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This New Doll Defies Body Image Expectations

A Mattel “Barbie” doll (left) stands next to Nickolay Lamm’s “Lammily Doll” (right). Lamm created the doll from research that provided the specific proportions of a “healthy, 19-year-old woman”. The doll is sold through Lamm’s website.

Photo ©Nickolay Lamm

If you haven’t heard of the Lammily doll yet, I’m beginning to think you soon will. It’s one of those ideas that, the moment I saw it, I thought, “Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?” Good thing Nickolay Lamm did.

“Certainly poor Barbie can't be solely to blame for our current obsession with thin.”

The more I read about Mr. Lamm, the more I wonder why universities aren’t doing more to promote humanities within the much-adored faculties of math and science. Lamm describes himself as an artist and researcher. And if you think for a moment that those two areas seem diverse, just check his photo essay from last year on the state of the nation’s bridges. He has a knack of turning humdrum into, “Wait a minute! I drive on that?” He is able to turn questions into visual diagrams, like his enquiry “What Do Cats See?” or “What If I Could See Your Cellular Network?”

But as fascinating as this is, his question that has caught the imaginations of more people than any other is from December 2013 when he wondered, “What Would Barbie Look Like As An Average Woman?” This time his imagination has truly morphed into a very real outcome.

Lamm began his research with data from the Centers for Disease Control and came up with the essential proportions for a healthy, beautiful 19-year-old woman. From there, using 3D printing tools, he created a prototype doll that eventually became a finished sample. For added effect he dressed the doll as a twin to a popular Barbie model. The comparison images are striking, leaving me thinking Lamm’s doll is not only more accurate, but also more attractive.

Certainly poor Barbie can’t be solely to blame for our current obsession with thin. I can’t find any peer reviewed research that links the doll in any way to eating disorders or other body image issues. Yet it’s also wrong to say Barbie isn’t part of the huge constellation of media messages that continue to promote a very narrow view of the perfect female (and male) body.

My reaction to this new doll wasn’t unique. The media picked up on Lamm’s experiment and soon he was crowdfunding the dollars required to create a real product. That was March. Today the “Lammily Doll” is a real product gaining much attention with thousands of orders already placed. For $25 you can order the doll, but do heed the warning, “Only Lammily branded fashions will fit on the doll.” Sorry, but Barbie and this girl won’t be exchanging clothes anytime soon.

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