Remaking Barbie by Tamara Keith
A few weeks ago the Women’s Resource Center on campus held a conference called “Barbie’s We’d Like to See.” Since, I had spent most of my life envying the hard bodied plastic babe I decided that a conference designed to make her more realistic might be a great place for me to do a little self exploration.
When I was growing up Barbie gave me something to strive for; she was tall, she had long beautiful blonde hair, her wardrobe was immense and varied, her waist line was to die for, and those long legs and plump chest drew action figures from miles around. Well, not long after my 12th birthday it became very clear that my still developing body wasn’t developing at the right pace or in the right places to make me look like every girl’s childhood idol.
In junior high and high school it was hard for me to accept my stubby legs, flat chest, not-firm-enough butt, and slightly pudgy belly (some of my “friends” even called me mean names like mosquito bites and jello jigglers). By then, Barbie had pretty much left my mind but her image of beauty was still very deeply ingrained. Starting in eighth grade I began subconsciously trying to fit the Barbie beauty image. I bought a pair of platform tennis shoes and 2 Wonderbras. I also stopped cutting my hair and embarked on a long journey through various eating disorders.
Now that I’m in college, I have hit another one of those phases of self-discovery and change. I am beginning to look more like an adult and whether I want them to or not, certain parts of my body are taking on more womanly mass. I guess the good thing about college is that everyone is changing at pretty much the same time and no one is compelled to make fun of you for being yourself.
So, I’m at this conference with a very different looking Barbie in my lap. I made her look more real and a bit more like me. I gave the doll a set of drastic re-constructive surgeries before I took her to the conference. I stripped away her unrealistic chest with a power sander, I took two inches off her legs with a pair of ultra-strong scissors, I chopped off her golden locks, and using child’s modeling clay added a lot of weight to her waist and behind. She didn’t look half bad.
If only it were that easy to reconstruct ourselves…if we could just slap some clay on…or off…to accentuate or downplay certain natural attributes. My most important discovery came while I was sanding down my Barbie…deconstructing her dreamy body. This doll…this image I spent my early years trying to live up to…was hollow inside.