Opinion: Dolls are not the problem

Carley Hull is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]

Carley Hull

After more than 50 years on the market, the Barbie doll is getting a new competitor with a fresh look she has never achieved. In March, Nickolay Lamm, a graphic designer out of Pittsburgh, launched a crowdfunding campaign to create a doll with an average teenage girl’s body proportions. The Lammily doll was born, and Lamm had 13,621 backers who pre-ordered more than 19,000 dolls that are set to ship out on Nov. 28. 

The Lammily doll has been dubbed the “normal” Barbie by the media, and the doll has received a lot of support from people who see the doll as a step toward stopping negative female body image; a negative image that many believe Barbie has provoked.

I think the Lammily doll looks like a real teenage girl with her new wider hips, shorter height, flat feet and a fuller butt. The new doll is way more realistic and could potentially be a good competition to Barbie’s monopoly. But I also think the Lammily doll is just a new and beautiful toy that little girls will adopt into their doll collections. The Lammily doll is not the answer to saving girls from a poor body image because dolls are not the biggest issue.

I played with Barbie my entire childhood, and while I battled body issues like many teenage girls, those times came well after my times playing with Barbie and were fueled by the way my peers and other women on TV looked. I never really thought about what Barbie looked like compared to myself because she was my toy. I never wanted to look like Barbie because I knew Barbie was a doll, and I could not look like a doll. 

I played with Barbies until I was about 11 with my younger sister, and at that time, I didn’t have a huge idea of what body image was because I was too young to fully comprehend it. I think most little girls don’t necessarily understand what female body issues like cellulite, acne and stretch marks are because they don’t have them yet. The Lammily doll actually has stickers that represent these imperfections that are on real women, but I don’t think that will add to positive reinforcement to the Lammily doll’s affect on body image. The stickers can definitely add to a story line of the doll’s plot of the day, but I don’t think it is something little girls will fully understand or even want to put on their dolls because it’s strange to them.

Despite my childhood, today is a little different. According to Parents magazine, the National Eating Disorders Association said that 40 to 60 percent of girls from ages 6 to 12 are worried about getting fat. However, I don’t think this is because of a doll, this is because society is obsessed with being thin and the media are constantly showing harmful images of girls and women. Children always watched TV, but now children have more access to smart phones and Internet sources that provide even more harmful images and ideas about women. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, children between ages eight and 18 are using some type of media for about seven and a half hours per day.

While this time spent away from playing with dolls is likely the biggest culprit to negative body image, Barbie has had questionable and even sexist dolls (like the doll that said “Math is tough”). But still, playing with Barbie never limited my child imagination as to what my Barbie could be because playing with Barbies allowed me to come up with story lines and imagine Barbie in different role like a doctor, rock star, actress, veterinarian, mother or a combination of them all. I determined who Barbie was; Barbie did not determine who I could be, and I think the Lammily doll will be a new and beloved playmate to young girls because she is just a doll.