Source: The New Yorker
In 1959, the toy company Mattel, which is based in a corporate office park, in El Segundo, California, introduced Barbie, inspiring thousands of young girls to dream, and to diet. The doll’s name soon became synonymous with a vapid obsession with beauty. In 2013, Rehabs.com, which helps people find treatment centers for eating disorders and other conditions, conducted a body-type analysis that concluded that a traditional Barbie—with her tiny waist, wrists, feet, and neck, paired with a preternaturally large bosom—would, as a real woman, be five feet nine inches tall with a sixteen-inch waist, leaving room for only half a liver and a few inches of intestine.
In recent years, the toy maker has introduced several new Barbie lines, including Fashionista Barbies, which come in in petite, tall, curvy, and original shapes. Another line, called Shero, is based on women with inspiring stories. In 2016, the Misty Copeland Barbie honored the ballet dancer’s request that the doll should “really reflect a dancer’s body and also not shy away from the fact that I have muscular calves, hips, a bust, and brown skin.” Mattel also made a Barbie of the plus-size fashion model Ashley Graham, which, following Graham’s instructions, featured belly fat, round arms, and touching thighs. “There’s no such thing as a thigh gap on my body,” Graham told me. “I wanted it to have cellulite, but they said it would look like a mistake.”
Some of these newer lines have become best-sellers. In 2015, the Ava DuVernay Barbie, which is based on the director of the Academy Award-nominated film “Selma,” comes with its own director’s chair, wears a black turtleneck, jeans, and sneakers, and has long dreadlocks, sold out in a couple of hours on Amazon and Barbie.com. Earlier this year, Wonder Woman Barbie, designed with toned biceps, far outsold Superman and Batman last year, after the actress Gal Gadot made an appearance as Wonder Woman in the Warner Bros. movie “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”