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OP-ED: Body Positivity, Starting with Barbie

 

A new era in the world of fashion has emerged where body types of all shapes and sizes are embraced and celebrated. This year, plus sized models graced the runways of famous fashion designers such as Michael Kors and Christian Siriano. Perhaps the most famous of these plus sized models is Ashley Graham, who has nearly 6.5 million followers on Instagram.

Taking social media by storm, Graham is a judge on America’s Next Top Model, body activist, and cover girl of Sports Illustrated.

The toy manufacturing company Mattel is following her lead with their line of “Fashionista” Barbie dolls that come in various colors, sizes, and shapes. Say hello to the new curvy Barbie, and goodbye to the cookie cutter image that used to be the gospel of fashion.

In child’s growth and development, the toys that they are surrounded by shape the values and expectations they will have for society. The idea is that if a child grows up playing with the traditional Barbie doll that has what was considered to be the ideal body proportion, she’s likely to find herself chasing after a fairytale that’s even more obscure than Cinderella.

Scientific studies have shown that the original 1959 Barbie has an inhumanly small rib cage proportional to the rest of her body, the perfect ideal that was and still is unattainable. Luckily, Mattel and society as a whole has come to this conclusion, and is surely working to make a change that will benefit the health of our next generation.

Plus sized Barbies are more than just a toy. They are weapons to fight off anorexia and bulimia. They are the key to a world where everybody is embraced. However, the world has to be careful not to create a parallel problem with a reversed ideal body image. Girls today are starting to crave a curvier figure that is not attainable by everyone. Genetics plays a large role in our figures, causing weight to distribute itself differently on different people. For this reason, the most beautiful thing to be is happy and healthy.

Healthy portrays itself differently on various people. The Olympic gold medalist gymnast Aly Raisman looks nothing like the Tennis Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, but both of these women are strong and beautiful. In the words of Ashley Graham, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or 22, you can be healthy as long as you’re taking care of your body, working out, and telling yourself ‘I love you’ instead of taking in the negativity of beauty standards.”

As inspiring as women like Ashley Graham are, there is a new frontier that needs to be conquered. The elephant in the room is men’s body image. Oftentimes, because stereotypes dictate that the female gender is more vanity centered, it is looked down upon for men to try too hard to look good. This means that while women create a network and support system of positivity, men battle their body insecurities alone.

Perhaps it’s time that we expand our awareness even wider and broaden our reach even further. If we shoot for the moon, we’ll land on a star, and on that star will be a people united in diversity where body types of all sizes are considered beautiful.

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