Barbie is NOT Just Like You

     Author and speaker for children’s media culture, Dr. Rebecca Hains, wrote a 2015 blog post titled “5 Reasons NOT to Buy Barbie for Little Girls (It’s Not Just Body Image!)”. Hains focuses on Barbie’s damaging beauty ideal, her portrayal of girls as unintelligent, her race problem, the inappropriateness of the dolls, and the fact that Mattel buys into pro-girl spaces to make more money. Although fashion dolls can be fun, there are other alternatives to dolls like Barbie that are not plagued with problems.

The unequal representation of culture through Barbies can be observed through things as simple as their prices in stores. Hains conveys that Mattel has a hard time presenting Barbies of color in ways that surpass tokenism. The doll’s arrangement in stores does not help with this problem. “Unlike Bratz dolls, which competed with Barbie so successfully in part because of the dolls’ racial diversity, kids know that there is only one “real” Barbie—and that Barbie is blonde and white” (Hains).

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    In Keywords for Children’s Literature, Elisabeth Rose Gruner discusses the term “education”, the many ways it has evolved, and it’s role in many different aspects of one’s life. Gruner describes education as “the systematic instruction, schooling, or training given to the young in preparation for the work of life” (70), and states that education appears chiefly as an action practiced by adults on children. When adults provide children with different toys, they are teaching their children what types of things set a good example. Barbie trains young girls to develop unrealistic expectations of what their bodies should look like, what their future careers may be, and what their future lifestyles will be like. Children are taught life lessons while playing because their toys script for specific types of play. Robin Bernstein’s 2011 essay “Children’s Books, Dolls, and the Performance of Race; or, The Possibility of Children’s Literature” discusses the idea of scripting through children’s toys, and the ways that play performances can reify narratives. Barbie encourages girls to fall in love with fashion and beauty by promoting lots of clothing and beauty products for the dolls. Although Mattel has tried to take steps towards transforming Barbie’s body into a more realistic woman figure, most of the negative effects of the doll still exist.

6 thoughts on “Barbie is NOT Just Like You”

  1. I agree that the negative effects of the Barbie doll still exist. The dolls may come in different races now but the doll still reflects an image of the perfect girl no matter what the race. When seeing a famous model or actress people often comment how she looks like a “Barbie”. This stereotype is very hard to change for the company.

  2. I found it interesting that you bring up the topic of Bratz Dolls. As I think, many young girls only think about playing with one doll when they were younger and that is Barbie…white and blonde. I think it would be great if Barbie began bringing in more diversity. I think they are on a movement to do so. They are beginning to bring in Barbies that have different body shapes and hair color. I have not yet seen different skin color incorporated yet. I think that this will help young girls be able to relate more to Barbies and be able to play with a diverse amount of dolls.

  3. Dr. Rebecca Hains’ blog post presents a very strong argument against Barbies and her points are very convincing that these dolls should not be bought for little girls. I found it very interesting to read because I had and played with many Barbies during my childhood and never thought about all of these issues when I was younger. However, now that they have been pointed out I can definitely see the problems that Barbies create. It makes me wonder if Barbie is going to work towards fixing these controversies.

  4. It really is crazy to think something as simple as a Barbie doll can leave such a long-lasting impact on a child. I would hope that the creators of Barbie did not intend to tell children that real beauty only comes with being blonde and white! Obviously, Barbie portrays a glamorous and glitzy lifestyle. Parents should make it clear when their children are playing with these dolls that Barbie is one type of girl, and she does not encompass all of what every girl should be. She is a doll for playing, not a role model that girls should strive to be.

  5. I thought your idea on scripting was really relevant to other things we’ve learned this semester in class. It reminded me of the American Girl catalog assignment which brings to light the scripting the dolls do throughout the catalog. When young girls see that Barbies and dolls only enjoy playing with makeup and having spa days, they unconsciously learn that is expected behavior! While these aren’t activities which should be necessarily looked down upon, these aren’t the ONLY activities girls in real life enjoy.

  6. I remember being a young girl playing with barbies and realizing which ones were going to be the “cool” and “popular” one and then making my little sister play the one with hair we chopped off, shoes missing and labeling her as the lame, ugly barbie. Although we never cared much about fashion and fully immersed ourselves into what I can only call the most dramatic barbie soap opera, looks and comparing dolls on their looks was something we were both aware of at a young age. As Bratz dolls were introduced into the play, my mother took us aside to discuss the poor representation of women in the dolls. Until then I hadn’t made the connection that people didn’t really look like this, which was one of the first times I saw that I the negativity behind forcing my sister to play with the “ugly” doll. Although I am nowhere near a perfect sibling, I believe from then on I was more aware of the impact our scripted doll play had on my sister and our relationship.

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