Barbie turned 50 this year.
Do you mind if I’m just a little catty? I think she’s had some work done!
I mean the gal is 50 and she looks … perfect! She hasn’t packed on a pound in 50 years. Well, maybe she has gained a pound or two. Several years ago, Mattel announced they were going to make a more “realistic” Barbie with a thicker waist and smaller chest. Have you looked at Barbie lately? Even realistic Barbie doesn’t look much like me!
Her hair is perfect. Her skin is perfect. Her body is unbelievably perfect. And she doesn’t just look like she has it all. She actually does have it all. Gorgeous boyfriend—check. Exciting career—check. (She’s been everything from an astronaut to a rock star.) Tons of friends—check. Expensive house—check. Fabulous pink convertible—double check!
And this is the standard of womanhood that we idolize from the very first time we see her through that cellophane window. Even at age 50 Barbie’s got it all, and her standard of beauty is tough to measure up to.
But can I tell you a secret? Barbie isn’t real. She’s fake. She’s plastic. And you know what’s even more true? Her beauty isn’t real. It’s unattainable.
Several years ago a Yale University study determined that in real life Barbie would be 7’2” tall with a 40-inch bust, 22-inch waist, and 36-inch hips. Those dimensions are so unnatural, that she wouldn’t even be able to stand. She’d be forced to walk around on all fours.
And Barbie isn’t the only example of fake beauty.
Magazine cover girls are airbrushed and Photoshopped to perfection. Blemishes are removed, tummies are flattened, thighs are trimmed, and the final product—a seemingly perfect woman—is what we see in the magazine or on television. Just one glimpse of one of those “stars without their make-up” stories found in the grocery store checkout, and it’s clear that the celebrities whose beauty we idolize look very ordinary without hairdressers, make-up artists, lighting, camera angles, and the wonder of editing. But most of the time, we don’t remember what they look like without all the glamour. We think of what they look like when their hair, make-up, and clothes are perfect and we’re left feeling … well, flawed.
With all of these beauty lies floating around, it can be easy to begin to believe lies about our own worth.
So what’s a girl to do?
If culture is really to blame for the frustration we feel with our own beauty, the solution to the problem seems simple. We just turn of the television, cancel our magazine subscriptions, close our eyes every time we pass a billboard, and throw Barbie in the trash. Then we’d never struggle with beauty again, right?
I just don’t think that would work. While I think it is important for us to shield ourselves from the unrealistic standards of beauty offered by the world, I can’t help but wonder if Barbie is really to blame for my struggle to embrace my God-given beauty. I have a hunch that this beauty issue goes way deeper than airbrushed supermodels and plastic dolls. My sense is that there is a spiritual side to this physical struggle.
We’re going to be talking about this issue over the next couple of weeks here on the blog. But I’d love to hear your two cents. Are the unrealistic standards of beauty offered by our culture the primary reason why so many women struggle in the area of beauty? What are some other possible enemies in this specific fight? If Barbie isn’t to blame for our feelings of worthlessness, who is?
Portions of this post are taken from Erin’s book, Graffiti: Learning to See the Art in Ourselves. You can learn more about this book at www.erindavis.org.