Kids’ Reactions To Imperfect Barbies Prove They’re Not The Ones Obsessed With How Dolls Look
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the effects playing with Barbies might have on our children. Their self-esteem, their standard of beauty and how they may view imperfections in real-life human beings including their own. All along, it would seem the concern was misplaced. It would appear that not only do children not want or expect their dolls to be perfect, they don’t value them any less if they have flaws. As it turns out, the adults are the ones obsessing over perfection (or lack thereof.)
From Huffington Post comes the story of artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm. He initiated a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 after the 3-D printed prototype of his “Normal Barbie” went viral to raise money for the development of his idea. He wanted to create a doll that resembles most American women, not the super-skinny and glammed up “ideal” that Barbie perpetuates:
In addition to having measurements that represent the average shape of a 19-year-old American girl, the dolls come with reusable stickers that allow kids to add “marks” to their dolls — from acne and stretch marks to mosquito bites, bandages, and more.
This idea is fantastic and as the mother of a second-grade child, I am particularly interested. Although she is at an age where things like acne and stretch marks are certainly noticeable to her, she has yet to comment on any of my physical imperfections. That is quite telling. These flaws obviously don’t matter to her and I doubt they do to other children her age either. That is, until society tells them they matter. What if we raised kids on dolls like this? Dolls that show them from the start that things like grass stains and bug bites and knee scrapes are totally normal and to be expected on anyone?
Lamm tested his product on a group of second grade students from St. Edmund’s Academy in Pittsburgh. Their reactions just might make you shed a tear or two (I know I did) because you see that they truly don’t care. As one child says, even with acne or stretch marks, it’s still their doll and they love it and play with it anyway. Amazing.
If you aren’t in a position to watch the video, here are a few choice quotes from the kids:
When asked why he would want stickers like this for a doll a boy said “So she could look different! If you all looked the same, it would be hard to tell people apart”
In regard to pimples on the doll and whether it would make a difference, one child said “No! That doesn’t mean you don’t want to play with her!”
When a child was presented with grass stain stickers, he gleefully exclaimed “That looks like she had some fun outside!”
You can say that fantasy is the point of toys like Barbie and that it isn’t harmful for a child to play with them. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Either way, a dose of reality can only help as kids form a healthy image of people with normal, human flaws. If the kids don’t mind, why do us adults (and by that, I mean doll manufacturers) insist on dolls being the picture of perfection? These normally proportioned dolls with their sticker sheets of real-life imperfections could be a wonderful thing for children so they can know from the start that having a couple of blemishes on your body is nothing to be ashamed of. They are now available for purchase and they just might make it into my daughter’s Easter basket next month.