Berkeleyan: A newspaper for faculty and staff at UC Berkeley
Berkeleyan Home Search Berkeleyan Berkeleyan Archive UCB News UCB Calendar

 Stories for April 1, 1998:

Notes on Barbie

by Tamara Keith, Public Affairs
posted Apr. 1, 1998

A few weeks ago the Women’s Resource Center on campus held a conference called “Barbies We’d Like to See.” Since I spent most of my life envying the hard-bodied plastic babe, I decided that a conference designed to make her more realistic might be a great place for me to do a little self exploration.

When I was growing up, Barbie and the models who looked like her gave me something to strive for: She was tall, she had long, beautiful blonde hair, her wardrobe was immense and varied, her waist line was to die for. If she were human those long legs and that plump chest would draw men from miles around.

Well, not long after my 12th birthday it became clear that my still-developing body wasn’t developing at the right pace or in the right places to make me look like every girl’s childhood idol.

In junior high and high school it was hard for me to accept my stubby legs, flat chest, not-firm-enough gluteus maximus and slightly pudgy belly (some of my “friends” even called me mean names like mosquito bites and jello jigglers). By then, Barbie had pretty much left my mind, but her image of beauty was still deeply ingrained. Starting in eighth grade I began subconsciously trying to fit the Barbie beauty image. I bought a pair of platform tennis shoes and two Wonderbras. I also stopped cutting my hair and embarked on a long journey through various eating disorders.

Now that I’m in college, I have hit another one of those phases of self-discovery and change. I am beginning to look more like an adult and whether I want them to or not, certain parts of my body are taking on more womanly mass. I guess the good thing about college is that everyone is changing at pretty much the same time and no one is compelled to make fun of you for being yourself.

I gave my Barbie several drastic re-constructive surgeries before I took her to the conference. I made her look more real and a bit more like me. I stripped away her unrealistic chest with a power sander; I took two inches off her legs with a pair of ultra-strong scissors; I chopped off her golden locks, and using child’s modeling clay, added a lot of weight to her waist and behind. When the reconstruction was done, I looked at my “massacred” Barbie doll and realized that she didn’t look half bad. I also made her a Wonderbra (because I figured Barbie deserved it) and a pair of baggy jeans.

When it came time for me to get up in front of the crowd (many of whom were members of the local print media) and tell everyone about my Barbie, I wasn’t embarrassed to say that she was modeled after me. Although I still have some insecurities about my body, this reconstructed Barbie doll has helped me confront them instead of hide from them.

[ Back to top ]

UCB Home
Copyright 1998, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
Comments? E-mail