolls that were almost
exclusively sold in the fifties, which were intended to train the young girls for their mother role.

 Barbie was first sold wearing only a swimming suit; the children should develop the
dolls personality by themselves. Therefore Barbie has been offered different wardrobes
and work clothing every Year; 1961 even a doctoral hat and a cassock.
Following Ruth Handler’s retirement from Mattel (1973) the policy was changed to set up
the dolls for specific themes like: Pop culture, animal love or sports, they were dressed
accordingly and sold with all suitable accessories. The focal points are eversince trivial
themes, like make up, hairstyles and fashion designs, and therefore the doll became
a symbol fort the superficiality of today’s value-conscious society. As always Barbie is a
still a working woman without husband and children, but with her own house and
a car - quite different to her friend Midge - Mattel never allowed Barbie to get married!

Barbie’s popularity ensures that her effect on the play of Western children attracts
a high degree of scrutinity. The children consider this doll a role model and will
attempt to emulate her.

....In September 2003 Saudi-Arabia outlawed the sale of Barbie-dolls, saying that she did not conform to the ideals of Islam. The committee fort he propagation of virtue and prevention of vice stated „Jewish Barbie dolls, with their revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence to the perverted west. Let us beware of her dangers and be careful.“ In the Middle Eastern countries there is an alternative doll called Fulla which is similar to Barbie but designed to be more acceptable to an Islamic market. Fulla is not made by Mattel Corporation, and Barbie is still available in other, less strict Middle Eastern countries including Egypt. In Iran Sara and Dara dolls are available as an alternative to Barbie.

The word Barbie has come to be used as a derogatory slang term for a girl or woman who is considered shallow, most notably in the 1997 Pop song Barbie Girl (see Parodies and lawsuits below).

In July 1992 Mattel released Teen Talk Barbie, which spoke a number of phrases including „Will we ever have enough clothes?“, “I love shopping!“, and „Wanna have a pizza party?“ Each doll was programmed to say four out of 270 possible phrases, so that no two dolls were likely to be the same. One of the most common criticisms of Barbie ist that she promotes an unrealistic idea of body image for a young woman, leading to a risk that girls who attempt to emulate her will become anorexic.

According to research of the University Central Hospital in Helsinki, Finland, she would lack the 17 to 22 percent body fat required for a woman to menstruate. In 1965 Slumber party Barbie came with a book entitled  How to lose weight which advised: „don’t eat.“ The doll also came with pink bathroom scales reading 110lbs, which would be around 35lbs underweight for a woman 5 feet 9 inches tall. In 1997 Barbie’s body mold was redesigned and given a wider waist, with Mattel saying only: that this would make the doll better suited to contemporary fashion designs.

Oreo Fun Barbie in 1997 became controversial due to a negative interpretation of the doll’s name. At that time Mattel joined forces with Nabisco to launch a cross-promotion of Barbie with Oreo Cookies. As it had become a custom, Mattel manufactured both a white and a black version. Critics argued that in the African American community Oreo is a derogatory term meaning that the person is „black on the outside and white on the inside,“ like the chocolate sandwich cookie itself. The doll was unsuccessful and Mattel recalled the unsold stock, making it sought after by collectors.

„Colored Francie“ made her debut in 1967, and she is sometimes described as the first African American Barbie doll. However, she was produced using the existing head molds for the white  Francie doll and lacked African characteristics other than a dark skin. The first African American doll in the Barbie range is usually regarded as Christie, who made her debut in 1968. Black Barbie and Hispanic Barbie were launched in 1980.

In May 1997 Mattel introduced Share a Smile Becky, a doll in a pink wheelchair.Kjersti Johnson, a 17-Year-old high school student in Tacoma, Washington with cerebral palsy, pointed out that the doll would not fit in the elevator of Barbie’s $ 100 Dream house. Mattel announced that it would redesign the house in the future to accommodate the doll.

In March 2000 stories appeared in the media claiming that the hard vinyl used in vintage Barbie dolls could leak toxic chemicals, causing danger to children playing with them. The claim was rejected as false by technical experts. A modern Barbie doll has a body made from ABS plastic, while the head is made from soft PVC.

In December 2005 Dr. Agnes Nairn at the Universty of Bath in England published research suggesting that girls often go through a stage where they hate their Barbie dolls and subject them to a range of punishments, including decapitation and placing them into a microwave oven. Dr. Nairn said: „ It’s as though disavowing Barbie is a rite of passage and a rejection of their past.“

In March 2009, West Virginia Delegate Jeff Eldridge introduced a bill to „ban the sale of barbie dolls and other dolls that influence girls to be beautiful“ within the state of West Virginia. The bill does not provide a punishment for violation, and Delegate Eldridge admited that the bill «doesn’t have a lot of theeth.»

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