For decades, Barbie has been the gold standard in the toy department. While some might think that's changing, we were inclined to believe otherwise by the overwhelmingly rage-y responses we've seen here whenever we've written about the negative effects Barbie dolls can have on a girl's body image. But do actual sales reflect that support for this classic doll? We have to wonder, because, it turns out, Barbie's just not the most popular girl in school anymore.
Eliana Dockterman tackles the Barbie debate, and how it may or may not relate to body image, in this in-depth piece for Time. Mattel (Barbie's manufacturer) reported a significant drop in earnings yesterday, including a 12 percent fall in sales for America's most recognizable blonde. This is the fourth consecutive quarter that year-over-year sales have declined. On the other hand, American Girl dolls and Monster High dolls — both Mattel products — are, according to some analysts, doing pretty well. While the American Girls are a favorite of ours, and definitely more realistic in the sense that their bodies look more like the demographic they're targeted at, the price tag is enough to make most parents balk.
Monster High dolls, on the other hand, are at a more comparable price point to Barbie. They're definitely not your typical, all-American, cookie-cutter type. But when you get down to it, their bodies are still very, very thin — thinner than Barbie's, actually. They do come with an empowering message of creative self-expression, but they're not exactly representative of a variety of appearances.
Parents' concerns about how these various dolls effect the development of young girls' self esteem are valid. This 2006 study by the University of Sussex found that between girls exposed to either Barbie, a more full-figured doll named Emme, or no doll at all, those who saw Barbie reported lower self-esteem and a more pronounced desire to be thin.
But is this trend in sales actually representative of a change in our society's inherent ideas about body image? Or, we wonder, is it perhaps just indicative that parents and kids alike are looking for dolls with a more modern, contemporary context? Either way, something's still keeping Barbie on the shelves. (Time)
Image: Via The Cut.