It’s hard to believe that the Mattel image of beauty has lasted for so many years in the ever changing culture in which we live. Yet that image has had staying power in the midst of the introduction of space exploration, the introduction of fast food chains, technological advances, and even a changing political and social landscape. I didn’t have the pleasure of growing up with sisters, so my world revolved around toy cars, trucks, action figures and other things that boys generally. Nevertheless, I still was well aware of the phenomenon of this iconic figure that girls worldwide looked up to, played with, dreamed about, and celebrated.
As a parent, you struggle with many things. As a parent who sees the lengths that girls are going through to gain acceptance, build self-esteem, and find their way in such an image conscious time can be troubling, to put it mildly. Even today there are still women who are trying to capture the unrealistic body shape and look that has been the staple of Barbie’s fame for the last 57 years. From extreme diets to the most drastic of plastic surgeries and body shaping, women all over are trying to embody an image that is unhealthy not just physically, but also emotionally.
While some people may look at Mattel’s push to make realistic body type Barbie dolls as an opportunistic means of recapturing the loss of market share, I as a father find it to be a very positive move that sends a message that has been far too long in being made. Barbie has for many years been the embodiment of the self-empowered woman. There has not been one respectable job that exists which she has not paid homage to. She is the present day spokeswoman of the mantra “I am woman, hear me roar”.
What has been missing from the whole image of a strong and empowered woman image that Barbie is meant to represent to girls worldwide, is the idea that any woman of any shape, size and color can achieve greatness and can be powerful, not just the one who fits a unobtainable idea of perfection. This is more than simply being anatomically correct, but being more artistically reflective of the world we have than the fantasy that the world is not. It is also sending a message that the world is made up of more than just one hue or ethnicity. Every girl should be able to see herself or imagine herself as being able to be someone or achieve something great. The lack of having that represented in the toys that you play with is the beginning stage where confidence is born.
I am a father who believes wholeheartedly in instilling a strong self-identity in my daughters. Yet, I also know that a major part in this comes from the toys we give them to foster the imagination and dreams of the future. I’ll admit that when I first heard that there was someone working on a product known as Princess Planet, my initial thought was why hadn’t the people behind the most iconic doll tapped into this space before now. There can be no doubt that people want this and that the world isn’t one size fits all or as simple as black and white. If this move by Mattel and Barbie says anything, it’s that parents can finally rest a little bit easier in the idea that they have one more tool to empower daughters to see themselves in a way they couldn’t before now.
If it truly is the parents responsibility to help build up their children, train them up in the way they should go, it’s nice to know that there is somewhere else a parent can look to as a means of reinforcing the message of empowerment and hope to the next generation of women in the making.
QUESTION: What is your take on the new image of Barbie?
- Your New Barbie Could Be Spying On You (adafruit.com)
- Book Excerpt: ‘Mattel: 75 Years of Innovation and Play’ (wwd.com)
- Hello Barbie, Can We Talk About Your Security Issues? (technewsworld.com)