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Getting Rid of Barbie’s “Perfect Image” Pressure

By: Bethany Beal

It was a regular Wednesday morning at work when the mail arrived. I started scanning through the letters when I noticed a big hot pink magazine.

“Barbie” was the only thing written on the front cover.

I was annoyed to see this piece of junk mail at the office and started to cut out the address label in order to remove us from the mailing list. Right before I tossed the magazine in the trash, curiosity got the best of me and I took a peek inside.

The magazine was filled with dozens of perfect images of plastic dolls dressed in slinky, provocative outfits. The pages were loaded with the latest Barbie everything.

Every doll was done up to perfection from head to toe.

Every outfit perfectly styled. Every face perfectly made up. Perfect figures. Perfect hair. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

At first I wanted to yell, “This is ridiculous! Why are we allowing little girls to play with these teenager dolls, dressed in tiny, seductive, outfits?” Thankfully I had self-control and didn’t yell. Instead I pulled up my computer and did some research.

The History of Barbie.

I dug a little bit deeper into this world-famous doll’s history. What was this girl all about? Why is she so popular? How did she come into existence?

The Barbie Doll was “born” in 1959 by Ruth Handler who named the doll after her daughter, Barbara. Barbie was introduced to a skeptical group of buyers at the American Toy Fair in New York City. The buyers said that little girls play with paper dolls and baby dolls, not a teenage girl with a woman’s figure. I guess the buyers must have overcome their skepticism pretty quickly considering Barbie’s current fame.

What is Barbie’s Job?

That is the question. Not her paid job, but her job as a doll. This is the explanation that I found: “Simply, to be a teenage fashion model.” No wonder all of Barbie’s clothes are based on current runway trends from Paris. It’s Barbie’s life purpose to be totally up-to-date on the latest fashion trends.

Barbie is a Legend.

According to popular online newspapers and magazines, Barbie is a legend. Barbie lovers describe her this way:

“Who else or what else has continued to remain relevant in an ever-changing world? Barbie has. She has earned her stardom, and she deserves it. She’s handled all criticism with charm and grace and has continued to be herself.”

I wonder if her fans realize that she is just a piece of plastic and not a real person. Moving on . . .

Barbie in Real Life.

If Barbie were an actual woman, she would be five feet nine inches tall, have a thirty-nine-inch bust, an eighteen-inch waist, thirty-three-inch hips, and a size three shoe. Let’s just say if you had the choice to take on these measurements, I’d advise you to run for your life. These measurements are totally absurd and completely ridiculous looking.

Barbie in a Nutshell . . .

A teenage girl who never grows old, never looks ugly, never has a bad hair day (unless you destroy it), never has a pouchy stomach, never has pimples, never has yellow teeth, never has a bad make-up day, never, never, never!

For crying out loud, this girl is perfect. And she is the legend that has captured the hearts of billions of dollars around the world. Our money shouts that we love her and want more of her.

I’m honestly not trying to bash on Barbie here, I’m really just concerned with her current “role model” status. Let’s be real for a minute. Girls are not doing well. Christian girls are not doing well. There has been a massively high bar set for us, and no matter how much we want to reach it we can’t.

It’s an unreachable bar of physical perfection.

We don’t say it out loud, but we feel it. I feel it! I take one drive down the street to the local outdoor shopping mall and blaring in my face are perfectly Photoshopped images of girls in perfect outfits with perfect hair and perfect make-up.

The perfection message has been made loud and clear, and sadly we have believed it. We may not say we believe it, but our actions show that we believe it.

That’s why I’m mad at Barbie. Because she continues to flaunt her slinky little outfits on her tiny plastic, “perfect” body, deceiving little girls around the world into believing that outward perfection is key.

Destroying the Perfect Body Obsession.

Let me fill each of you in on a little secret, Barbie’s inventor and creator made Barbie for the purpose of being a teenage fashion model. That is her purpose as a creation, and she is doing it quite well.

Stop and think about this—you are Someone’s creation, too.

You were created by a Designer for a specific purpose, and it wasn’t to live your life obsessed with physical appearance. Your Designer and Creator is God. He is the One who formed you (Psalm 139:13), and He is the One who is in charge of giving you purpose (Philippians 2:13).

I want you to listen very carefully here.

As the Creator of you and me, God set aside a big chunk of verses to describe a successful woman. If our Creator has taken the time to give us our very own chapter on success, I think we better pay attention. The chapter is Proverbs 31:10–31.

In that chunk of verses, the word beauty is only mentioned one time. That’s right only once! Here it is:

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised (v. 30, emphasis added).

