Barbie has been a beloved toy for young girls for over 60 years, but her famously proportioned body has also stirred controversy. Critics argue that Barbie promotes an unrealistic, unattainable body image that is both unhealthy and dangerous. But why exactly is Barbie’s body so unrealistic? Let’s analyze the facts.
Barbie’s Impossible Dimensions
Barbie’s body proportions are simply not realistic for the average woman. To achieve Barbie’s measurements, a woman would need:
- A 21-inch waist (the average woman’s waist is 31.5 inches)
- A 38-inch chest (the average woman’s chest is 41 inches)
- 33-inch hips (the average woman’s hips are 43 inches)
Put simply, Barbie’s measurements would be nearly impossible to attain in real life. Her waist is a full 45% smaller than that of an average woman. Her disproportionately large bust paired with an unnaturally thin waist presents an unrealistic body type.
Barbie’s Measurements Scaled Up
To illustrate just how unrealistic Barbie’s figure is, let’s scale up her measurements as if she were a real woman.
|5 feet 9 inches
As the chart shows, a woman with Barbie’s scaled-up measurements would be an unhealthy size zero with over a 17-inch gap between the circumference of her chest and waist. This dramatic difference would put immense pressure on her organs and require removal of several ribs to attain such a squeezed waist.
Barbie’s Body Fat Percentage
Doctors consider the healthiest body fat percentage for women to be between 25-31%. Women require at least 12-15% body fat to maintain proper hormonal function.
Barbie has a body fat percentage of just 10-11%. At this low level of body fat, amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle) often occurs. Such low body fat also provides insufficient padding for the body, putting women at risk for reduced bone density and fractures.
Essentially, if Barbie were a real woman, she would lack the essential body fat for proper health.
Realistic Measurements for Barbie
Rather than presenting an unhealthily thin body, what if Barbie had average measurements instead? Here is how Barbie would look with realistic body proportions:
|5 feet 4 inches
Though still on the slender side, these measurements are much healthier and achievable for the average woman’s body type. Barbie’s waist would be 7-9 inches wider – though still slim, not squeezed. And her chest would be smaller and proportional, requiring no rib removal.
The Impact on Young Girls
Barbie’s unrealistic body shape can negatively impact young girls during critical stages of development. Young girls who play with Barbie are presented with a distorted idea of a woman’s body. Studies show that exposure to dolls with unnaturally thin bodies leads girls as young as 5 to develop body image issues and a distorted sense of body perception.
The results? Half of girls ages 6-12 report wanting to be slimmer, and 37% of girls say fashion and media images pressure them to lose weight. Barbie’s impossible proportions are a contributing factor to the skyrocketing rates of eating disorders and body image issues among young girls today.
Promoting a Healthier Body Image
If Barbie looked more healthy and natural, she could help combat negative body image issues instead of fueling them. Brands have a responsibility to help break down unrealistic expectations rather than promote them.
Thankfully, some toy brands are now working to showcase a more diverse and realistic range of beauty. There are Barbies with realistic waist-to-hip ratios, varying body types, different skin tones, disabilities, and more – all helping young girls develop positive body confidence.
Barbie’s exaggeratedly thin waist, disproportionately large chest, extremely low body fat percentage, and overall unrealistic proportions combine to present an unhealthy and virtually unattainable body type that contributes to negative body image issues among young girls.
While Barbie has evolved to showcase more diversity, her original measurements remain popular. By providing girls with more realistic dolls that promote positive body image, toy brands can help encourage the healthy development of body perceptions from an early age.