Barbie’s “Fat Ankles” Latest Flap in Racial, Body Image Controversies

The much-maligned doll with the improbable anatomical
dimensions has a new problem: Barbie’s got cankles.


Marking the doll’s 50th anniversary with a series of
couture-inspired fashion, luxury shoe and handbag designer Christian
Louboutin’s restyled Barbie will undergo the ultimate plastic surgery —  slimmer ankles to accentuate the
custom-made stiletto kicks for her freakishly small feet.

“He found her ankles were too fat,” a Louboutin spokeswoman
told WWD.

This latest controversy comes as Barbie manufacturer Mattel
recently introduced a new African-American-styled doll with fuller lips,
wider noses and a hair straightening kit
because beauty apparently can’t be
obtained without smooth tresses.

Sadly, these body image and racial gaffes join a long line
of Barbie’s culturally tin-eared controversies:

1959: "Plantation Belle Barbie" donned a Civil
War-era gown as a slave-owning southerner during the height of the American
civil rights movement.

1965: "Sleepy Time Gal" decked out in pink pajamas
came equipped with a scale pegged to 110-lbs and a dieting book that reportedly
had one page of advice: "Don’t eat."

1975: Barbie’s little sister sprouted breasts as
"Growing Up Skipper" by spinning a dial embedded in her back as if
that solely defines maturity.

1985: "Heart Family Midge" revealed a secret
compartment in her belly that sports a fully-formed fetus igniting a firestorm
for misinforming children about childbirth.

1992: "Teen Talk Barbie" declares "math
class is tough
" reinforcing the bone-headed notion that girls aren’t
predisposed to understand facts and figures.

1997: In a fit of jaw-dropping product placement, "Oreo
Barbie" was a white-featured black doll paired with the popular chocolate cookie
and, as some critics charged, was a subtle nod to the racial slur to "act

2002: Preggers Midge is restyled as a teenager fueling
outrage by parents and causing stores to pull the doll from its shelves for
glamorizing teen pregnancy.

2009: "Totally Stylin’ Barbie" gets a
"Ken" tattoo on her lower back, derisively referred to as a
"tramp stamp," though Mattel inexplicably announced five years
earlier in 2004 that the long-time pair had broken up but remained friends.

It would be easy to dismiss the shockingly out of touch
Barbie culture as an anachronism of a bygone era but as we reported Monday the influence
of toys on small children’s adoption of gender stereotypes
is as strong as

Fortunately, some teen-aged girls aren’t buying it.

The New York Daily News reports the that the new black
Barbie dolls are getting mixed reviews

Many of the city girls liked the dolls —
Grace, Kara and Trichelle — but some felt the Mattel toy company went too far
with the rap-inspired details.

"Not all black people like hip hop," said Barbara
Mootoo, 15, of Manhattan, looking at Kara’s silver rope chain necklace.
"They gave her a chain like a 50Cent video."

Tyaine Danclaire, 15, of the Bronx, liked Trichelle’s
straight, long hair because it looked like "a weave," but she thought
the idea "was sorta racist."

"They say black girls are ghetto with the gold
earrings, with the big bling; I don’t agree with that," she

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  • jillunnecesarean

    I had Skipper! Someone bought her for me not realizing her magic power of growing breasts. As I remember, you cranked her arm around and around and that made her “grow up.” I was young enough to not really get it but old enough to know that the adults around me laughing in surprise meant that there was something unusual about the doll.

  • progo35

    When I was little, I wanted this “Lady Lovely Locks” doll more than anything because the commercial said that her hair grew on it’s own, magically! When I got the doll I sat there staring at it for a while and then asked, “Mommy, why isn’t her hair growing by itself?” “Well, it looks like you have to clip this other hair to her head.” I was so disappointed! LOL.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • grayduck

    How did you collect the information about the historical product offerings? Did some now-old person write down in a notebook a description of every new Barbie doll that was issued since the 1950s? Of all the information someone would want to record, why would someone show such devotion to maintaining descriptions of toys?


  • crowepps

    Of all the information someone would want to record, why would someone show such devotion to maintaining descriptions of toys?

    People collect Barbie dolls and exchange them for large amounts of money. In service to those collectors and to enable them in their dealings, people make money maintaining descriptions of toys. There are also books out there for McDonald’s Happy Meal toy collectors, Hot Wheel car collectors, etc.

  • maria19

    Most of the girls like Barbie Dolls and even they make collections of different types of dolls. My daughters also love to play with Barbie Dolls.