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Running head: Barbie Effect

Barbie Effect
Cristina Rodriguez
14-8017
Professor Berrido Torres

Universidad Iberoamericana
17 October 2013

Barbie Effect

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Abstract

In this Essay I will speak about the effect of Mattel, Inc. Barbie doll. Barbies impact on little
girls and society in general will be proved through statistics and experiments from different
renown psychologists, as well as essays and newspaper articles.

Barbie Effect

Imagine the perfect woman; 6 feet tall, weighs 110 pounds, blonde, blue eyes, small
waist. Shes every mans dream. Sound familiar? I am referring, in part, to the most beloved of
dolls, Barbie. In the New Oxford Dictionary, Barbie is defined as a doll representing a
conventionally attractive young woman. In reality, she is perhaps the most popular toy for girls
around the world. A 2004 study showed that the average 3 to ten year old girl owns eight Barbie.
(Munger, 2006) However, even though Barbie is often considered a rite of passage for many girls
who look up to her, Barbie has a negative influence on young girls and makes them selfconscious about their physical appearance because of her unrealistic body features. Psychologists
describe the impact of this phenomenon as the "Barbie Effect."
Ruth Handler created Barbie in 1959. The creator made this doll as a role model for her
own daughter Barbara. She was the first doll made for children that was created with an adult
body. In the book Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World's Most Famous Doll and the Woman
Who Created Her (Gerber, 2009), Handler indicates that girls dream about becoming adults, and
the point of Barbie was that girls could project their fantasy, who they wanted to be, with this
doll. My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything
she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices. 1 (Gerber,
2009) In fact, in my opinion, it can be said that the doll may have actually helped women to start
practicing roles, other than being a mother, since before her all dolls were baby dolls. In this
same track of female empowerment, Barbie provides the sense that a girl can do anything a boy
can. For example, she has many careers that may serve as an inspiration for little girls; there is
astronaut Barbie, Race Car Barbie, Doctor Barbie, Architect Barbie, Veterinary Barbie, etc.
Nonetheless, the fascinating dolls and all of its inspirational careers do not necessarily
make Barbie a good role model. Her physical appearance has made this doll very detrimental for
girls self esteem. Three women, Helga Dittmar, Emma Halliwell and Suzanne Ive, took the first

Barbie Effect

steps to study and identify body worries in little girls. Their experiment is called Does Barbie
Make Girls Want to Be Thin? The Effect of Experimental Exposure to Images of Dolls on the
Body Image of 5- to 8-Year-Old Girls. In their experiment, a total of 162 girls, from ages 5 to
age 8, were exposed to images of either Barbie Dolls, Emme dolls (U.S. size 16), or no dolls
(baseline control) and then completed assessments of body image." (Dittmar, Halliwell, & Ive,
2006) The experiment resulted in very shocking findings. It turns out that the girls who had been
exposed to the image of Barbie had a higher body dissatisfaction level than those with the image
featuring Emme, specifically amongst the younger girls. The control group showed almost no
changes between the body they have and the body they wish they had These results also show
something even more frightening, the pressure to be thin can be seen among girls as young as six
years old. (Dittmar, Halliwell, & Ive, 2006) In fact, based on the statistics of the National
Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, four out of five 10-year-olds say that
they're afraid of being fat. 42% of girls in first through third grade wish they were thinner. And,
half of girls aged 9 or 10 claim that they feel better about themselves when they're dieting
(Munger, 2006). So, as a result, it can be concluded that the body represented by this popular doll
is directly affecting the way childrens see themselves, as well as their eating habits.
The unexpected finding of this same study was that a real-sized doll like Emme had the
opposite intended effects on older girls. Girls over the age of seven presented great
dissatisfaction with their body and saw Emmes body weight or type as one they wanted to
avoid. Therefore, if the thinness ideal body has already been internalized, a fuller body may
represent a possible feared self. (Dittmar, Halliwell, & Ive, 2006) Based on this, it can be
concluded that if Barbies influence has already been set in a girls mind, it can be hard to
change.

Barbie Effect

If Barbie were an actual woman, she would be 5'9" tall, have a 39" bust, an 18" waist, 33"
hips and a size 3 shoe, she likely would not menstruate... she'd have to walk on all fours due to
her proportions. (Katz, 2001) However, apparently her looks as a doll are enough to go under
the knife and spent thousands of dollars in plastic surgery just to achieve what is called the
Barbie look. "I looked at a Barbie doll when I was 6 and said, 'This is what I want to look
like, says Cindy Jackson, in an interview by Rebecca Leung in 2009. Jackson has had two nose
jobs, four facelifts, a chin reduction and more, a total of 20 surgeries, in order to achieve that
Barbie look she dreamed of. In 2010, reality T.V. Star Heidi Montag endured 10 plastic surgeries
in one day when she was only 23-years-old. Montag has stated on many occasions that she just
wanted to look like Barbie." (Fox News, 2010) These examples demonstrate ways in which the
influence of Barbie might make people go to extremes in order to get the ideal look.
In conclusion, Barbie is a very popular doll among little girls that has proven to have a
big impact on society. Her impact in a way is really good, since it helps children visualize
college and their lives as adult, it inspires them to dream big and believe their dreams might
come true. Experiments and studies, however, have attributed girls low self-esteem problems
and eating disorders in great part to this Mattel, Inc. toy. In addition, peoples obsession with
Barbies looks has driven them to go through multiple surgeries to look like her. Like social
media, the toys with which children play have a direct effect on their lives. To conclude, Barbie
is considered to do more harm than good to the small girls who play with them. It is an unhealthy
matter and has immediate effects on a girls self-esteem.

Barbie Effect

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References

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Barbie Effect

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