So, today I’m going to be talking about Barbie. You know, good old, blonde, impossibly chiselled, tanned, thin-waisted, high-cheekboned, unattainably perfect Barbie. The Ultimate Feminist Nightmare. Well, I’m going to disagree (and probably piss a few people off in the process) but hey, here goes – here’s why I actually think Barbie is kinda awesome.
The inspiration for this post came from a recent article in The Atlantic that popped up on my Linkedin – entitled, ‘Yes, Even Doctor Barbie Sends Girls The Wrong Message’ (read the full article HERE). Oh dear, poor Barbie. Apparently Mattels latest ‘Imagine The Possibilities’ campaign hasn’t gone down too well with the author, as essentially whatever our pneumatically breasted blonde friend tries to achieve career-wise it comes back to one problem – shes just too goddam sexy.
God forbid shes a doctor AND takes pride in her appearance while tending her patients? And Scientist Barbie should probably not wear any make up and avoid all kinds of tanning products (flammability issues, right?). The author draws her inspiration from a (apparently fairly widely trashed) 2014 study which found the girls who played with Mr Potato Head, (the, well, naturally rotund potato from Toy Story for those not up with their root-vegetable related toys) perceptions of what they could be in the future were much less limited. Because clearly, aspiring to be a potato would just be plain silly I can only assume that these impressionable young minds looked past his somewhat dumpy appearance and began to ‘imagine the possibilities’ of everyone being equally as potato shaped….. ok, this is just getting ridiculous.
So essentially, the point I’m trying to make – is it just because Barbie is a woman, she gets all this shit? Because, if we’re going to bring up unattainable standards, let’s have a chat about Superman. Let’s face it, even as Clark Kent he’s still a bit of a looker but once he gets that cape on then come on ladies, let us not deny that in even the slightly more dodgy incarnations (Dean Cain, I’m looking at you) he’s still ALWAYS remarkably attractive, as he goes about his day decimating evil, defeating the bad guys, playing hard to get with Lois and generally saving the world. And what about Batman? He’s tall, smooth, got a definite six pack under that cape, is somewhat of a cad and HE. CAN. FLY. And that’s ok. I have no problem with that, or with either of these two caped crusaders being the idol for many a young mind. Because they’re not real. But, my point is for some reason that’s all ok for Superman to have incredibly bulging biceps but poor Barbie dares to have a slightly smaller than average waist (and a fairly perky set of idols) while she goes about her daily routine of ‘regular’, non super hero related jobs such as veterinarian, doctor, professor etc and she’s suddenly a truly terrible role model for our young generation?
Ok, so the serious bit. I’m not trivialising the problem of the perception of an unrealistic female body image that susceptible young girls are bombarded with in the media. I truly get it, I do – I have a young daughter myself AND I work in social media so I’m more than aware of the pressures she’s going to be under to look a certain way that society has deemed attractive. I know I’m going to need to be so careful to guide her through a childhood that’s not steeped in Instagram filters and apps that smooth over anything she might view as an inperfection when in fact, she’s already perfect in every way. But don’t blame Barbie for these perceptions. Because Barbie teaches us that it’s OK to to take pride in your appearance. If dying your hair a silky blonde and slapping on some fake tan makes you FEEL good and give you the confidence to go about your day with your head held high, that’s ok too.
And while of course, no one would deny Barbie has indeed got the type of physique that’s probably unattainable without some kind of serious cosmetic help, she’s also a caring friend, a loving girlfriend to good old Ken and a truly ambitious woman (she’s held down over 150 jobs in her career!) who wants to succeed at whatever she sets out to do. It’s also true that being well groomed is ok – girls can make the most of their looks, be CONFIDENT in their own appearance and still be an astro-physicist, a tech entrepreneur or a beautician, or a pharmacist or a hairdresser.
And ultimately, that’s I believe something all children should strive to accomplish. Go Barbie! You got this.