Let’s Talk About Barbie And Beauty Standards

Artist Nickolay Lamm used CDC measurements of the average American, 19-year-old female to create his own version of a Barbie doll based on the average American girl’s actual proportions. Just look at it compared to a regular Barbie.

In April, Rehabs.com “blew Barbie up” to a human size. Based on her doll proportions they showed what she would look like as a human. Basically, her figure is physically impossible. She would have a 9 inch neck, the likelihood of that is literally 1 in 4.3 billion. The circumference of her head would be 20 inches, while her waist would only be 16 inches. She would only have room for half a liver and a few inches of intestine. Her legs would be dangerously thin and 50% longer than her arms, while the average American woman’s legs are only 20% longer. Her waist would be 56% the circumference of her hips, while the average American woman’s is 80%.

Worst of all Barbie would have to walk on all fours with her 6 inch ankles and size 3 feet that are unable to support the weight of her spider long legs. Also, she has no vagina. Now that is metaphor for society’s view on female sexuality if there was one.


Barbie isn’t human. What she is is a caricature of a beauty ideal. The beauty ideal we impose on women, to be thin, blond, long legged, big busted and even, foot binded. Notice that Barbie always walks on her tippy-toes. What Nickolay and Rehabs.com are trying to illustrate is the impossibility of any human being looking like an ideal. An ideal is merely an abstraction whereas real bodies are concrete, genetic expressions influenced by a number of factors.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong about playing with a toy that doesn’t look human. Except, in this case Barbie’s uncanny resemblance to a human woman is deceptive. Barbie’s mishmash of traits makes her anything but human, yet we wouldn’t put her int he pile of monsters, animals and Domo figures we play with. Barbie is just human enough to alienate little girls from their bodies.

Barbie isn’t just a doll. Her life has always been aspirational. Her glamorous beach houses, convertibles and clothing subliminally teach little girls from a very young age that consumerism is what we should aspire to. As time went on and women became members of the workforce Barbie took on a range of jobs. Barbie has been a McDonald’s employee AND the President of the United States. So much like the many debates we have about “women having it all,” meaning the expectations that we live out traditional wife/maternal roles of child bearing, cooking and cleaning AND becoming successful career women, Barbie places even more pressure on young ladies. We must be inconceivably beautiful, decadent consumers and hardworking women. Lastly, of course we must not have vaginas because women should not be sexual. The belief that little kids shouldn’t be playing with anatomically correct toys, is merely asserting that kids should be ashamed of their bodies.

Barbie’s body and lifestyle tells us a lot about what society believes a woman should be. I’d believe that I was reading too much into it, if there weren’t overwhelming evidence to illustrate how women are treated exactly as this. If there weren’t regular debates about female sexuality, bodies, beauty, ability to work, competence, women breadwinners, and basic human rights, I’d think Barbie was just a toy. But here we are decades after she was first conceived, our kids still playing with her, while millions of girls battle anorexia, slut shaming and wondering if being conventionally beautiful is a better path to success than having a career.

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