Did you catch that? In our personalized chapter for attaining true success, beauty is only mentioned once and we are told that it’s fleeting. God must have known that we would get this area a little confused.

Beauty is fleeting. It won’t last. It has no eternal value.

According to God’s Word, who is the woman being praised? It’s the one who fears the Lord.

I think it’s time you and I stopped fearing Barbie’s perfect body, stopped fearing the billboards and perfect magazines, stopped fearing movies and TV shows, and started fearing our Creator.

It’s time for us girls to stand up and say no more to Barbie’s “perfect image” pressure.

Make it personal…  

-I challenge each of you to stop and ask yourself if you truly believe Proverbs 31:30.

-If you do, are you living it out?

-Do your actions show that fearing God is more important to you than physical perfection?

-How have you bought into the lies that physical perfection gives you value?

Photo credit: | ahref

Getting Rid of Barbie's "Perfect Image" Pressure

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23 Responses to Getting Rid of Barbie’s “Perfect Image” Pressure

  1. Jacey Faith says:

    Barbies have always made me laugh because they look so “Perfect”. I used to be really mad that my mom would never let me play with them. But now that I’m a little older, I understand what she was keeping away from my eyes. Thanks for the article

  2. Anna Bachinsky says:

    Love this! Barbie has always set an unreachable standard of beauty for girls from a young age and it’s devastating to see the insecurity and body image problems it creates in so many girls. It’s time we as a culture and as Christians re-define what real beauty is all about. It is so much more than what we see on the outside. Great post!

  3. Celtic Princess says:

    I remember looking at the black barbies with looong straight hair that would whip in the wind and for a long time I had trouble coming to grips with the fact that it is highly unlikely that my kinky hair will ever be straight, waist-length and as ‘flip-able’ as Barbie’s. It took me a while to learn to love my pencil-sized ringlets, not entirely because of Barbie, but she was one of the causes…

  4. Savannah A says:

    Excellent! Thank you!

  5. Mama Baird says:

    If you’ve ever watched a little girl play with Barbies, her role playing is more self-focused and is materialistic in nature… But watch a little girl play with a baby doll and you’ll see her role playing more nurturing, loving, sweet. One promotes focus on the outward and external appearance, while the other encourages inward nurturing of the heart… I’d go with the latter. Buy the baby doll, skip Barbie!

  6. DA says:

    My mother bought me Barbie dolls as a child, and I loved them! I would make imaginary stories with her, and my other stuffed animals. It’s only now that I’m older that I’ve recognized all of the problems with Barbie. Everybody is focused on the outward appearance: the latest hair, nails, clothes, shoes, etc. Unfortunately, too many Christian women have bought into the lie that it’s all about your looks :-/ I’m trying my best to make the necessary changes to become a Proverbs 31 woman; however, it can be frustrating when you’re constantly being bombarded by seemingly “perfect” women…especially when they get the guy (>_<) But I just remind myself that inner beauty and a gentle/kind/humble spirit is the most attractive; and godly men will be attracted to that 😉 Besides, plastic surgery may "fix" external issues, but no amount of plastic surgery can fix someone who is ugly on the inside :-/ Thankfully, God can do that 🙂

    • GirlDefined says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts DA. You hit the nail on the head “But I just remind myself that inner beauty and a gentle/kind/humble spirit is the most attractive; and godly men will be attracted to that.” Keep yours eyes on God’s Word. His ways truly are best!

  7. liera says:

    I am sure you are wonderful nice ladies, but I find it a little confusing that you guys look like barbies. I look at your perfect made up faces and think “Wow, I will never be that adorable!” I would love to see some photos of you without the makeup (or even makeup that is more natural looking, particularly around the eyes), because I am sure when God made you, he made you even more beautiful than man could ever try to make you up. With those trim bodies, healthy hair, and great features…you don’t need the make up to turn you into a person no1 is born looking like.

    • DA says:

      I don’t think they look like Barbies (o_O) lol. After reading your comment, I went and looked at the picture on their “Meet Us” page. Their makeup looks very natural. It’s tastefully done and I would venture to guess that most men would look at their picture and think they were makeup-less. In contrast to the picture of Barbie above with the pink eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, etc. Yes, they are tall and Caucasian with blue eyes, but they do not look like Barbie (and that’s a compliment!). Also, I can’t be 100% sure but your comment “Wow, I will never be that adorable”) made me think that you may have some issues with your own looks. I want to leave you with the exact thing you said to them: “When God made you, he made you even more beautiful than man could ever try to make you up.” 🙂 You’re beautiful just as you are so there’s no need to compare (or see others without makeup) in order to feel good about yourself. Makeup (when worn) should be used to accentuate the beauty God gave you. I’m sure Kristen and Bethany don’t always wear makeup; and although I agree that they may not “need it” it’s their prerogative to wear it.

