Plus-Sized Barbie Dolls Don't Promote Positive Body Image

May 5, 2020 Hollay Ghadery

I don't think plus-size Barbie dolls promote positive body image. I have two daughters under eight years old, at least a half-dozen plus-size Barbies in my home, and I fail to see how these dolls showcase a plus-size body—which as far as I can tell, was the point in making them.

The plus-size Barbies are thicker, to be sure, but their figures are still streamlined. The hour-glass figure is still there: there are no lumps or bumps. There are no pear-shape or triangle or apple body shapes. In other words, the newer plus-sized Barbies are just a slight variation on the same old, suffocating theme: a theme that will leave many girls still feeling alienated and inferior.

Plus-Sized Barbies Only Promote One Kind of Body Image

The aesthetic appeal touted by the plus-sized Barbie still hinges on the figure being tight and trim. Where's the fat? Where are the bulges? I understand the dolls are made of hard plastic, but the smooth lines could still be compromised to reveal a little realism. Understand, I am not saying that trim figures aren't real, because many healthy, beautiful bodies are trim: I am just saying that when this is the only aesthetic praised, it creates a problem.

When my daughters play with these dolls, I am not grateful that the makers of Barbie have decided to add a little more plastic to their dolls. I am infuriated that nothing substantial has really changed. As I said, the new dolls still perpetuate the myth that you have to have a certain body type to be desirable. 

As a child who grew up playing with Barbies, and who grew into a young adult who did not fit the trim and taut societal ideal of beauty, I can appreciate how invaluable access to real aesthetic differences would have been. 

Still, I let my daughters play with Barbies (plus-sized and otherwise) because they enjoy playing with them—but I'm careful to interject realism into this hard plastic aesthetic. We talk about how all bodies are beautiful bodies, no matter the shape or size. We talk about how much gratitude and respect we owe our bodies and minds.

I often recite a quote from Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women to remind them of the liminal nature of aesthetic beauty. The quote is spoken by Marmee, the matriarch of the March family and the beating heart and agile mind behind the upbringing of all four March daughters.

"If you feel your value lies in being merely decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that’s all that you really are. Time erodes all such beauty, but what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind: Your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage. These are the things I cherish so in you. I so wish I could give my girls a more just world. But I know you’ll make it a better place." 

I know my girls will make the world a better place too. I also know I need to lead by example, and for me, part of that example involves questioning and challenging standards of beauty as well as their importance in shaping our identity. 

What are your thoughts on plus-sized Barbie dolls and positive body image? Share in the comments.

APA Reference
Ghadery, H. (2020, May 5). Plus-Sized Barbie Dolls Don't Promote Positive Body Image, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Hollay Ghadery

Hollay Ghadery is a writer and editor living in Ontario, Canada. She has a book of non-fiction set to be published by Guernica Editions in 2021. The work dives into the documented prevalence of mental health issues in biracial women. Connect with Hollay on her website, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Lizanne Corbit
May, 5 2020 at 2:36 pm

I absolutely love that quote and now find myself feeling called to reread the classic! What a beautiful thing to share with your girls. You raise an excellent point that it's still very much a "one type" of beauty creation, slightly changed but at the root of it, not much. In such industries, it's hard to think that we may ever have truly "realistic" or "all-encompassing" examples portrayed but I think conversations like these are so important and perhaps, with more like these eventually, the tides, will turn. Thank you for sharing!

May, 5 2020 at 5:35 pm

I'm so glad it resonated with you. I write at length about the want of body image inclusivity in my upcoming book, and just how much only one type of ideal devastated and frustrated me who could never live up to that ideal, so I appreciate your thoughtful response to this post. And yes! Little Women is such a sophisticated novel--and really, so ahead of its time in many ways. Thank you again!

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