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Ruby the Fat Barbie

April 17, 2009

Back in 1998, The Body Shop rolled out a new add campaign that was intended to promote better self-image among women. All across the world The Body Shop put up posters showing a pleasantly plump Barbie-style doll named Ruby along with the slogan “There are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels, and only 8 who do.”

Although real women everywhere seemed to love Ruby, there were some protesters. You can read the whole story here, but this is what one The Body Shop executive has to say,

In the United States, the toy company Mattel sent us a cease-and-desist order, demanding we pull the images of Ruby from American shop windows. Their reason: Ruby was making Barbie look bad, presumably by mocking the plastic twig-like bestseller (Barbie dolls sell at a rate of two per second; it’s hard to see how our Ruby could have done any meaningful damage.) I was ecstatic that Mattel thought Ruby was insulting to Barbie — the idea of one inanimate piece of molded plastic hurting another’s feelings was absolutely mind-blowing.

This is absurd. A doll with anatomically correct (or at least possible) proportions is being pulled from advertizing because it’s making Barbie “look bad” – or maybe it’s just making Barbie look unrealistic, which she is. According to another blogger “one shop in the US was forced to take down a Ruby poster after a mall patron said his daughter had been traumatized by seeing it”. And does his daughter play with Barbies? Probably. And she’s not ‘traumatized’ by handling a doll with an impossible figure who would have to walk on all fours if she was a real person? I guess not. So, long story short, it’s OK to socialize our children to the idea that they should be tall, blonde, and exceedingly thin, but when we try to show them images of what real women look like, we’re traumatizing them.

As the same blogger mentioned above points out, Ruby looks a lot like the female nudes in classical painting. I’d rather be a Greek goddess than a Barbie any day.
Now that’s a real woman.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2011 8:53 PM

    She’s absolutely wonderful. I really do love her. :-)

  2. Jessica permalink
    June 6, 2011 10:21 PM

    First off, the whole ‘real women’ thing has me irked. Women who really are thin are no less a woman than us bigger gals, but I get the gist of it. (and yes, I am a bigger gal)

    And I love Ruby, and I love the slogan. I hate that they are trying to pull her out of sight.

    America is so backward.

    You have to be thin, tall and blemishless to be beautiful.

    If you are chunky, short and stretch marked you are outrageous.

    And your boobs are okay being seen in porn, or at the beach or even in movies, but if you are breastfeeding your child you are obscene and sexually abusing your child.

    Gotta say, the media tries so hard to make me feel like crap about myself, and when a doll like Ruby gives me hope and a smile, they have to snatch it away.

    And that poor little girl… What have her parents done to her?

    • Lisa permalink
      June 6, 2011 10:33 PM

      Jessica, you’re totally right about the “real women” thing. When I wrote that post I was very new to feminist/body positive blogging, and didn’t stop to think about my choice of language there. Anyone who identifies as a woman is a “real” woman. But in this case, by using “real” I just meant that Ruby looks much more like the women that I know than does Barbie.

  3. anna permalink
    August 26, 2011 6:54 AM

    Maybe if people remember that barbies are DOLLS we can have skinny barbies And fat barbies and everyone can relax. As a kid, I never expected to look like barbie and I didnt expect to look like my stuffed animals either!

  4. anna permalink
    August 26, 2011 6:55 AM

    By the way, Ruby does not look so “real” either.

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