March 9, 1959 marked the day that the first mass-produced toy doll with adult features was put on the shelf.
This toy was 11 inches, had sprawling blonde hair and her name was Barbie.
Barbie’s measurements, first displayed at the American Toy Fair in New York City, were 36-18-36 when converted to a real woman’s measurements, which many argued gave young girls an unrealistic idea of body image.
However, a little known fact is that these dolls were originally marketed as a gag gift for adult men in tobacco shops, but the co-founder of Mattel, Inc., Ruth Handler, found that her daughter was more interested in the Barbie dolls than her own paper dolls, according to history.com.
Handler saw this as an opportunity to market to a new demographic, and soon, Barbie became a global icon with a very recognizable body and accessories.
There was another aspect to this doll that was overlooked though.
The 1950s were a time when women had very defined gender roles, and Barbie sought to show that women could have careers and professions without oppression.
Barbie was a stewardess, doctor, pilot and even an Olympic athlete and offered a new idea for women in America.
However, after 57 years, Barbie got updated, remodeled and Mattel rolled out several new options.
Within the last two years, Mattel, Inc. has released three new Barbie dolls, curvy, petite and tall.
With new ideas and innovations comes criticism and praise, which was no different for the various Barbie dolls.
The dimensions were converted to real life sizes, and the results were not quite reflective of real women, but were at the very least more indicative of the fact that there is more than one body type.
Not only has the body type changed, but there are also more skin tones to reflect the diversity in the world.
While it took many years for Barbie to become reflective of the modern world, the original idea behind the popularity of Barbie was to teach young girls that they could become anything they wanted to be.
But now, Barbie shows young girls and boys that they don’t have to look a specific way in order to be seen as beautiful or that the way they look exhibits their success.
According to an article on Fortune.com, “Barbie reflects the world girls see around them,” Mattel President and CEO Richard Dickson said in a statement. “Her ability to evolve and grow with the times, while staying true to her spirit, is central to why Barbie is the number one fashion doll in the world.”
Furthermore, Barbie has become for all children, not just girls.
In a commercial directed by fashion company Moschino to break down and eliminate gender norms, a young boy playing with the doll was featured.
While this was intended as an advertisement for the fashion company, it proposed the idea of imagination and creativity in a young child, boy or girl.
According to this same Fortune article, “We believe we have a responsibility to girls and parents to reflect a broader view of beauty,” said Evelyn Mazzocco, senior vice president and global general manager of Barbie.
Mary Curtin can be contacted at email@example.com