Barbie's BMI

Barbie's BMI makes her technically anoxeric

Weird Fact: If Barbie were a human, she would be technically anorexic.

The Barbie doll is iconic. The average American girl owns 10 Barbie dolls. But what message does she send out to these impressionable young girls?

The makers of Barbie portray her as an independent rock-star-come-beach-babe-come-athlete, capable of anything she desires in the world. She’s a happy, bubbly go-getter and has bagged a great shiny guy like Ken. She’s a top role model – isn’t she?

Feminists say she’s the worst. For all her perfection, Barbie creates an unrealistic body image, prompting eating disorders and low self esteem in girls and young women for over half a century.

And they make a good point: if the original Barbie were a real woman, she would stand 5 ft 6 inches tall, weigh 110 pounds, have a 39-inch bust, an 18-inch waist, and 33-inch hips.

Original Barbie’s head and waist would be the same size, her legs twice the length of her torso, and her breasts would be too big to walk upright. Even if these proportions were scaled to a realistic level, this “perfect” body shape statistically occurs in 1 in 100,000 real women naturally.

So what of Barbie’s BMI?

The Body Mass Index is a measurement of a healthy body weight. Barbie’s BMI would be just 17.8 – well underweight and just an eyelash off the technical BMI definition of anorexia (17.5). (Note: when diagnosing anorexia, other factors do come into play.)

Some people also speculate that if Barbie were human, she would be too thin to menstruate, lacking even the basic body fat required to undergo pregnancy. A role model indeed.


Emulating Barbie

So how are young girls taught to emulate Barbie?

In 1965 her makers, Mattel, answered this question in no uncertain terms.

Mattel issued a Slumber Party Barbie that came with a bathroom scale set permanently at 110 pounds. It also came with a book called How to Lose Weight which contained the advice: “Don’t Eat”.

Thankfully, in the year 2000, parents finally wised up to the reality of this stick-figure as a bad female role model and Barbie doll sales dropped by $500 million in a single year. It was then that Mattel decided a more responsible and politically correct approach to doll design would be more appropriate.

“The new Barbie will have a more natural body shape – less busty with wider hips,” they said of the new look doll. Even so, modern Barbie continues to create an unrealistic body image…


Chatback: Do you think the perfection of Barbie dolls imprint unrealistic beliefs on young girls? Or do they know it’s just a fictional character like Santa Claus and leave it at that? What about modern Bratz dolls with their sexy clothes and superficial personalities? Are they just toys – or role models too?