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Barbie’s more than just a doll, she’s a role model

| December 12, 2013 | 1 Comments

Barbie has been around for over 50 years.

In that time, she has received much criticism for her body type. Her proportions are not quite that of an average woman. As a matter of fact, they are actually next to impossible to achieve. If Barbie’s proportions were blown up to human size, she would look somewhat like an alien.

It is important to note that if she were real, Barbie would actually be dangerously underweight. So many feminists are anti- Barbie, making claims that she is a huge influence on the negative body images found in young girls. A lot of the focus is put into changing Barbie so that she has a more human-like and average body type.

It would be great to see this happen, but we also have to remember that dolls are not people. They are dolls. There really is no need to make a big deal over the body type of a doll, seeing as it is in fact only a toy. Barbie receives all of this criticism for her body type by people who are supposed to be against bashing of any body types—which is very interesting to me.

Part of feminism is supposed to be about being accepting of others despite differences in body type. It’s ironic that a group so focused on positive reinforcement for all body types would bash Barbie specifically because of her body type. Unfortunately, this is a rather unpopular opinion.

According to a poll by “The Guardian,” only 29 percent of voters believe that Barbie would be considered a good role model. The rest think she should be put to rest because her appearance is detrimental to young girls. This is not where the focus should be.

While I do agree in seeing a wider variety of body types represented through Barbie dolls, I think many are missing the positive things surrounding Barbie. Probably the best thing about Barbie is how driven she is. There are so many representations of Barbie doing jobs that are usually dominated by males, proving that she is an icon for feminism and an all-around good role model for young girls.

Barbie is a lot like the Guerrilla Girls, a feminist group that preaches ideas of feminism anonymously. They wear gorilla masks to hide their identities while releasing posters and publicly speaking out against male-dominated culture in order to, “critique the very institutions that canonize such images,” and “call into question the ideological construction of idealized femininity as submissive” as Anne Demo, the author of “Rhetoric, Remembrance, and Visual Form,” claims.

Barbie’s message is similar to that of the Guerilla Girls because she is a way for feminists to express equality in the work place without putting themselves out there personally. By publicly releasing these female dolls that work in these careers, Barbie speaks out against the patriarchy, letting everybody know that she is capable to have these jobs as well. Barbie is not submissive by any means—she is a hard-working, independent representation of a woman.

Barbie has had many careers from the time she was released in 1959. For example, she has been a doctor, astronaut, a football coach, a NASCAR driver and even the president of the United States. This represents a large number of jobs, most of which are usually reserved for men. She has also had many roles in the military, such as a U.S. Army officer, an Air Force pilot and a Marine Corps officer. Usually, when people think of any of these professions, females are not what comes to mind.

Men are usually the ones portrayed as doctors, NASCAR drivers or military officers, but Barbie will not stand for that. She sends a message to young girls telling them they are able to do anything that boys can do, essentially tearing apart the gender binary. One of the first examples of this was “Career Girl Barbie,” who came out right after the Women’s Rights Movement in 1963.

This was an early example of women being able to be a part of the workforce. This was so important because little girls could then learn from Barbie that they do not need to conform to the ideas of society, but instead is able to do anything they want to do or be anything they want to be.

Barbie should not be torn apart for her body type, but rather celebrated for what an inspiration she can be. Her slogan is “Be who you wanna be.”

This is an extremely important message for young girls to hear. If Barbie can do it, then why can’t anyone else? Too much focus is put onto Barbie’s appearance and not enough on her accomplishments—something that happens all too often with real women in society as well.

She is a driven role model that girls should follow not because she is thin, but because she is an intelligent feminist that shows girls that they can be whoever they want to be, and does not adhere to the patriarchy…and she does it all in designer high heels.


Devon Roberts can be contacted at  droberts@keene-equinox.com

  • Katie Louise Wiskofske

    Absolutely love this! As a feminist, I’ve been saying that Barbie is a good role model for young children for years. You’ve summed up my thoughts so perfectly! I mean, Barbie was created as a feminist movement. Ruth Handler wanted girls to be able to play with the doll and envision themselves as teenagers and women. Before Barbie dolls the only dolls girls really had were baby dolls and the only thing girls were taught to play was mother and nurturer. And giving her curves and boobs was so widely shunned in 1959 because it made men and the patriarchy uncomfortable. Feminists supported the use of boobs and curves upon Barbie’s creation because women HAVE boobs and curves. Now feminists are fighting to eliminate a toy that breaks gender rolls, a toy that inspires girls. Even as a feminist, I still claim my title as a Barbie Girl.