Barbie Got Back: Part One

There has been a lot of talk about the issue of body image, especially with women.  There’s also been a lot of Barbie trashing, an easy target what with the doll’s obvious impossible proportions which are totally unlike the impossible proportions of many of our models and actresses, and never, ever shown as ideal in the media.  But Barbie is a doll meant for children, so parents especially have been griping about this since Barbies were first created. (The idea of the doll came from an “adult toy” for bachelor parties.  I can’t understand their complaints at all.)  So anyway, one would think they’d be happy when finally, toy companies started making dolls that approach a more natural likeness to a real human body.

My proportions are fine! What are proportions?

My proportions are fine! What are proportions? (Sorry I can’t get past the idea that Barbie is dense.)

You’d be wrong of course!  One of the first dolls to get media attention back in 2014 was the Lammily doll, created by Nickolay Lamm, a guy so conceited he named the doll after a combination of his name and family!  Totally unlike what Barbie’s creator did, what with naming Barbie and Ken after her children.  It had to be tough being her kids.  Especially when your mom romantically linked you. But never mind that, back to the unfortunately named Lammily, which sounds like an ointment for sheep.  In spite of her name, this is an groundbreaking doll.  You see, Lamm decided it’d be interesting to see what Barbie would look like if you made her proportions more like an average of the proportions of a real 19-year-old woman.  Note I said an “average” of the statistical measurements of a woman of this age.  Meaning some are bigger, some are smaller, yadda yadda.  But then he confused it a little by saying “Average is beautiful” as part of the campaign.  And you know what Americans think about average.

As you can clearly see, the one on the right is like FATTY FATTY!

(computer generated prototype of Lammily) As you can clearly see, the one on the right is like FATTY FATTY!

No one is average!  We should all strive for perfection that we can never attain, not settle for realistic dreams!  How dare we suggest a girl be content with being “average”.  Not even a mathematical average of human body types.  But there were enough people who wanted a doll that didn’t make them or their kids feel like fatties wearing size, omg, 12 (The beginning size for plus-size models.  I wish I was kidding here.)  So in one day, his kickstarter campaign far surpassed what was needed to start the project.  When Lammily arrived, the doll the media hyped to no end, calling her the alternative to Barbie, or even better, “fat” Barbie, there were a lot of mixed reactions.  Some people were happy.  But most were annoyed – on either side of the political spectrum.

Say what? (Lammily doll final product)

Say what? (Lammily doll final product)

Some were disappointed that this doll, started by one guy and a handful of dollars and helpers, did not come up with a huge range of body types and ethnicities with his pilot project.  Because yeah, that’s what all small companies are capable of doing.  He also made her, omg, white, but at least he made her brunette, and not wearing pink!  Also no make-up!   A plus, right?  Nope.  Now the ones who wanted a “family friendly modest doll” said she was “plain” and her clothes were boring and what kid (or parent) would want to play with that?  Also, not every girl looked exactly like the Lammily doll.  Which would mean – not every girl is average?  Just like not every girl has crazy proportions? (There are some women who are naturally long legged, tall, skinny and perfect looking.  It’s called the genetic lottery.) And then were the people, many of them women, who said this doll was “fat”.  A doll statistically made by mathematical averages of a real female.

It's muscle, people! Try working out! Sheesh.

It’s muscle, people! Try working out! Sheesh.

Even worse, he came up with a package of stickers with everything from cellulite to acne to various wounds (broken leg, scars, bruises – is Lammily in a bad relationship?) to help kids identify with the crap that puberty throws their way by sticking them on their dolls.  Personally, I think I would have loved this as a kid.  In fact, I might have to still order these stickers, if only to enjoy slapping them on Barbie and the Disney Princesses myself.  Because it just makes the world feel a little more fair, that’s why.

The doll wearing these stickers will experience all of puberty and every accident possible in a matter of seconds.

The doll wearing these stickers will experience all of puberty and every accident possible in a matter of seconds.

