life in plastic

Barbie debuts three less insanely proportioned body types

@Barbie/Twitter

The Barbie doll of your childhood, that plastic woman of tiny waist and improbable breasts, will be available in three new sizes starting today. Toy maker Mattel will sell tall, curvy, and petite versions of Barbie alongside the original model.

“Along with more overall diversity, we proudly add three new body types to our line,” the company’s website says. “This is just the beginning. From offering products that feature more empowering and imaginative roles to partnering with best in class role models, we believe in girls and their limitless potential. #YouCanBeAnything

Thanks so much Mattel! The company will also be introducing game developer Barbies, president and vice president Barbies, and spy squad Barbies but also, of course, fashionista Barbies. At the heart of the decision is the fact that, between Frozen dolls, Star Wars figures, Lego, and other less boring toys, this doll just might not be as cool as it used to be in decades past. Time magazine writes in an in-depth cover piece about the new Barbies:

Barbie sales plummeted 20% from 2012 to 2014 and continued to fall last year. A line of toys designed to teach girls to build, Lego Friends, helped boost Lego above Mattel as the biggest toy company in the world in 2014. Then Hasbro won the Disney Princess business away from Mattel, just as Elsa from the film Frozen dethroned Barbie as the most popular girl’s toy. The estimated revenue loss to Mattel from Elsa and the other Disney Princesses is $500 million.

Mattel is also probably in part responding to criticism that Barbie sets some crazy body image expectations in girls who spend years playing with the dolls before they hit puberty. This might not be shocking, but the body type of classic Barbie, if a real woman were to aspire to it, is anatomically impossible, according to this 2013 study. Classic Barbie’s ankles and neck would be too weak to support her body, and her dimensions (she’s supposed to be 5’9” and weigh 110 pounds) place her quite firmly in the underweight category, if we’re going by Body Mass Index.

The new dolls look like an improvement–as much as you can improve on a doll that, even as the company tries to adapt it to reflect more progressive attitudes towards women, continues to reinforce damaging stereotypes. But here’s a gentle reminder that you can actually just get your daughter/niece/cousin a truck or something instead.

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