Bil Browning

The Not-So-Pretty Face of Eating Disorders

Filed By Bil Browning | April 21, 2011 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Living
Tags: anorexia, Barbie, eating disorders, Galia Slayen, National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Huffington Post blogger Galia Slayen, a Chinese and Government Major at Hamilton College, has created a life-sized replica of the iconic Barbie doll as a shocking wakeup call for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. GALIA-BARBIE.jpgSlayen kept Barbie's proportions the same; she stands about six feet tall with a 39" bust, 18" waist, and 33" hips.

Slayen's post is a stark reminder of the damage these impossible expectations of a "beautiful woman" can have on young women. She details how her project started in high school as a way to get a handle on her anorexia and to show her peers in a vivid manner exactly how preposterous these imaginary ideals are.

I dressed Barbie in my old clothes. The skirt she still has on today is a reminder of who I once was. That skirt, a size double zero, used to slip off my waist when I was struggling with anorexia. I put it on Barbie to serve as a reminder that the way Barbie looks, the way I once looked, is not healthy and is not "normal," whatever normal might mean.

The Barbie doll has long been criticized for giving young girls an unrealistic expectation of what beauty is - a perfectly white complexion, huge breasts, a tiny waist and limbs entirely out of proportion. The 1965 Slumber Party Barbie actually came with a scale set to 110 pounds and a book entitled How to Lose Weight that only said, "Don't Eat" inside.

Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D has long been recognized for her critiques of the objectification of the female body in advertising and pop culture. Starting in the 1960's, she's skewered the connection between advertising and several public health issues, including violence against women, eating disorders, and addiction. Kilbourne is behind the fascinating and horrific Killing Us Softly documentary and has just released an updated version of the film.

In this new, highly anticipated update of her pioneering Killing Us Softly series, the first in more than a decade, Jean Kilbourne takes a fresh look at how advertising traffics in distorted and destructive ideals of femininity. The film marshals a range of new print and television advertisements to lay bare a stunning pattern of damaging gender stereotypes -- images and messages that too often reinforce unrealistic, and unhealthy, perceptions of beauty, perfection, and sexuality. By bringing Kilbourne's groundbreaking analysis up to date, Killing Us Softly 4 stands to challenge a new generation of students to take advertising seriously, and to think critically about popular culture and its relationship to sexism, eating disorders, and gender violence.

Here's the trailer for the movie. You can order it here.

How do we change this culture of impractical expectations of female beauty? Is there anything we can do?

(Image courtesy of Galia Slayen)


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You might also find this story of Indian, feminine, and gay intersectionality concerning Barbie really interesting: http://www.theawl.com/2011/04/when-barbie-came-to-live-with-us

I did.

Is it just me, or does the head seem out of Barbie's proportions? I always thought she had a disproportionately huge head with big eyes.