'Normal Barbie' Gives Girls a Realistic Body Role Model

With the iconic Barbie turning 55 in March, now might be the time for a realistic makeover of the doll with the famously unattainable figure.

Meet Lammily, the fit, more muscular Barbie counterpart who boasts the tagline “Average is Beautiful.” The brainchild of artist Nickolay Lamm, Lammily was created with realistic female proportions in mind.

While the classic Barbie would likely teeter over on her tiny feet under the weight of a large head and bust, the Lammily prototype is based on measurements of the average 19-year-old woman’s body. She can even stand on her own two feet unsupported.

The highly successful crowdfunding campaign to make the “Average Barbie” a reality speaks to the need for a variety of body representations, especially for young women.

Lammily will be available in November for purchase, and orders are already being lined up. She doesn’t have the clout that Barbie has, but toys like Lammily are a step in a positive direction for body diversity and acceptance.

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A Global Influence

With her great looks, multiple careers, and overwhelming popularity, Barbie is a force to be reckoned with. But it’s her unrealistic figure that’s cause for concern, says Dr. Eileen Anderson-Fye, assistant professor of women's and gender Studies, ethnic studies, and child studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

While Barbie is an integral piece of Americana, Anderson-Fye has seen the extent of influences such as Barbie’s on a global scale, with a growing preference for slimmer bodies. One day, Anderson-Fye hopes, toy developers will also branch out into dolls with more racial and ethnic diversity than those currently on the market. Lammily is still a victory in herself, as few dolls in the major toy market share her proportions.

Historically, Anderson-Fye explains, larger bodies have been favored, signaling access to resources, wealth, and leisure. However, she says, this is shifting around the world. Even while working in rural Central America, Anderson-Fye noticed many little girls around her toting Barbie dolls.

Barbie herself isn’t all to blame, but she does represent many of the unrealistic expectations women are faced with in terms of their bodies. The average-sized Barbie is not a new idea, but Lammily is unique in that she portrays the actual body types of many young women.

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How Can You Promote Healthy Body Image?

The average Barbie continues to exemplify a single, stereotypically attractive body type complete with a thigh gap, Anderson-Fye says. But children need to see various body types in the media as well as in their toys.

“A diversity of availability of images and toys is almost always associated with positive outcomes, and children understand there’s an enormous amount of human variation,” Anderson-Fye said.

It could be a while before mainstream toy companies roll out lines of healthier-looking dolls, but much of the conversation about healthy body image begins at home.

A mother of three young girls herself, Anderson-Fye strives for meaningful conversations with her daughters about healthy, realistic body image. She discusses with her daughters how women are depicted in their cartoons and toys. It’s up to parents first to talk about these topics with their children and to talk positively about their own bodies.

Developing positive body image also requires a shift of focus when discussing bodies. Anderson-Fye encourages conversations that center more on instrumentality than ornamentality, or what bodies can do as opposed to what they look like. It’s normal to coo over a cute baby or a pretty child, but there are so many other ways to compliment and encourage children that aren’t based on appearance.

“Another piece of the puzzle in the parenting literature is to talk with girls not about appearance based topics,” Anderson-Fye said.”You’re sending these subtle messages about what you value.”

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