So basically, Barbie is bad because she has too much makeup and no pimples, is too sexualized, and has a body that is not natural.  And Lammily is bad because she has no makeup and has pimples, is not sexualized, and has a body that at least approaches natural.  And then there were the people who, inexplicably, said Barbie is great and they were never, ever influenced to think they had to have a body like her.  These are some of the same people who said Lammily was fat.  Are you sensing a bit of disconnect here? Cause I sure am.  Sorry, Lamm, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

The site (Lammily.com) is now releasing a black doll. BUT WHERE ARE THE LATINOS, HUH, HUH?

The site (Lammily.com) is now releasing a black doll. BUT WHERE ARE THE LATINOS, HUH, HUH?

What’s most ironic is that when you hear or see actual stories of how kids play with these dolls (not the ones in advertising, but actual stories) the kids really don’t care that much.  UNLESS the parent makes it a big deal.  For instance, one youtube video, labeled “Kids react to ‘Fat’ Barbie”, shows a woman purposely sticking Lammily marks on the doll before showing it to her small child along with a Barbie in a fancy dress.  Guess which one the kid picked?  Yeah, she chose the fancy one, and I’m sure she was not at all influenced by mom’s body language or purposeful attempts to make the Lammily doll more unattractive.  I think this is one insecure lady.  God forbid she gain weight herself one day.

Leader of the awful human being brigade.

I’m thinking she’s a follower of the awful human being brigade.

So in response to the very, very horrific examples of human-kind seen in the comment sections of many articles and reviews on these dolls, I bought a Lammily.  Because that’s the kind of research I will do for my fans, and not because I like buying dolls anyway.  I bought her an extra set of clothes to experiment with as well, since she doesn’t fit in any of Barbie’s “no ribs” fashions.  Thing Two announced that Lammily (Who has been renamed “Meg” by the Things.  But not, as Thing Two vehemently insists, “Megyn.”) looks like me.  I think that’s a compliment.  I’ll take it as one, because Lammily has some nice muscular legs (which mine are not any longer) and a young, pretty face.

Not this Megyn, the Meg from Little Women. Yeah my kids actually chose to read it on their own!

Not this Megyn, the Meg from Little Women. Yeah my kids actually chose to read the book on their own!  Far out!

I have to admit, when I first saw this doll I thought she looked strange.  She was thicker, without much of a waist (the hips probably could have been a little more hippy – girls do actually have hips) an actual butt, and (gasp) thighs.  And then I realized with startling clarity that I had looked at myself for years, even back when I was a young, very thin woman, as someone with enormous thighs.  So much so that I did not, and still do not, wear shorter dresses or skirts.  To realize that this was normal was amazing, and somehow this doll showed it better than anything else I had experienced, possibly because I could physically hold this thing in my hand and compare it with other dolls.  The Things were amazed as well.  Forgive the nudie pics but it is the best way to see the comparison between body types.  For actual doll porn, please see the rest of the Internet.

Meg wonders whether Barbie's leg might snap off - they are rather close to twigs in comparison.

Meg wonders whether Barbie’s leg might snap off – they are rather close to twigs in comparison.

“Good grief, her legs are like pencils, Mom!” Thing One said, looking at Meg and then Barbie.   And this is a kid who is thin, but with legs that can actually support her.  Thing One immediately made Meg one of her super flexible yoga Barbie’s younger sister.  Because why not?  Both can live together, as they do in the real world.  They are still toys, and not just political agendas.  It might be nice to let the kids decide what they want and don’t want.  And even it is only the parents who really like Lammily, and not kids, that’s okay – cause guess who has the money to buy the dolls?  The parents.  But parents can do best by their kids by just letting the dolls go, and seeing what happens – without preconceived notions.  It’s an opportunity to talk with your kids about what they think, and why.  And it’s a chance to play again.  Which more adults should do – in my humble opinion.

Alice

P.S. No I haven’t been blind to Mattel hopping on the body image bandwagon with a brand new line of fashionista Barbies – a tall, a petite, and – oh oh – a curvy.  More on them in part two.

