Imagine if Barbie were a real woman. According to doctors, her measurements would force her to walk on all fours and she would be physically incapable of lifting her over-sized Mattel head. She could be nicknamed the “impossible woman” with her unrealistic physical proportions that would make her look like she’s straight off a spaceship. She would stand 6 feet tall, weigh 100 pounds, and have a 39-inch bust, a 19-inch waist, and the hips of a prepubescent boy.
The dolls landed on toy store shelves in 1959 and became the ideal role model image for all young girls. She was thin, had a perfect boyfriend, family, house, and luscious locks — who wouldn’t want to be her? Those girls grew up, and their measurements don’t come nearly as close as biology would let them. The average American woman would have to walk into a fun house of warped mirrors to achieve the figure Barbie presents.
Mattel was dangerously aware of the public’s idealizations, and in 1965 the company came out with a “Slumber Party Barbie,” complete with a bathroom scale permanently set to 110 pounds. In this impossible quest to reach Barbie’s unattainable measurements, many girls have developed what is known as “The Barbie Effect.”
However, something revolutionary recently shifted among young girls’ perception of image and beauty. In 2013, Barbie sales dropped six percent, but during the holiday season, they fell by a shocking 13 percent. The company net a reported $6.5 billion in sales last year, and Barbie alone brings in $1.3 billion — but it still isn’t cutting it, and top executives say they’re trying to “amp up the innovation.”
"The reality is we just didn't sell enough Barbie dolls," Mattel CEO Bryan Stockton told analysts in the quarterly earnings conference call. "What's clear to us is the landscape is changing."