When the term ‘Barbie’ is mentioned, what comes to mind might be that of a tall, slender, white female doll with luscious, long, blonde locks—created to be the embodiment of beauty and fashion. For as long as anyone can remember, the idyllic Barbie Doll has always been lauded as a perfect embodiment of physical attractiveness, dubbed as possessing “just the right proportions”.
Though, that has been promptly dismissed after studies have shown that if a real woman did possess Barbie’s proportions, it’d be impossible for her to walk and that she’d only have room for half a liver—which is not great, if we’re talking about realistic representation.
Mattel has since picked up on that after countless criticism, and thankfully for most young girls out there, the unrealistic beauty standards set by the Barbie Doll are in the process of being relooked. Slowly but surely, newer, more diverse dolls are being added to the collection. Now, the Barbie Doll line no longer glorifies the one-dimensional white women silhouette but has expanded to represent people of colour, skin types, body shapes, and even impairment.
Vitiligo is a condition that results in a loss of skin pigmentation, often occurring in blotches. While rare, we seem to be seeing more persons with Vitiligo represented in the media, first pioneered by Winnie Harlow when she appeared on America’s Next Top Model in 2014 and who has since graced the likes of Desigual, Harper’s Bazaar, and Victoria’s Secret.
It came as a pleasant surprise when I first learned of Vitiligo Barbie simply because of the fact that it occurs in only 1% of the population, yet Mattel saw the need for representation nonetheless. It’s really nice to know that young girls today with conditions such as Vitiligo can grow up seeing themselves represented, which is already leaps and bounds from just a couple of years ago.
Vitiligo Barbie | Shop Here
Able-bodied personas aren’t the only ones worth depicting. Introducing Wheelchair Barbie, who’s a great addition to the collection as she represents wheelchair users and even paralympians all across the globe.
The wheelchair accessory has functioning wheels that roll when you give it a push, providing a realistic simulation of the commute that wheelchair users face. Aside from doing wonders for inclusive representation, I find that the value of Wheelchair Barbie also lies in familiarising children with wheelchair users—be it caring for a family member who uses a wheelchair or even just priming them to be more considerate towards the wheelchair-bound in their communities.
Wheelchair Barbie | Shop Here
I’m so glad that the “long hair is only for girls” narrative is slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past. I can’t tell you enough of the countless men I’ve met who have locks that are far more luscious, silky, and fabulous than I ever will possess. And for those who are still fumbling in the dark trying to figure out who on earth Ken is, he’s Barbie’s male counterpart and love interest.
The best part about having long hair is the styling freedom that comes with it. If your child is feeling up to it, they can try their hand at hairdressing and styling on long-haired Ken, who has a mane for days—probably enough to last two to three haircuts. Though I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re prepared to live with Ken on a permanent bad hair day.
Long-haired Ken | Shop Here
Rather than the disproportionate OG Barbie, I’d dare say that curvy Barbie is probably a closer representation to the typical woman on the street. With wider hips and thicker thighs, curvy Barbie makes a stand for us women without a 15cm-wide thigh gap.
Perhaps my only gripe with the curvy silhouette is the narrative that being bigger sized is beautiful on one condition—that they are ‘thicc’ or curvy, in the ‘right’ places. This often means possessing an ample bust and wide hips but a tiny waist to create that ideal hourglass figure—though this is not always the case for bigger-sized women. In that respect, there’s still much room for improvement when it comes to loving curvy individuals.
Curvy Barbie | Shop Here
Apart from wheelchair Barbie, Mattel has also rolled out an iteration of Barbie with a prosthetic leg, paying homage to yet another camp of disabled persons.
The prosthetic leg is detachable, enabling users to pop them on and off whenever they might need to. What I appreciate about Barbie’s prosthetic leg is that it was engineered in perfect proportion to her actual leg, an accurate and true representation of what prosthetics should be. With prosthetic leg and wheelchair Barbie, we will hopefully see a normalisation of such representation in mainstream aesthetics.
Barbie with a Prosthetic Leg | Shop Here
This sports line of Barbie is three-pronged in the sense that it honours women in sports, the then-slated-to-happen Tokyo Olympics 2020, as well as how it nicely ties in with the three female athletes whom Barbie honoured last month in celebration of International Women’s Day.
This Olympic Barbie line includes models of Barbie as a soccer coach, gymnast, and swimmer, and her sisters Skipper and Stacie as basketball players. This collection was birthed to encourage young girls to reach for their sports dreams—gone are the days when the sports industry was only reserved for male athletes. It was also meant to be launched in conjunction with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics which has now been postponed to July 2021, but the sale of the dolls will probably still continue to be rolled out in mid-2020. The doll sets will be made available in Singapore and will start from S$29.90.
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