Barbie, Feminism, and the Changing Gender Identity by Emily Grimaldi

I first saw this advertisement in my Mosaics II class as we were reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman. My first thought was about how these little girls were inspired by Barbie to become what they want to be. However, after a lengthy discussion with my classmates and several more times viewing the ad, I found it to be beyond problematic.

First of all, the reactions of the adults in the video are extremely troubling. Everyone is laughing at these little girls. Sure it is cute and a little bit silly, but they are completely discrediting the possibility that these girls are extremely intelligent and can lecture about the brain or can lead a tour about dinosaurs.

Assuming that the dialogue of the girls was scripted and the reactions of the adults were genuine, I find another flaw in the ad. These little girls say some of the most ridiculous, off the wall, and unintelligent lines. In the scene where the girl is a veterinarian she says something about her cat being able to fly. That is completely damaging to everything Barbie claims to stand for. How can this girl be taken seriously if she is portrayed as being unintelligent and incapable of performing her job?

As far as my critique of what is shown in the ad, I have one last problem to address. At the end of the ad, the girl is still playing with her Barbie dolls. This strikes me as problematic because it is as if she was just playing pretend the whole time she was pursuing her dreams. It’s as if she will always be pretending. It would have been way more effective to show women in the careers depicted as well instead of just making the thought of being a soccer coach or a professor seem like a pipe dream.

Today we are living in a world where gender identities are fluid. This advertisement completely ignores that notion. Sure, we are living in a time where Barbie is seen as a sign of empowerment for females, but in a society with non-binary genders it is important to recognize that anyone can feel empowered by Barbie. There is even DNA evidence to prove that more than two genders exist. [1] And of course I cannot forget to mention that Barbie in the ad and historically speaking has features that are humanly unattainable. [2] The girls in the ad are only playing with thin, traditionally shaped Barbies (though there is an African American one in the mix). The current advertising style and feminist ideals of Barbie are quite antiquated and unrepresentative of the population she currently inspires.

I find the most disturbing thing about this image is the surgeon Barbie wearing a skirt. Why is a career Barbie not dressed for her career? Why is she sticking to the origins of the Barbie and not progressing?

[1] Lord, M. G. Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. Fredericton, N.B.: Goose Lane Editions, 2004. 14.

[2] Ibid.

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