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In an effort to promote positive body image among young girls, Nickolay Lamm created a doll based on the proportions of an average 19-year-old girl. And that’s the problem. He’s telling our girls it’s best to be average.
While Lamm’s effort might be considered noble one, could it be that he is just adding fuel to the fire? The reviews of Lammily have been strongly positive. However, I can’t be the only one shouting condemnation for this doll from the proverbial rooftops. Allow me the chance to change your minds about Lammily, Barbie and the way we parent our children.
Lammily vs Barbie
Lamm created Lammily in the image of the average woman. Apparently Lamm believes the average woman is athletic, wears Gap and J Crew, has an enviable backside and a perfectly flat stomach. Instead of fighting negative body issues, this doll is promoting another body type that many girls will never attain. Lammily is marketed with words like normal, real and average. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’d want my future daughter to emulate herself after a doll that’s just normal, just average.
At the very least, Barbie inspired little girls that the sky (Stewardess Barbie) was the limit. Barbie’s various personas inspired a wild imagination in my six-year-old self. I wanted to be a business professional, lion tamer and superstar all in one day because of Barbie.
I’m curious to know if young girls are refusing dinner because they don't have the physique of Barbie. Are parents really facing this reality? As a child, I was more concerned with my Barbie's gum-to-hair ratio. I also struggled with choosing the right shade of magic marker for my Barbie's makeover. That stuff is permanent, you know. I firmly believe that Barbie’s crucifixion comes at the hand of a confused society, not because of the self-esteem issues of little girls.
It’s understandable that parents want to prevent their children from developing negative body issues. Young girls are being admitted to treatment facilities due to these issues and worse. However, are parents fighting the wrong battle? The biggest plot line in the narrative against Barbie is that she is advertising an impossible body image. We know that many adults believe the iconic doll is a negative influence, but the question is this: is your daughter buying it?
The Rapid Decline of Outside Playtime
When I was a kid, I spent my days outside. The streetlights dictated dinnertime, and I had strict instructions to head home any time I heard the whistle. My stomping grounds were the length of the block and my backyard. It was more than enough space for me to jump off a swing set and break my arm, slide down the branch of a pine tree into a pile of snow, and learn to swim.
In my childhood world, watching TV was boring, iPads were nonexistent and cell phones were reserved to the likes of Zach Morris. I didn’t have time to have a negative body image – I was too busy. There were not enough hours in the day to plan a forced wedding with the neighbor boy by the hydrangea bush, race a pretend horse that doubled as my bike in the Kentucky Derby, and create a sidewalk chalk house for my Barbie to live in.
Unfortunately, the playful, imaginative world I grew up in is the opposite reality of children today. Take a look around at any restaurant, grocery store or shopping mall; you’ll see the same thing I do: children being managed with technology. iPads, tablets and cellphones are the number one choice of "toys" for children, rather than the adult tech devices they were created to be. According to USA Today, 68% of children ages 7 to 11 rode their bikes at least six times per year in 1995. Last year, only 47% of children did. Maybe those kids don’t know that they can ride their bike in the Kentucky Derby.
Where to Place Blame
Perhaps the idea of negative body image comes from media, rather than from a doll. Children today spend an average of 35 hours per week watching television. That doesn't include other media time like playing video games or using tablets. Additionally, even though Facebook has a minimum age requirement of 13, five million registered users are under the age of ten. This level of media consumption is concerning. Television, social media and video games depict rail thin women as having the idea body type. Young girls going through puberty, the time where body image issues usually begin, are not immune to wanting the “ideal” body of the Victoria’s Secret model they saw on their Facebook feed.
Lammily isn't the solution for self-esteem issues in young girls, just like Barbie isn't the cause. She won’t ignite imaginations, and she won’t make a six-year-old feel like she can be a lion tamer. Lammily will sell because parents don’t really understand what she really means. In the world of Lammily, young girls will spend their days playing with “average” dolls dressed in bland clothing that still look nothing like them. Girls won’t be inspired by her many careers, outfits or personas because she has none. And when puberty hits, they won’t develop a positive body image just because society said they should play with a doll that is more like them – average. However, she might develop these serious self-esteem issues because she spent a lot of time online, the place where bullies hide behind anonymous Facebook accounts.