BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - For the first time in 57 years Barbie has several new looks, including a curvy body. Many are praising the updated dolls, but was Mattel's move socially-conscious or just savvy marketing? A local mom and an LSU psychology professor gave their take on the new Barbie looks.
"She is who she's going to be, and I want to help with that. I don't want to change it, but I want to guide it," Kristen Manes said while watching her 6-year-old daughter play with her collection of Disney princesses.
Manes is a contributor to Red Stick Moms Blog, where she wrote about body image in a post called "What I Don't Want My Daughter to Learn." It details her own struggle with body image as a child and the lessons she hopes to pass to her daughter.
Barbie's body now has four different shapes, seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hair styles. The Time Magazine cover story announcing the new shapes asked: 'Now can we stop talking about my body?'
The conversation is far from over.
"I think it's a good step in the right direction," Manes said. "I think I needed to see it more than she did. She doesn't know what that is or why thankfully yet, but it's good for me to see that, and for me to see myself in the toys that she may get."
Dr. Laura Choate is a Licensed Professional Counselor and counselor educator at LSU. One of her four books is called Swimming Upstream: Parenting Girls for Resilience in a Toxic Culture. She wrote a piece for Psychology Today about the new Barbie.
"Now it's everywhere, every day, all the time," Choate said. "Barbie is just a d rop in the ocean of toxic cultural messages for girls. The same problems that Barbie has always had are still there, the same concerns, the same cautions are still present."
She cites research that shows when girls play with dolls like Barbie it has a negative impact on their self-esteem and body image, as opposed to when they play with non-sexualized toys like Mr. Potato Head.
Choate applauds the move by Mattel, but stresses that the dolls are still sexualized toys.
"When you tell your 6-year-old daughter, 'Go find a Barbie that looks like you,' well it's not a Barbie that looks like a 6-year-old you. It's a Barbie that looks like an 18-year-old hot and sexy, very fashionable potential you in the future."
She also points out that sales of Barbies are d ropping thanks to those Disney princesses and toys like Lego. She's not convinced curvy Barbie will have the desired effect.
"In focus groups little girls held her up and thought she was fat and called her fat. Is she going to be played with as the fat Barbie? And the rejected Barbie, or the Barbie nobody wants to play with?" she wondered.
Ultimately, the lessons come from parents.
"I do my best to think about it all the time every day, so that I'm not disparaging myself in front of her," Manes said.
She wants her daughter to understand that there's more to being a princess than looks.