In case anyone is wondering, Big Birtha doesn’t have any connection to the documentary makers or the production, other than being approached to participate. So I can’t give any assurances on the likely editorial nature.
So, ‘Plus Size Modeling’ started a campaign on Facebook – asking whether people think companies like Mattel should make plus-sized versions of dolls like Barbie.
Of course, it’s a publicity stunt. But a publicity stunt that 40,000 people ‘liked’, and which has garnered a considerable amount of press, especially in the US.
The image used was nothing new – it was actually the winning entry to a 2011 Worth1000.com photoshop competition to digitally ‘fatten up’ celebrities. Funnily enough, the photo has been mistakenly attributed to Mattel, with some people thinking that there are plans afoot to create such a doll. Curiously, or perhaps wisely, Mattel seems to have stayed completely quiet on the matter.
We’ve had eating disorder sites deconstructing the media’s treatment of women and obsession with size, and studies showing that girls exposed to Barbie as opposed to a more realistic sized doll had less self-esteem about their bodies, and a stronger desire to be thin. http://www.rehabs.com/explore/dying-to-be-barbie/
More worrying is that we’ve even had young (and not so young) girls go to drastic lengths to make themselves look more like dolls. Valeria Lukyanova has reputedly spent $800,000 on plastic surgery to make her look more like her idol.
And yet, Barbie dolls are still on sale 55 years on, and people are still buying them. It’s hardly surprising – after all, the images we see in magazines of models and celebrities are more representative of Barbie’s dimensions than they are of the real female form.
But which came first, the chicken, or the egg? Did generations of children growing up being marketed the implausibly proportioned Barbie learn to love the lean, or is Barbie merely holding up a mirror to the attitudes already prevalent in society, and giving consumers what they want?
Let’s be brutally honest. I’m not convinced a plus-size Barbie would be anything more than a flash in the pan. So what’s the answer, I wonder?
I think it has to start with campaigns like the one above. If photographs are digitally enhanced, they should say so. And, more’s the point, the disclaimer should be required to be of a size that people can actually read it.
Or even better, retailers should have the confidence to mount campaigns like this US lingerie brand. And we consumers need to vote with our feet and our wallets to support them (hell, not that I look a jot like her, but it’s a step in the right direction…).
And finally, perhaps rather than dolls, we should be buying our daughters these:
I try my very best to only project body-positive attitudes in the presence of my daughter.
Even when she points out my wobbly bits.
Really, I attempt to minimise discussion about image at all, and instead focus on other qualities, trying hard, being clever, being kind, good manners etc. But with the best will in the world I can’t remove all the other influences in her life, even if some of them are ultimately negative, and nor should I attempt to.
What I can do, though, is try to inspire her to see herself in as positive a light as possible, through making sure she sees me see myself in as positive a light as possible.
It’s a very poignant letter from an Australian book called ‘Dear Mum‘: a collection of letters from Australian sporting stars, musicians, models, cooks and authors revealing what they would like to say to their mothers before it’s too late, or would have said if only they’d had the chance, with profits going to the Australian National Breast Cancer Foundation
Well, to my extreme surprise and delight, Debenhams have announced that they have an army of size 16 mannequins which they will be using in all 170 stores across the UK. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/nov/06/debenhams-first-department-store-size-16-models
Hopefully this will be an emerging trend. A recent study involving nearly three thousand women in North America, Canada and China undertaken by researchers from the University of Cambridge found that women in Canada were three times more likely to buy clothes when the models in advertisements were their size.
So we don’t necessarily respond favourably to the stick thin coathangers on legs we’re always told ‘sell clothes’ after all!
So come on, UK retailers – let your profits expand with the waistlines of your mannequins and give us something we can relate to!