Hey Hijabis!.... We now have our own Hijab Barbie. Lucky us. We can encourage our young girls to wear lots of makeup and to strive to attain a busty and skinny body, and to wear form fitting clothes. The Hijab Barbie is a popular girl, her Instagram account, dubbed “Instagram’s latest style star” has 40,000 followers.
As a hijab-loving, modern Muslim woman, I feel somewhat dismayed. While it’s great that Muslim girls have a hijabi doll to play with, what values are we instilling in them to have that doll wear a lot of makeup and tight clothing that defines their bodies? Without placing judgment on anyone for their choice of how to dress their own bodies, I think it’s important to look at the subliminal messages we’re giving our young people.
It was probably the mid sixties the first time I saw a Barbie doll. (I’m aging myself here.) The neighbor girl with whom I played had gotten one for her birthday and I wanted one, too. My mother categorically forbade it. Before it was fashionable, she was offended by the disproportionate length of Barbie’s legs, her jutting breasts, improbable waist, and painted face. The small, exasperated puff of breath that escaped her lips signaled her utter contempt. She was definitely ahead of her time.
Was I outraged at this distortion of the feminine form? Did I take a vow never to play with a Barbie doll? No! I resented that I couldn’t have one as my friends had one, and sometimes more than one. I grew up wanting to look like Barbie. I need not mention the effect on the self-esteem of a short, skinny girl.
However, some history is in order here- In the 1950’s, Barbie’s sexualized body was a far cry from the baby dolls that young girls were used to rocking in a cradle and feeding with a bottle. Her tight-fitting outfits, short skirts, and high heels were a far cry from floral print flannel jammies and diapers. In fact, Barbie’s creator, Ruth Handler, modeled Barbie after a German doll which in turn had been modeled on a prostitute. The German doll had been intended as a plaything for men. Read About Barbie's Creator Not exactly the role model we want for our female loved ones of any age, much less impressionable girls in their formative years.
To add to the sexualization issue, there’s the facet of body image. As part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Ms. Galia Slayen created a life-size doll representing what Barbie would look like if she were an actual human being. If Barbie were an actual women, (based on a 1:6 ratio) she would be 5'9" tall, have a 39" bust, an 18" waist, 33" hips and a size 3 shoe. Here's Ms. Slayen's portrayal-
More "Get Real, Barbie" statistics:*
- There are two Barbie dolls sold every second in the world.
• The target market for Barbie doll sales is young girls ages 3-12 years of age.
• A girl usually has her first Barbie by age 3, and collects a total of seven dolls during her childhood.
• Over a billion dollars worth of Barbie dolls and accessories were sold in 1993, making this doll big business and one of the top 10 toys sold.
• Barbie calls this a "full figure" and likes her weight at 110 lbs.
• At 5'9" tall and weighing 110 lbs, Barbie would have a BMI of 16.24 and fit the weight criteria for anorexia. She likely would not menstruate.
• If Barbie was a real woman, she'd have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.
• Slumber Party Barbie was introduced in 1965 and came with a bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs with a book entitled "How to Lose Weight" with directions inside stating simply "Don't eat.
I don’t need to belabor the negative impact of the sexualization-body image issues related to Barbie. There’s plenty available on the web. What I would love to see is more popularized dolls portraying realistic, healthy images- with and without hijab.