I’m ‘normal’ girl in Barbie world: too soon?

By Katie Gauch, Editor-in-Chief

When I first read about the recent creation of the “Normal Barbie,” I was confused. What was wrong with old barbies that their appearance had to be changed? What did my childhood collection of 246 Barbie dolls ever do to make them the victims of their own plastic surgery?
With toymaker Nickolay Lamm’s online release Nov. 19, Barbie dolls now have competitors: Lammily dolls. “The normal Barbie” is shorter and curvier to resemble the average American woman. The purchase of a Lammily doll can also be upgraded for $5.99 to include a 38-pack of “real life” stickers, such as cellulite, acne, stretch marks and bruises. Although the realistic proportions of the doll could have a positive impact, the doll itself will do more harm than good.
When a child is looking through the multitude of stickers, he or she may see bruises that they can put on the doll. Everyone has bruises, and bruises are considered a relatively normal bodily mark on one’s skin. But in this case, this sticker is very dark and disproportional. Although bruises can develop from non-violent acts, the creators of the doll were probably referencing a much graver subject: the prevalent mars that victims of domestic violence have.
By this, the creators are making it seem as if domestic violence bruises are considered normal. People need to keep in mind the audience of these dolls. In a society with heated debates and chilling stories of domestic violence, innocent children need to be protected from such mature topics.
According to an excerpt from the book Age Determination Guidelines: Relation Children’s Ages to Toy Characteristics and Play Behavior, from birth to 12 years old, children are the most curious about complex concepts they seek to clarify. Therefore, stickers on these dolls would only spark a premature discussion of topics children are not ready to hear. Just as students throughout MCPS don’t learn about family life until fifth grade, adult subjects, such as domestic violence should be taught to children when they have had time to develop.
The dolls also include another odd sticker: stretch marks. Yes, stretch marks.
According to teenshealth.org, stretch marks can develop on teens’ skin during puberty as the body changes faster than the skin can grow.
This is normal and prevalent in teens, but children playing with the dolls will not know what stretch marks are. Children will then become curious about such a sticker and ask their parents about the nature of it, forcing parents to explain bodily changes that children of that age may not be ready to understand.
This idea is not that children should not be learning about these things, but at such an age, we need to conserve the innocence, creativity, and purity of children as they are still developing into who they are and learning about the world. It is the parent’s decision when a child is ready to learn about these topics, not a doll manufacturer’s. We do not need to force them to perceive stretch marks as normal at their young age.
Changing a Barbie doll will not have immediate effects on changing children’s view on what is normal. In fact, adults and teens are the ones who need to change their view on what is normal. Though these stickers represent flaws, children are not learning through the Barbie what is normal and what is not. They learn through society and the media.
These outlets tell children what they should and shouldn’t look like. Children trust what others say, rather than seeing a Barbie doll. This brainwashing seeps into the minds of teens and middle-schoolers, causing judgment and bullying, and making one feel ashamed of one’s body. The creators are trying to help this effort by starting with children, but it should instead start with adults.