For those of you who have young children and are in the know, two momentous events occurred in the world of kids and fashion: Barbie turned fifty and Dora got a makeover not long ago. So what’s the connection? The impact that these two icons have had on children and the way we view ourselves. Barbie has evolved from a little girl’s object of play and imagination into an uber-creation of Mattel. If kids and the company could imagine it, Mattel would provide it. It can be debated who led the development of the accessories that little girls requested, demand or supply. Either way, the outcome is that there is an endless supply of products that can be purchased, and almost every child and many adults in America have likely been impacted by Barbie and the gang. She has been the ideal housewife, astronaut, adventurer, and C.E.O. She has been an example of what women can become in mind and in body. It is the image of “body” that has been detrimental.
So what about Dora? Not long ago, Dora underwent the cartoon equivalent of an extreme makeover. She is now supposed to be older and dresses and looks the part of a more mature Material-Girl version of the original cross-cultural Granola girl. Whatever happened to the girl next door, and why did they have to change her? The most apparent motivation would be the desire to grow a product with your market. As little girls grow up, they have grown out of Dora. To them, she is for little kids, and not for young girls growing into tweens. From a business perspective, what better way to continue a demand for a product than to evolve it as your market evolves and also keep the original so that emerging markets will be attracted to the original product? From a marketing perspective, this is genius, especially if it succeeds. Dora, after all, is a multi-million dollar industry, just as Barbie is.
Is there a problem with this evolution? No. What people are taking issue with is the manner in which they evolved her. Did they stay consistent with how Dora would have evolved, left to her own devices? This can be debated, as many children go through unpredictable changes in likes, dislikes, tastes and fashion as they grow from children into young adults. I think we all remember the girl in school that left sixth grade a tom boy and came to the first day of seventh grade a young woman. The issue is that Dora is the creation of adults. She is not a little girl going through her own changes. This is an orchestrated evolution.
Here are some stats to consider: about 42 percent of first, second, and third grade girls want to be thinner, 81 percent of ten year olds are afraid of becoming fat, and 51 percent of nine and ten year-old girls feel “better” if they are on a diet, than if they are not. Keep in mind that these are children we are talking about. Realize that the body image issues that our children are developing, likely begin by first grade.
So here is the question: Where does their pretty come from? And where does yours come from? I firmly believe that for most of us, our “pretty” comes from outside of us, not from our heart, as I believe that it should. In my years of research and experience with body image and eating disorders, there are more issues in our society that contribute to ourselves than we ever want to realize. We are the stewards of our children and are responsible contributing to their health, not creating their lack thereof. Whether or not these of looking outside of ourselves for beauty are a facet of the human condition is not the issue, we have the knowledge and wisdom to know there is a further potential, and it is that further potential that I want for my daughter and all children. I hope that you will want the same. When do we just say, “Enough!”