Remember the song, “I’m a Barbie Girl” released by Aqua in 1997? It depicted the Barbie doll as a bimbo blond, living in a plastic world—‘Life in plastic, it’s fantastic.’ Pretty biased against a doll, but there is some truth of what it represents for women.
The doll has been at the center of women’s roles and controversy in society since 1959.
The original idea for Barbie was modeled after a call-girl Bild Lilli doll was sold at adult-themed stores in German. Inventor Ruth Handler brought three dolls home after her vacation, and reintroduced America to the Barbie we know today at the American International Toy Fair.
Women protested the doll that didn’t mirror who they really were, and was unrealistic, but the dolls flew off the shelves (over 200,000). Barbie modeled perfection from hair, to her skinny white frame—no curves, and no brain.
In 1963 Barbie Baby-Sits was purchased with her having a book with the title, “How to Lose Weight” and "Don't eat!" In the 1990s the Teen Talk Barbie was programmed with the phrase “Math class is tough.”
The American Association of University Women worked to get the phrase removed in 1992 and Mattel did. AAUW said in a press release in 2013.
“Mattel has come a long way in how it portrays women’s ability in science and math. In 2010, the company announced that Barbie’s 126th career would be in computer engineering. Her transformation into a leader in the still heavily male-dominated fields of computer science and engineering.”
Barbie didn’t represent women of color until 1980. Mattel announced that they would offer 23 dolls of different skin tones and faces in 2015 to help gain more sales and to appeal to more girls. In 2016, the company is adding three versions of the Barbie. The curvy, tall, and petite doll will start reflecting what women look like. This move will also help girls understand that there is no perfection and having curves is acceptable.
Look at Kim Kardashian and other stars like Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Clarkson, and America Ferrera all celebrate their bodies. These celebs helped break the “Have to be skinny to be pretty lie.” Can Barbie, help?
Barbie’s global general manager, Evelyn Mazzocco thinks so. The Guardian reported:
“We are excited to literally be changing the face of the brand – these new dolls represent a line that is more reflective of the world girls see around them – the variety in body type, skin tones and style allows girls to find a doll that speaks to them. We believe we have a responsibility to girls and parents to reflect a broader view of beauty.”
Let’s not blame Barbie for society’s pressures and prejudices. Women are still are objectified to lies reflected to them from the media with gender stereotypes.
Will there always be jokes or songs about Barbie and women? Yes. Are we further along as a society regarding women stereotypes? Yes, but there is more work to do.