In what must be one the most mindless games devised, the Plastic Surgery for Barbie app offers girls the chance to operate on a Fat Barbie.

Advertised as a free game and  suitable from 9 years it involves making choices about which bit of flesh to carve from the torso and face of an overweight blonde  who is labelled by Google in the online description of the game as ugly.

After an outcry on twitter with opinions from indignant women, including psychoanalyst Susie Orbach who noted that Apple was mining girl’s bodies for profit, Apple has removed Plastic Surgery for Barbie, but a game called Plastic Surgery for Barbara is still available on the App Store.

Gamers are encouraged to utilise scalpels and syringes to ‘fix the patient,’ thus normalising the objectification of women’s bodies and recruiting newer and younger minds to the culture of gender violence. In writing about this, I am reminded of the report from Gov Minister Lynne Featherstone when she hosted the first Un Summit on Body Image in February 2012, involving countries from all over the world.

“We know young women endure body modification like force-feeding and even genital-mutilation to make a marriage that will protect them from poverty,” said members from developing countries, “but why do western women volunteer for and pay for operations on themselves when they can support themselves financially and don’t need to do it.”

Why indeed? With games like this, our young women are being encouraged to objectify themselves as a set of physical components that can be altered at will for fun. This is not a bit of harmless entertainment, this psychological violence, grooming the next generation of female consumers find themselves imperfect but fixable and ever more ready to buy the real thing.


Caryn Franklin

Former fashion editor and co-editor of i-D Magazine for 6 years in the early eighties, Caryn Franklin has been a fashion commentator for 31 years. She presented the BBC’s Clothes Show for 12 years and BBC’s Style Challenge for 3 years as well as producing and presenting numerous documentaries for ITV on designers including Vivienne Westwood, Philip Treacy and Matthew Williamson.

Working in education throughout her career as external assessor and lecturer in colleges like Central St Martins, London College of fashion and Royal College of Art, she is also an ardent fashion activist and has co-chaired the award winning Fashion Targets Breast Cancer for 17 years and proposed the London College of Fashion Centre of Sustainability and is its ambassador.

Follow Caryn on Twitter: @Caryn_franklin