Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Barbie Factor and Why We Feel Bad about Our Bodies

Last year I spoke at my guild about Knitters and body image. I want to share a little of that presentation because I know many knitters who, due to body image issues, won’t knit garments for themselves. 

Body image refers to a person's perception of their own physical appearance. It describes how one perceives one's appearance to be to others, which in many cases may be dramatically different from one's objective physical condition or how one is actually perceived by others. Many people are so overcome by body loathing that the other amazing dimensions of who they are simply fade away and they negate attributes like exceptional talent, stellar careers and strong loving relationships.

Did you grow up playing with Barbie dolls? I did, so I thought that that’s what grown up women are supposed to look like. Researchers generated a computer model of a woman with Barbie-doll proportions and they said that her back would be too weak to support the weight of her upper body, and her torso would be too narrow to contain her organs.

Jill Barad who was the president of Mattel until 2000 estimated that 99% of girls aged 3 to 10 years old own at least one Barbie doll.

Today, whether or not to give little girls Barbie dolls is often hotly debated by many mothers who believe that they foster poor body image. Take a look at the image below. The real woman is shown as 5’4”, 145 pounds, with measurements of 36" 30" 39". Barbie is depicted with an 1 inch smaller bust but maintaining the proportions of a real woman. She then becomes 6' with the measurements of 35",19", 33". Unfortunately we incorporate these images in our view of the world and then apply negative comparisons to ourselves.

If you enjoy reading my blog, I'd really appreciate it if you would tell your knitting friends or share links to your favourite posts online with Twitter, Ravelry or Facebook. Word of mouth is really helping to grow my business as knitters respect the views of other members of our community. Thanks!


  1. Sadly, something rarely realized by the majority of "average" women is that being more "ideal" looking is more complicated than commonly understood. A healthy self image is nearly impossible to have at all when you are looked at as if you're a juicy piece of meat by men, and rudely pushed aside by fellow women. The truth is that nobody has a happy self image. We all dislike ourselves in some facet or another, it's what society has taught all humans since the late 19th century (particularly females). As the daughter of a single dad who served in the US Navy for 20 years active duty, a nurse, a sociologist, a knitter, wife, and most importantly the mother of 2 adult daughters who are completely opposite of one another in physical appearance and a son currently serving in the US Navy, the only thing I've learned myself and taught my 3 beautiful and amazing children is simple. Except your outer body in as much as you are unable to alter it without surgery, and understand that your self worth and self image need to be about who you are, who you love as well as who loves you, and the accomplishment and fulfillment of your dreams. Best wishes to you all in this individual struggle for peace within yourself, Snowiesmom

  2. Beautiful ponytail #3 with blue eyeliner in your photo BTW.

    Something else to consider...If Barbie was life size the fabric of Barbie clothes would all be as thick as carpet. So putting an extra slim doll in human size fabric balances out the proportions.

    Sort of like stick thin runway models wearing super extra bulky knits in a way. Normal people won't wear that, we just know better... It doesn't hurt our body image any.
    -Michelle Porter