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Plastic Perfection MAG
Her face looks remarkably like an eggplant with its deep purple hue. At first glance, one might guess she had been struck, but the damage is not a result of a beating. The pain she has endured is self-inflicted, and she believes it is for the best. Soon the bruises will fade and reveal a perfect, plastic-looking face. She did what she had to to fulfill her dream: become a living Barbie.
Cindy Jackson grew up in Fremont, Ohio. At age six, she received her first Barbie doll and immediately fell in love. Like many little girls, she did Barbie's hair in sophisticated styles, dressed her in elegant clothing, and helped Barbie lead a glamorous lifestyle. Through Barbie, Ms. Jackson was able to see an alternative to her own life.
Barbie was lovable and powerful. She was beautiful and influential. She was gentle and strong. She was perfect. Ms. Jackson decided she would do whatever it took to become a living, breathing Barbie.
Ninety-nine percent of three- to 10-year-old girls in the United States own a Barbie doll. The majority do not develop severe self-image problems, but a significant number do face body insecurities. Barbie dolls lead to self-image problems in many young people because they view Barbie as a role model, and much of Barbie's appeal is her unnaturally “perfect” body.
Barbie represents a successful, mature woman – the kind of woman young girls look up to. She holds important, accomplished positions in the workforce such as business executive, doctor, and ballerina. She empowers and encourages girls to strive for success. Barbie also represents an independent woman who does not “define herself through relationships of responsibility to men or to her family,” writes M.G. Lord in Forever Barbie. Though Barbie may be in a relationship with Ken, she is not dependant on him. She supports herself and shows girls that they can depend on themselves and pursue their own dreams. In a study conducted by developmental psychologists, many girls said they viewed Barbie as a role model. According to researcher Tara Kuther, one girl summed it up when she said that Barbie “is like the perfect person … that everyone wants to be like.”
Some experts argue that since Barbie is successful, powerful, and independent, she is a positive influence. This may be true, but her admirable attributes do not eliminate the fact that she has an unnatural figure that girls also admire. I believe that Barbie's respectable backstory increases girls' respect for her and makes her an even greater influence on their body images.
I am five feet six inches tall. According to the Department of Health, I am a healthy weight. I have a 26-inch waist, hips of 34 inches, and a bust of 33 inches. In her article “What Would a Real Life Barbie Look Like?” Denise Winterman calculates that if Barbie were five foot six and her proportions remained the same, she would have a waist measuring 20 inches, hips measuring 29 inches, and a bust measuring 27 inches. I could not possibly achieve these dimensions in a natural or healthy way. A live woman with Barbie's dimensions would even lack the body fat needed for the normal functioning of her reproductive system.
Barbie's unhealthy figure has the power to influence the self-image of young girls. British researcher Helga Dittmar led a study that asked girls if they were content with their bodies. The majority said they were, yet after being shown images of Barbie dolls, many changed their minds. Dittmar concluded that “ultra-thin images not only lowered young girls' body esteem but also decreased their satisfaction with their actual body size, making them desire a thinner body.” Professor Janet Treasure, an expert on body size and image at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, claims that “the promotion of dolls with such a body shape,
and other things like size zero, have wider public health implications, like an increased risk of eating disorders.”
When Ms. Jackson set her goal to become a living Barbie, she knew it would not be easy. She realized that she would have to launch a successful business and, just as importantly, develop a perfect figure. A “perfect” figure did not come naturally to her. She has put herself through more than 20 dangerous operations and has spent over $50,000 to remake her appearance. However, all the pain, risk, and expense was worth it to Ms. Jackson.
Her goal was to look more like Barbie with each operation. Though she does not look exactly like
the doll, Ms. Jackson currently has a figure that resembles Barbie's in as many ways as her surgeons were able to achieve. Today she is known as a Bionic Woman, and she is a singer and writer. She considers herself a success.