      • liera says:

        Barbies, I think are pretty, but falsely so. I think women without make up are generally more realistic and beautiful than woman with lots of make up, and more fair to the true beauty of God’s creation. I think these gals have make up that is too heavy, it is very obvious they are wearing a bit. Their eye shadow and eye lashes are not natural looking at all, not one woman alive has eyes like that, it sets unfair standards for women. Heavy make up use promotes us gals to achieve an image that is not natural. I am not opposed to women being clean, healthy, dressed nicely, and am a home keeper and mom. I don’t wear make up because I hardly know woman who do, and don’t want my sons to expect women should. I don’t know women who are impressed with other gals wearing make up, then who are we impressing with appearance changing make up? Like I said, I think all these ideas are great, but need to be followed through with a positive image.

        • DA says:

          I’m going to have to respectfully disagree. This is your opinion, but this is not a black and white Biblical issue (i.e., this isn’t an argument about the existence of the trinity, or whether or not Jesus was God). See Romans 14 for an example of what I mean. In my particular church we have women who believe various things. Some women believe that as Christians they shouldn’t wear makeup; and they don’t. Others believe they shouldn’t wear jewelry; and they don’t. Others believe they shouldn’t wear pants; and they don’t. My church has specific beliefs about each of these things, based on their understanding of the Bible (just like you have specific beliefs about makeup based on your understanding of the Bible). You saw their makeup and interpreted it as being heavy, whereas I did not. You also assumed that if a woman wears “heavy makeup” (per your definition) then she must have body image issues. I respectfully disagree. Women wear makeup for various reasons.u’re entitled to your own opinion. And I commend you for not wanting your sons to believe that women should always wear makeup (I actually agree with you!). But I don’t think you can make a valid, Biblical argument against makeup.

  8. Tamara Winfrey says:

    As a fashion doll collector, I feel compelled to make a few points.

    First, it sounds to me like you might have gotten a catalog for the Barbie collector line. I’m sorry if it offended you. The dolls were all perfectly styled, et cetera, because no one is going to buy a dirty doll in rags with matted hair and sloppy face paint. Mattel’s objective is to sell dolls. The collector line is meant for adults, not for kids. Most people are not going to pay $100 for a collector doll and hand it to a 5 year old. Ironically, those images are photoshopped. What you see isn’t necessarily what we get.

    History—Ruth Handler did not just conjure Barbie out of thin air in 1959. Barbie was based on the Bild Lili doll from postwar Germany. The doll was originally sold to adults only and was based on a cartoon that was suggestive. Eventually it became a child’s toy and Handler brought it to America. So it’s even worse than you might have found on Bing.

    Barbie’s job is whatever you want it to be, and I don’t know where you pulled that supposed quote from her fans, since it’s not attributed to anyone. It sounds like Mattel marshmallow fluff. If you really went out and talked to her fans you would have gotten different and much better answers than that. I do however wonder if you realize she’s a piece of plastic from the way you talk about her.

    Everyone knows that in real life Barbie’s measurements would be unattainable. The doll is built that way because by the time you layer on skirts, shirts, undergarments, coats, socks and so on, the proportions have filled out. You can make a doll with accurate proportions, but when you get it dressed, it doesn’t look right. That’s just the way miniatures are.

    Maybe my priorities are messed up, but on MY way to the mall, I see outrageous gas prices, professional beggars and kids emulating thugs. I don’t notice a lot of the perfect photoshopped people because a)I’m focusing on what’s happening here and now and b)I know it’s all fake anyway, so why should I waste my time? It’s kind of what people should do with Barbie if that piece of plastic bothers them so much. Hey, sales are down 17%. Maybe she’ll disappear. I wonder what will take her place.

  9. Marla Erika Suan says:

    Now I understand. Thanks

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Hey now! I’m 5’9″!!!! (; haha. Thanks for the post Bethany! I feel the same way about the Barbie doll.

  11. Sydney says:

    I agree. We were talking about lies during a discussion period at our church, and one lady mentioned that when her girls were growing up, she would not buy them Barbie dolls, because they promoted an untrue picture of womanhood.

  12. Gracie says:

    THANK YOU!!!! This is embarrassing, but at age 14, I couldn’t stop looking at the pictures of girls with perfect faces, I believed they were real. Then one day, on YouTube, this same girl, makes the same speech mistakes as I do, was bulimic because of how she looked, has freckles, heavier and more normal looking in real photos. I was so mad. Why? because the person I thought was perfect, is not. Look to God, not to guys, or images of girls for worth.

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