Sunday, February 28, 2016

I'm a Barbie Girl

As someone who always considered herself more of a tomboy than a girlie-girl, athletic pursuits such as a playing catch with my dad, riding my bike, kicking the soccer ball around and roller skating were my preferred activities growing up. Despite this, like millions of young girls, I also enjoyed playing with Barbie dolls: dressing them up into various clothes, putting on fashion shows, and pretending that she and Ken were going on dates. 

With increased knowledge around the "ideal" standard of beauty and its effects on body image and self-esteem over the last several decades, however, the view of Barbie has shifted. Do we really want our young girls idealizing a doll that, if she were real, would not be able to stand up? Do we want them to believe that they themselves should strive to look like Barbie when, in actuality, most women in the world are not blond, blue-eyed, super skinny or have milky-white skin? One might say, "Well, it's just a toy," which is true. Nevertheless, our kids are bombarded with photoshopped images in magazines and kids television shows and movies promoting an unrealistic version of "beauty," and one could argue that Barbie is encouraging the same. 

So, I was quite excited when one of our fabulous teachers, Ms. Ingrid Chen, showed me the new set of dolls created by Mattel that aims to incorporate a bit more diversity into the once compact Barbie world. Take a look below!
The new dolls come in petite, curvy and tall. They also offer more variation in skin tone, eye color and hair texture. While I truly appreciate Mattel's efforts, there is still a long way to go in helping our girls feel secure and happy with their bodies and all of the changes that accompany growing up. I also came across another doll, called the Lammily doll, that appears to be the first of its kind to showcase typical body proportions:

I especially enjoyed the video below, which depicted children's reactions to the doll's looks (including her body) and how the Lammily doll compares to the original Barbie. 

While it's easy to criticise Barbie, promoting positive body image starts at home and at school. I've compiled a basic list from articles I have found online, but here is the general consensus regarding tips for parents on how to help your child develop a positive body image:

  • Discuss the effects of puberty and how our bodies change as we age
  • Encourage your child to challenge/criticise media messages and to question what she reads and hears from her favourite movies and TV shows
  • Make health and fitness a family priority 
  • Reflect on your own body issues to ensure your issues aren't becoming your child's
  • Advocate for positive, balanced friendships where your daughter feels uplifted and supported
  • Place less emphasis on your child's physical appearance and focus on praising her efforts and achievements
Lastly, be a role model! Remember: kids are always watching, learning & adopting our views and behaviours. 

Thanks for reading!

~Ms. Carnright

Resources for this blog were found at the following websites:

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