Last summer, digital artist Nikolay Lamm created an image of what Barbie would look with the Center for Disease Control'sproportions of the average woman. The photo of Barbie standing next to her shorter, curvier counterpart went viral and parents began to wonder why this kind of doll wasn't sold in stores.
Less than a year later, Lamm teamed up with Mattel's former vice president of manufacturing and created a crowd funding campaign to turn his illustrations into a plastic doll named Lammily. Shortly after launching his donation site, Lamm had raised more than twice his goal of $95,000 to create a minimum of 5,000 dolls. So far, over 8,000 dolls have been ordered and are set to be delivered this November (just in time for Santa to stock up).
Besides the hype surrounding the doll, is there any reason for parents to replace their daughters' Barbies with Lammilies? Alisha Ali PhD, an associate professor of applied psychology at New York University and a mom of two daughters under 10 thinks so. "Girls don't see a broad range of body images in toys which sends a message that when you grow up into an adult woman, this [doll] is what you should look like." In addition to promoting a healthy body image, Ali says that the story behind the doll sends a positive message to young girls. "It shows girls that their ideas can make things come into being." This story also takes the focus off the dolls body type entirely which encourages them not to compare themselves to plastic, she says.
Although the dolls may not be hitting store shelves in the near future, there are things you can do to counteract any negative impact your child's toys may have on her now. "Any thing we spend a significant amount of time with can impact us," Ali says. "If a child is young and is playing with a toy for an hour a day, it can shape how they see the world and themselves." In order to avoid these effects, she suggests considering yourself the gatekeeper of the kinds of toys your daughter plays with. "Just because a toy is popular doesn't mean you have to buy it for your child." Instead, try to find toys that have a wide range of looks. Secondly, it's important to engage with your daughter while she plays with toys like Barbie. Ali suggests reminding her that it's not actually possible to look the way Barbie does. (Plus, if she was real, she'd have many health problems.) With an older child, Ali says to ask her,what do you think is more important, the way you look or what you can do? What are some of things you can do that you are proud of?
If your daughter is a Barbie fanatic, it doesn't mean she will grow up with a low self-esteem. However, Ali points out, "don't we want our girls to have a good self-esteem not despite their toys but because of their toys?"