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A New Barbie Doll for a Modern Age

People come in all shapes and sizes, and finally, Barbie will as well.   Now, in addition to the original impossibly slender Barbie, the doll will come in tall, petite and curvy varieties.   Recently, Mattel announced the new line on its website and in a Time magazine article featuring the cover headline, "Now can we stop talking about my body?"  According to Mattel, Barbie will be available in four body types and seven skin tones, with 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles.  In all, 33 dolls will roll out in stages, beginning online and in stores on March 1, 2016.  The move comes a year after Mattel introduced Barbies with movable ankles that would allow the dolls to wear flat shoes for the first time.

The new dolls come after years of criticism leveled at Mattel over the doll's unrealistic proportions and concerns that Barbie reinforced a single, virtually impossible standard of beauty for girls to try to meet.  A 2006 study by British researchers Dittmar and Halliwell found that "girls exposed to Barbie reported lower body esteem and greater desire for a thinner body shape" than those who had been given dolls reflecting larger body types or no dolls at all.  Robert Best, senior director of Barbie Product Design, said the changes address such concerns in a positive way.  "This is radical because we're saying there isn't this narrow standard of what a beautiful body looks like," said Best.*

In addition to checking out the new Barbies, try these parenting tips for promoting body confidence in our children:

  • Less fat talk, more fun talk.  Check your own behavior.  Try replacing “I shouldn’t be eating this because it will make me fat” or “Do I look fat in this?” with “This is delicious! What a treat!”
  • Make health a habit. Shop for food and cook together.  Try fun outdoor activities together.  Listen to music and dance!
  • Eat when hungry; stop when full.  Know the difference between hunger and boredom/anxiety, etc.
  • Acknowledge body changes through puberty.  “Your body is so lovely/wonderful as you are growing up.  I hope you can enjoy it.”
  • Recognize negative feelings. “I’m sorry you are so sad.”  “I can tell you’re very angry.” “It’s so disappointing when (fill in the blank) happens.”
  • Emphasize health, ability, emotions, and personal qualities more than looks. “You are so brave.” “You are so smart.” “You made a good decision.”  “How do you feel?”
  • Keep an eye on your child’s social networks, texts and other online comments for bullying and negative comments.

Another doll with typical body portions is a Lammily doll.  Named after creator Nickolay Lamm’s family, the doll raised over half a million dollars on Kickstarter and is sold through their company website.  She has a casual wardrobe featuring denim shorts, sneakers and athletic gear.  In addition to help teaching girls about their reproductive health and menstrual cycle, parents can purchase the "Period Party" accessory pack.   It includes pad and liner stickers meant to fit in doll-sized underwear (also included), a calendar and dot stickers to keep track of a period, and an informational pamphlet.

Build Up Your Sex Ed Library of Resources

  • Here are two wonderful books from author Cory Silverberg and artist Fiona Smyth that offer the tools and information adults and youth need in order to have important conversations about sexuality topics.
  • What Makes a Baby.  A children’s picture book about where babies come from that is for readers from 5 to 8 years old.  It teaches curious kids about conception, gestation, and birth in a way that works regardless of whether or not the kid in question was adopted, conceived using reproductive technologies at home or in a clinic, through surrogacy, or intercourse.  Just as important, the story doesn’t gender people or body parts, so most parents and families will find that it leaves room for them to educate their child without having to erase their own experience, orientation, gender and other identity, or family composition.
  • Sex Is a Funny Word.  A new comic book for kids that includes children and families of all makeups, orientations, and gender identities.  This book is about bodies, gender, and sexuality for children ages 8 to 12 as well as their parents and caregivers.  It is inclusive of lesbian, gay, and bisexual experience as well as gender creative and gender nonconforming children. (While Sex is a Funny Word discusses body parts, gender, touch, and other topics related to the word “sex,” it doesn’t delve into reproduction — intercourse is being reserved for the third book, planned for release in fall 2017, which will be geared toward older kids.)
  • Built on the success of the award-winning documentary "Souls of Our Students" addressing diversity in race, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status in our schools, "A Transgender Focus" is a 10 minute supplement interviewing three transgender students and providing perspectives from a parent and a teacher.

*Reference:  CNN.comLiving, January 28, 2016, Barbie’s New Body:  Curvy, Tall and Petite;Michael Pearson