Posted .

'Barbie's Legs' by Roger Tredre

[blockquote]Will my dear daughter soon want a Barbie body - those long Barbie legs? In China, young women pay small fortunes to have their legs broken and stretched on a rack to achieve maximum height. All in the belief that they will find a 'better' husband.[/blockquote]
Click here to read essay

Envied and reviled, unreal and ideal, a symbol of materialism, body dysmorphia and capitalism but still beloved by millions: the debate that continues to rage around Barbie Millicent Roberts - more commonly known as Barbie - mirrors that around fashion itself. In our second essay of The Fashion Body season, Roger Tredre uses Barbie's body as a jumping-off point to discuss his concerns - both journalistic and personal - over the impact of the fashion industry on the young.


  1. Killerpack
    08:57 23 Jul 2010
    New comer here.
  2. AndrewSmith
    11:13 23 Jul 2010
    Good essay! It's a good metaphor for the age old "fashion body debate" that advertising images been retouched into something that is untouchable and impossible to aspire to. I heard that it's impossible for a living human to have a Barbie body. But Barbie's just a toy right? You don't see people worrying about their kids aspiring to be Sponge-bob or a china doll. Is Barbie just a bad role model? Does anyone here aspire to be like Barbie or, in the same vain, Kate Moss?
  3. someonegreat
    12:03 23 Jul 2010
    It's interesting that Barbie - a fashion doll - emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century, alongside retouching and accusations of unrealistic body image throughout fashion. The proliferation of Barbie dolls suggest that maybe that is now ingrained from childhood.
    Barbie's measurements, when scaled up to human form, are approx. 92 cm-45cm-84cm and she stands 175cm tall. She probably wouldn't get periods at that weight.
    I'm always on the fence when it comes to these debates about Barbie damaging children, in the same way that I'm on the fence about the negative influence of retouched imagery.
  4. LisaMafia
    12:28 23 Jul 2010
    I'm glad that someone is going against the trend at the moment for blaming burgeoning female body issues on fashion and products that 'might' look as if they are promoting malnutrition. It is so easy to be swept up in a frenzy, thinking that young girls might become anorexic by playing with barbies or reading vogue. We don't give children enough credit, they aren't as naive as we assume they are. Yes, some might be affected by looking at fashion magazines and models, but the way they respond to these things is based on them entirely. If they've been brought up feeling confident in themselves, if they've been taught well and are saavy enough to know the difference between fashion/barbie life and real life, they'll be fine.
    Wrapping young girls up in a safety bubble and not letting them explore the world, good and bad, will not do them any favours later on in life.
    I loved barbie, potentially always will and I have no qualms with my body.
  5. AndrewSmith
    15:20 23 Jul 2010
    The thing is, what we're discussing here is the issue of anorexia. It's not even unhealthy to simply aspire to have a Barbie-type body, but taking extreme measures to ensure that that is how you look - that's unhealthy. Anorexia is a mental disorder that needs to be dealt with as such, not made into a petty issue of wanting to be like an image. Research apparently suggests that bullying has a big link to anorexia, not magazines.
  6. saint
    15:35 23 Jul 2010
    Dear Roger,
    how would you feel if it was your son that had asked for a Barbie?
  7. hudson
    18:00 23 Jul 2010
    Would probably have prepared him for helping his son through a good dose of the body dysmorphia that runs rampant in the gay community. At least it would if we're conforming to society's ingrained gender stereotyping as exemplified through mass-market toys.
  8. harley
    23:17 25 Jul 2010
    couldn't agree more Lisa Mafia.
    As long as there are images of the female body there will be an idealized form that is different from how most people are.
    It is normal to admire things or people we can never be or own.
    All stardom and idolization are based on this principal, but for most it is just harmless.
    It is character traits within certain people to do with searching for love/attention/ safety they felt denied of during childhood that push people into dangerous self harming behavior.
    Blaming this on fashion is just another stupid knee jerk reaction and dumb tabloid simplification of complex problems.
    I really welcome the sort of debate that is on this forum.
  9. thearticlesays
    13:00 24 Aug 2010
    As once a five year old myself and if indeed all little girls are the same around the world, the moment you get a real Barbie is a day you´ll live not to forget. And if all moms and dads are similar in their approach (or denial, if you may), they all try to give you a “copycat” doll hoping the matter will be forgotten. Not so fast. Girls are five but not... stupid.
    The Barbie doll has a set of unmistakable qualities that not even the best copycat doll can reproduce – which is probably the reason why it has been a consistent best seller for so long, making millions of little girls happy. Furthermore, parents forget that their five-year old have friends with real Barbies on the playground i.e. “My Barbie is cooler than yours” (usually there´s a really annoying girl that always has the latest Barbie, Ken- the husband, the house, the car – she rules the playground indeed).
    Can you imagine going to school with a doll thinking it´s the real thing only to be put to shame by your friends when you realise it´s not? This is a far more traumatizing life experience than to have a gorgeous anatomically incorrect doll you just want to dress up and exchange accessories with other Barbie friends.
    As for Vogue she´ll read it anyway. Hiding it will only make her want it more!