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32 responses

  1. Wow, a fashion doll I would actually let my kid own!

    1. I know! I wish she was around when we were younger. I might have to get your daughter one so she can play with Thing Two this summer! 🙂

  2. Tbh I never even played with dolls. I had a grand total on one Barbie which, poor thing, languished at the bottom of a bin after I gave her a disastrous haircut. Dolls were never as fun as teddy bear kingdoms and wars and playing house with those kitchen sets. And even my sisters, who actually collected Barbies never used them as any definition of body image. When they outgrew the ‘I’ll dress like my Barbie today’ age, they outgrew the dolls too.

    Are children really that badly affected by a a skinny doll? I’m a little confused about that.

    1. I wouldn’t say kids are affected JUST by Barbie – Barbie (and other similar dolls) are just a tiny part of the problem our society has with body image. It’s also the media, Hollywood, friends, parents, and even doctors that add into the idea that skinny is the only way to be, and no other body type should be accepted. Look at how overweight people are treated – it’s almost as if they are the last kind of person you can make fun of, now that people (most anyway) know not to be racist anymore.

      I have always enjoyed dolls. Not everyone outgrows that. Look at actors – they are still playing roles. Authors are as well. And people who play video games. So everyone is different. I wouldn’t say all children are affected badly by a doll – but they are affected just as they are affected by everything they see and hear as they grow. This doll gives another message – that it’s okay to be a different body type. And as I said, there’s no reason there isn’t room for both Barbie and Lammily and whatever they come up with next. The idea is variety. Just as you had the option of teddy bear wars and playing house, there should be more options when it comes to dolls. (You can also have dolls go to war as well, as my children (who aren’t little girls anymore either) and I demonstrate quite often.

  3. Reblogged this on Knocked Over By A Feather and commented:
    This post is so well written, it deserves a reblog!

  4. Maybe if I had a Lammy Lam when I was a kid, I wouldn’t hate my thick calves and meaty thighs.

    1. Same here! It really is so insidious you don’t recognize how much you’ve fallen for it until something like this arrives. Thigh pride I say!

      1. Thunder thighs are on the move!

      2. I never understood your thing with thighs. Of course, I never noticed how much fat was on my own thighs until it migrated elsewhere.

  5. Good for the designer for trying something different. Of course, in this age of social media, there is no pleasing everyone, but it seems like he’s on the right track. That’s quite the contrast when you see the two dolls side by side. Yikes.

    1. I know! I was one of those “It’s just a doll what’s the big deal people.” My kids have Barbies and their Disney counterparts. But the comparison was what got me. I hope this doll is just the beginning of many new kinds of dolls that represent all types of girls and boys – different sizes, different races, etc. – because it is nice to see yourself represented in something. Even Ken has gotten way too skinny over the years. I know because his clothes do not fit on the Disney princes. That’s sad.

      1. That IS sad. I suppose he has six-pack abs now too?

        1. Kind of – but it’s unrealistic on someone who is that stick thin. Not to be sexist here – there are tall, thin men (my husband is one). But most men, like most women, are naturally all around thicker – around the waist, around the chest, around the arms and legs – his legs are like pencils too! When Prince Charming can kick your butt, you’re in bad shape.

  6. And yet the My Little Ponies of today are all thinner and cuter than their 80’s counterparts. I guess the same trends and stereotypes that apply to human dolls aren’t applicable to horses. Then again, you never hear about unicorns having body image problems…

    1. I wonder if unicorns worry about the size of their horns? Too long, too short, not enough sparkle?

      1. I think if they did, there’d be Enzyte for horns on the market by now. Imagine Smiling Bob the Unicorn!

  7. There’s definitely a demand for more natural dolls, there seems to be very little about what children look for in a doll. This link turned up in my facebook feed and it’s really interesting. http://treechangedolls.tumblr.com/
    Great post, thank you.

