9 March 1959: The Barbie doll makes its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York (Source)

On this Day: March 9, 1959 | Debut of the Barbie Doll, DRIFTER'S DAY

Barbie is a fashion doll manufactured by the American toy company Mattel, Inc. and launched in March 1959. American businesswoman Ruth Handler is credited with the creation of the doll using a German doll called Bild Lilli as her inspiration.

Barbie is the figurehead of a brand of Mattel dolls and accessories, including other family members and collectible dolls. Barbie has been an important part of the toy fashion doll market for over sixty years, and has been the subject of numerous controversies and lawsuits, often involving parodies of the doll and her lifestyle. Mattel has sold over a billion Barbie dolls, making it the company’s largest and most profitable line.[1]

The Barbie doll brand has expanded into a media franchise, including a long-running series of animated films that began in 2001. From 2002 to 2017, the films were aired regularly on the Nickelodeon cable channel.[2]

Barbie and her boyfriend Ken have been described as two most popular dolls in the world.[3] The doll has transformed the toy business in affluent communities worldwide by becoming a vehicle for the sale of related merchandise (accessories, clothes, friends of Barbie, etc.). Writing for Journal of Popular Culture in 1977, Don Richard Cox noted that Barbie has a significant impact on social values by conveying characteristics of female independence, and with her multitude of accessories, an idealized upscale life-style that can be shared with affluent friends.[4]

Sales of Barbie dolls started to decline sharply from 2014 to 2016.[1] In 2020, Mattel sold $1.35 billion worth of Barbie dolls and accessories and this was their best sales growth in two decades. This is an increase from the $950 million the brand sold during 2017.


Controversies

Body image

From the start, some have complained that “the blonde, plastic doll conveyed an unrealistic body image to girls.”[39]

Criticisms of Barbie are often centered around concerns that children consider Barbie a role model and will attempt to emulate her. One of the most common criticisms of Barbie is that she promotes an unrealistic idea of body image for a young woman, leading to a risk that girls who attempt to emulate her will become anorexic. Unrealistic body proportions in Barbie dolls have been connected to some eating disorders in children.[40][41][42][43]

A standard Barbie doll is 11.5 inches tall, giving a height of 5 feet 9 inches at 1/6 scale. Barbie’s vital statistics have been estimated at 36 inches (chest), 18 inches (waist) and 33 inches (hips). According to research by the University Central Hospital in Helsinki, Finland, she would lack the 17 to 22 percent body fat required for a woman to menstruate.[44] In 1963, the outfit “Barbie Baby-Sits” came with a book entitled How to Lose Weight which advised: “Don’t eat!”.[45] The same book was included in another ensemble called Slumber Party” in 1965 along with a pink bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs.,[45] which would be around 35 lbs. underweight for a woman 5 feet 9 inches tall.[46] Mattel said that the waist of the Barbie doll was made small because the waistbands of her clothes, along with their seams, snaps, and zippers, added bulk to her figure.[47] In 1997, Barbie’s body mold was redesigned and given a wider waist, with Mattel saying that this would make the doll better suited to contemporary fashion designs.[48][49]

In 2016, Mattel introduced a range of new body types: ‘tall’, ‘petite’, and ‘curvy’, releasing them exclusively as part of the Barbie Fashionistas line. ‘Curvy Barbie’ received a great deal of media attention[50][51][52] and even made the cover of Time magazine with the headline “Now Can We Stop Talking About My Body?”.[53] Despite the curvy doll’s body shape being equivalent to a US size 4 in clothing,[50] some children reportedly regarded her as “fat”.[53][54] The doll’s reception by adults was also politicized, with tensions between feminists who suggested the doll was too thin to be considered “curvy” and conservatives who claimed it was a “frumpy thunderthigh-sporting […] product of a social justice warrior’s fantasies.”[55]

Although Barbie had been criticized for its unrealistic-looking “tall and petite” dolls, the company has been offering more dolls set to more realistic standards in order to help promote a positive body image.

(Source)

Volker

I am Volker Schunck and live in Dresden, Germany. First I was an industrial clerk, then I studied theology. Through my engagement with Zen, I became aware of the Christian mysticism. Meanwhile, I go my own way. For me, faith is not a world-view but a being. It is important to me, not to live lost in thought but aware and intensely. For me, this also includes careful handling of other people. The NVC (Nonviolent Communication), which I learned during my training as a mediator, helps me with this.

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