Mattel’s Barbie has long been cited a contributor to girls’ messed up body image. Though I don’t remember being particularly fascinated with Barbie as a kid (I was more into building forts and writing plays with my friends and reading obsessively about the Titanic and other lost ocean liners—don’t judge), I definitely played with dolls, including Barbie.
In a perfect world, we’d have PMS Barbie and Double-Shift Barbie and Yoga Injury Barbie to balance out the promises of dream homes and big, perky breasts, but alas. Though I can’t say I ever believed I was supposed to grow into a six-foot tall physics-defying veterinarian, I wouldn’t be surprised if my workaholism came not only from my parents but also from the message that I was supposed to be a gymnast, a lifeguard and a Radio City Rockette. And an astronaut. Astronaut would be like that second job you do on the weekends or something when you’re not saving baby animals or winning pageants.
But back to the chest-waist-hips thing…As part of the first National Eating Disorders Awareness Week four years ago, then high school student Gaila Slaylen built was she believed was a life-size version of the Barbie doll she’d played with as a child.
The doll is made of wood, chicken wire, and papier mache, is about 6 feet tall with a 39″ bust, 18″ waist and 33″ hips. It is dressed in a size 00 skirt—a remnant from Slayen’s one-year bout with anorexia.
Said Slayen, “I’m not blaming Barbie [for my illness] — she’s one small factor, an environmental factor. I’m blond and blue-eyed and I figured that was what I was supposed to look like. She was my idol. It impacted the way I looked at myself.”
Though the doll is not 100 percent accurate in its proportions, it is not too far off. The main purpose of its creation was to spark a conversation about eating disorders and body image. It’s also important to remember that the doll was not modeled after a real, living person. I think it’s a great idea for a project and definitely brings into focus how ridiculous Barbie dolls really are and how important it is to have a balance of influences for young kids.
You can read more about Slaylen and her life-sized Barbie here.