    1. Wow, I love what she does with those Bratz dolls! They look so cute and natural. Thanks for the link.

    2. Wow.. I love the Tree Change Dolls.. Great Work

  8. And yet the Sindy dolls over here weren’t quite as popular as Barbie – and they were considerably more “normal” in their proportion, apart from the giantic head compared to the body. However, one major advantage to Sindy was that you could pop her head off her body and then reattach it. You couldn’t do that to Barbie…

    1. We used to pop off our Barbie heads all the time as kids. Now they have more flex in their necks, so it’s harder to get the head off without breaking the neck joint (as we learned with Snow White recently). I remember having a doll called Sindy. She was a ballerina, and you could pull this thing out of her head and make her twirl. I always felt a little sorry for Sindy, what with the head thing.

  9. It took me awhile to figure out what your message was here. The tone of your writing seemed both Pro-Barbie/ Anti-Lammily and Anti-Barbie/ Pro-Lammily at the same time. It was a bit confusing. I had to read until nearly the end to figure out that the snarky tones were not yours, but rather the snark of The-Internet-At-Large.

    And yes, there seems to be no winning with people.

    1. If you were confused is either because 1. You haven’t read enough of Alice ‘ s blog to properly contextualize the tone, which was a tad snark and 100% Alice because that’s how she rolls and she, not “the internet-at-large” writes this most awesome blog. 2. I predict you watch too much Fox news, which has rendered your brain incapable of processing the idea that not every discussion of a topic has to be (or should be) black and white yes/no in favor of A and wholly opposed to B. Which is to say, she very plainly did not set out to juxtapose these two dolls for the purpose of criticizing and lambasting one while singing the uncritical praises of the other. It’s called nuance. Also you should recognize that this post is only one part about dolls, and another part about body image and how it’s learned, without uncritically blaming or excusing dolls for the role they might play, along with many other things in the culture, in perpetuating unhealthy ideals of body image–or not.

      1. 1) You’re right in that I had never read her blog before. This was my first time reading any of her posts. My apologies if you felt I was trying to attack. This was not my intent. I was being honest in that, coming in as a new reader, I was a bit lost and had trouble figuring out what her actual feelings/ thoughts were regarding these dolls. For example, repeatedly calling Lammily “fat”, calling the creator “conceited”, and saying her name “sounds like an ointment for sheep” – all of which seem very insulting, as those perhaps she does not like the doll – but then she goes on to say about the same doll, “personally, I think I would have loved this as a kid”.

        I realize that she writes this blog. I also understand that she does not need to have a black/ white interpretation or feeling of or about either doll. However, given that so many of her conflicting statements echo strong arguments I’ve encountered all over the internet either in favor or against these dolls, I had to wonder if she intended to be writing from the viewpoint of “The-Internet-At-Large” (as opposed to strictly adhering to her personal views on said dolls).

        2) Not that my television habits should make a difference here, but, actually no. I do not watch Fox News. I personally can’t stand it. As stated in the previous section, I am fully aware of (and even respect) that her feelings/ attitudes are not necessarily black/ white. I am also aware that the blog was discussing body image alongside discussing the dolls. Where I was lost was trying to figure out what, exactly, those feelings and attitudes were.

        3) I want to reiterate that I had no intentions of insulting the writer – I merely said it took me awhile to figure out what her message was. That *I* was lost/ confused. I am truly and deeply sorry if there was any misunderstanding – I understand that sometimes trying to relay the inner workings of one mind to another without the added benefit of body language, tone of voice, or familiarity can be tricky. So, thank you for alerting me that I was unable to make myself clear earlier.

        1. Sarcasm. It’s a thing.

          1. Sarcasm isn’t always easily interpreted. I honestly have trouble with it sometimes – and it is harder with text alone.

          2. I suggest you will get better at it if you read more of this blog. I especially recommend the posts about 50 shades, the ongoing Disney doll soap opera, and the reviews of children’s TV shows.

  10. Huh. I’d been wondering about Lammily dolls – thanks for this. And a fun experiment to do with the kids. I may try it over here and see what comes of it…

    1. Let me know how it goes! 🙂

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