Known for her iconic blonde hair, pink outfits, and bikini body, the name “Barbie” has quickly become a worldwide household name. With the resurgence of the upcoming Barbie film that is releasing this summer featuring Margot Robbie, I have some thoughts on Barbie’s role in the feminist movement.
Over the years, Barbie has faced significant criticism, placing it at the center of controversy regarding her lack of diversity, unrealistic beauty standards, and her negative influence on body image. Should Barbie be considered a learning example that skews young girls’ understanding of gender, or instead, a feminist icon?
Mattel, the famous toy manufacturing company, first launched the Barbie doll in 1959. Most toys back then encouraged young girls to conform to the conventionality of arts, crafts, and beautification, and the Barbie doll was no exception. All of the Barbie dolls were the quintessential at the time: “blonde hair, blue-eyed, skinny white girl,” along with the introduction of Ken, who was also a white, blonde haired male.
Barbie has been presented to the public eye as being one of the first characters who has pushed the stereotype – that blonde girls are wealthy, popular sex symbols with empty brains – fast forward to the point where Hollywood films have adopted this stereotype.
For example, the fame of Marilyn Monroe, Sharpay in High School Musical, and Regina George in Mean Girls. Essentially, many girls had begun to think that in order to be considered beautiful, they must have the same physical appearance of being slender, elegant, and white.
However, Barbie’s stance and slogan, “Be who you wanna be,” strives to paint her as a role model for young girls. Barbie has over two hundred careers, such as being the president, a CEO, and even an astronaut. She has propelled the notion and overall vision that girls can achieve anything they set their minds to and become self-sufficient women, inspiring many young girls.
Moreover, with the 2000s movie franchise we all enjoyed watching as children, Barbie has always been portrayed as a character with the virtues of compassion, honesty, and selflessness, ultimately having a positive influence on young girls. In recent years, the Barbie franchise also has its own YouTube channel, in which there are videos taking a stand against racism in response to the Black Lives Matter movement at the time.
Furthermore, with Mattel’s expansion of the Barbie collection, which is striving to become more inclusive by creating a line with different hair colors, eye colors, physiques, and skin tones, her message is reaching more girls across the globe.
Barbie has faced controversy for promoting unrealistic beauty standards, but she has pushed forth the idea that “girls can do anything” and has educated young girls about pressing current issues like racism, to always handle hardships with patience, and much more.
The upcoming Barbie movie is directed by Greta Gerwig, a popular actress and feminist, and I am excited to see what this new installment entails. Hopefully, it will head in the right direction and repaint Barbie as a symbol of women’s empowerment.
For different perspectives on women’s empowerment, click here to see how our GirlSpring contributor Bella Gentry defines empowerment!