Letter to Barbie

barbiefront barbieside

Dear Barbie,

You are just a doll.

Last year, Nikolay Lamm – an artist and campaigner – portrayed you with the measurements of an ‘average’ woman.  I’m not sure which population he took the average of: you still looked skinny to me.  But I was surprised to read quite a few comments by people who didn’t like it.

‘She’s just a doll!’ They said.  ‘When children play with a doll, they just see a doll.  She is a toy: a character.  Children aren’t worried about bodies or stereotyping’.

‘I played with Barbie; I didn’t think I was her!  She didn’t make me anorexic.  I know the difference between fantasy and real life.’

And they are right, Barbie.  Nobody is holding a doll responsible for making anyone ill.  Maybe that is why there is such innocence in your big, blue, perfect eyes.

But you’ve heard people saying something about drops and oceans, haven’t you?

This week, Hello! Magazine made a drop of difference too:  they put Posh Becks in a low-backed evening gown on the cover.  Drop!

And a picture of Angelina Jolie looking awesome: ‘My Fairytale life with Brad Pitt.’  Drop!

The ‘I despise my body‘ confession by last year’s celeb in a gossip mag.  The picture of a newsreader’s expanding waistline.  Papped on holiday.  ‘Looses control!’  Inch-high letters.  Drip-drip.

Did you see the picture advertising holidays in the Carribean?  Did you see the turqoise ocean; the single wisp of cloud?  Did you see the near-white sand and the model’s gently bronzed skin next to it? Not an inch of fat on her ribs; huge boobs packed sensationally into a turquoise bikini.  Drip, drop, drip.

Did you see those mannequins displaying their gorgeous dresses?  How the printed material emphasised their plastic, unreal waists?  Drip.

Did you see the models flowing along the catwalk?  The sexy undulations of protruding hip-bones?  Drip, drip.

DId you see that music video?  Not actually sounding fabulous but she was pole-dancing as she sang.  That daring outfit: nothing to the imagination.  Biggest chest you ever saw!  Drip, drop drip.

Want a figure like a skeleton?  Here’s how to count the calories.  In fact, eat this breakfast cereal for two out of three meals; you too can be this thin.

How I lost five stone and feel fabulous! How to regain control!  IF you have the willpower.  Drip, drip, drip.

Yes Barbie: you are just one drop in a giant pool of women’s self-esteem (a pool with a mermaid known as Arial swimming in it.  Plop!)


We look into that pool and expect to see a perfect, skinny or hourglass reflection blinking back at us.  Because everyone else seems to have one.

Every woman found dead on a TV crime drama.  (Drip!) Every Princess who marries a Prince, in fiction and reality (drip, drip).  Every ballet dancer in the world; every pop-singer; every children’s TV presenter (drip, drip, drip).

So why are people worked up about you, Barbie?  Why is the drop that is Barbie so inflammatory?

Well, for many of us you were the first drop.  A very exaggerated one. A drop so perfect that it cannot be real; breasts so large and waist so small that you are not even anatomically possible. Wow!  And we played with you and accepted you into our repetoir of normal things, before we had even an inkling that breasts did anything but make our milk.

Why didn’t they make a B cup in the first place? Do you think we would have loved you any less?

Yet it turns out that, as adults, some of us would. Once Nikolay Lamm’s artwork travelled around the social media, in between applause from feminists came comments such as :

‘Oh what’s happened? – Dumpy Barbie!’


‘She looks ugly (now that she looks like us).’

Doesn’t that make you feel sad?

Why don’t you go and show them, Barbie?  Wouldn’t you go out like Lamm’s dolly in town?  Plastic is mouldable, after all: you could change your shape.  You could look like that in the toyshops and children could buy you, take you home and love you.  You could have adventures.  You could show us that you are just as happy – in fact, happier, because you’d have space for a whole human liver in your abdomen.  Your wrists and ankles wouldn’t snap under the strain; you’d be physically able to move about!

What were you scared of, Barbie?  Why haven’t you done that?  I’d even have been out and brought you home for each of my kids.

No matter: you didn’t.  And as it is, I’ve been distracted.  A cynic might say that Lamm’s pictures were all a bit of clever publicity: he is now to bring out a rival team of dolls of his own.  You might have met them: they are called the Lammilies.  The Lammily tagline is ‘average is beautiful.’

Yes; I know what you’re thinking.  You’ve beaten rivals off before.  Sindy:  where is she now?

Still; I think it’s a beautiful idea.

Barbie: it might be more beautiful than you.







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