On March 5, digital artist Nickolay Lamm launched a crowdfunding campaign to make a toy doll modeled after Barbie — but with a twist: The doll would have the proportions of the average 19-year-old woman, according to statistics by the Center for Disease Control.
The news has gotten widespread approval from the media, helping Lamm raise nearly $150,000 — 50 percent more than his $95,000 goal — in less than two days.
It’s not exactly news that Barbie is even more unrealistic looking than the ads of airbrushed and photoshopped supermodels that greet women every time they open a magazine. According to rehabs.com, if looked at as a real body, Barbie’s neck is twice as long as normal, her waist would only be able to fit half her liver and part of her intestine and she wouldn’t be able to walk because her feet are too small.
What’s new, however, is that someone is finally challenging Barbie’s throne — and it’s about time. Since 1959, Barbie has been imposing her over-sexualized and underweight reign of terror on young girls. The problem with Lamm’s doll — self-indulgently dubbed Lammily — however, is that if an individual were to pick a randomly-selected woman, she wouldn’t look like Barbie, and she certainly wouldn’t look like Lammily.
Lammily is considered average size, which means that approximately half of all 19-year-old girls are shorter than her and the other half taller and half weigh less and half weigh more. The media, however, seems to think that just because Lammily is based on the supposed “average,” she suddenly represents all women.
The most cringe-worthy part? The motto for the new doll is “Average is beautiful.” Average isn’t beautiful because average doesn’t exist. Every young girl is unique, in both her looks and her personality, and she should be taught to take pride in her differences — not to aspire to normalcy.
Just as a mother wouldn’t tell her daughter she should try to do “average” in school, or get an “average” job, or make an “average” effort in what she is passionate about, society’s young girls shouldn’t be told to try to look “average” either. Instead, she should be celebrated for her differences. What makes the world beautiful isn’t a statistically based compilation of everyone, but rather it’s that no one quite looks the same. In a single stroke, this doll eliminates one societal problem — unrealistic portrayals of women — and becomes another: girls’ desire to just fit in.
A doll like Lammily certainly has its benefits. A 2006 study published in Developmental Psychology showed that “girls exposed to Barbie reported lower body esteem and greater desire for a thinner body shape than girls in the other exposure conditions.” A doll such as Lammily, with more normal body proportions, is probably less likely to cause such a reaction.
But what about girls who are naturally super skinny? Voluptuous? What happened to the “shapes” magazines are always asking readers to divide themselves into: flute, apple, pear, hourglass?
Where are the tall girls and the petite ones? The ones who are African American, Asian, Hispanic, Indian, Native American?
Having a realistic-looking doll is helpful in that it is one step away from the fetishization of the unattainable that constantly surrounds girls from the time they are old enough to be fully cognizant of their surroundings. From Disney princesses with huge eyes and tiny waists to billboards of airbrushed models to kids’ television shows whose actors wear a full face of makeup at the age of 10, its hard for girls to see reflections of themselves in pop culture.
But the media has been too quick to embrace this doll. Slapping some brown hair and slightly bigger thighs on a Caucasian doll isn’t going to solve society’s issue with images of women. And glorifying “average” isn’t a positive message to send to young girls either.
Isabella Sayyah is a sophomore majoring in international relations and print and digital journalism. She is also the associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan.