Barbie is once again at the center of a debate on body image, this one fueled by a simple Facebook post that imagines a plus-size version of the notoriously skinny doll. "Should toy companies start making plus sized Barbie dolls? 'Like'= Yes, absolutely! Comment=No, bad idea," asks Plus Size Modeling, an online guide, sparking more than 40,000 likes from readers and more than 2,600 shares since December 18.
The image of the plus-size version-apparently borrowed from the site Worth 1000, where it won a 2011 design contest to enlarge celebrity icons through photo magic-features a thicker waist and thighs, plus a triple chin, which has raised the ire of many commenters. "Get rid of the chins! Not all fat folk have multiple chins!" wrote one woman. She prompted a wave of chin critics, including one who added, "Ya the triple chin is too much. Most overweight people (me included) only have a double chin no matter what size they are. This Barbie is inaccurate."
Others were critical of the idea in general, such as one woman who noted, "We shouldn't encourage people to be unhealthy... Maybe we should make a heroin addict Barbie too?"
But others applauded it, such as the woman who noted, "I think it's a great idea. Most American women (including me) feel bad about their body image, and this is partially due to the media and also how some parents teach their own children what to portray as a healthy body image. The original body shape of Barbie, while very beautiful, is so inaccurate to the proportions of the human body it is actually physically impossible to duplicate without surgery."
Robyn Silverman, a body image expert and author of "Good Girls Don't Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls," tells Yahoo Shine that, while she is certainly in favor of a plus-size Barbie "to help girls see themselves in dolls with which they play," she feels the image used in this post is problematic. "The photo doesn't do the job it's proposing to do," Silverman notes, calling it "a stereotype," and, "what many people falsely believe all plus-size women look like." The multiple chins are just part of the problem, she says, adding that it's also "sexualized and totally inappropriate on every level," and that Plus Size Modeling "should know better."
No one at the website, which describes itself as "a place where woman of all shapes and sizes come to get industry advice, modeling tips, style ideas, inspiration & more," returned an email from Yahoo Shine requesting comment on its viral post.
It's not the first place to suggest a Barbie body overhaul, though. Pittsburgh-based illustrator Nickolay Lamm has turned a critical eye on the toy several times, highlighting her unrealistic proportions and creating a more realistically sized version through photo retouching and 3D printing. "If there's even a small chance of Barbie in its present form negatively influencing girls, and if Barbie looks good as an average-sized woman in America, what's stopping Mattel from making one?" Lamm noted at the time. Though, Silverman notes, it would be just a start. "One attempt is not the solution to the problem," she says. "We need many variations in the media for girls to see themselves, and to see themselves as valid, and worthwhile."