Those Barbie ‘role model’ dolls you’re all so hyped on? Yeah, they’re actually really bad for women
Frida Kahlo would tell you to fuck off
by Una Dabiero
Everyone felt preeetty good when Mattel announced a line of Barbies inspired by iconic female role models of the past and present. Hell, even I got pretty excited seeing my hero Amelia Earhart's doll depiction — and I eat unadorned bagels, just to give you an idea of me as a person.
But after the initial wave of "OMG! This is sooo good for little girls" I've seen all over my timeline, I realized there are some major flaws in this whole "woke Barbie" thing. In fact, it's downright dangerous.
With 86% of US moms worried about the type of role models their daughters are exposed to, we are committed to shining a light on empowering female role models in an effort to inspire more girls. Join us by sharing your role models using #MoreRoleModels. #IWD2018 #HélèneDarroze #NicolaAdamsObe #ChloeKim #FridaKahlo #IbtihajMuhammad #KatherineJohnson #GabbyDouglas
Barbie's equaled unattainable beauty standards for generations
It seems like a great idea to celebrate the accomplishments of women with a toy that's available to little girls everywhere. But is a doll iconic for her "all-American" beauty really the best way to do this?
And while they've tried to make her reputation better by making thicc Barbies or Barbies with different skin tones, it doesn't change the fact that they're ultimately a company built on turning a beautiful woman into a tiny plastic beautiful woman.
So what if they make her more tan or her hips a centimeter wider? She's still gorgeous by any standard.
We've yet to see a traditionally unattractive Barbie. I mean, look at their imagining of Frida Kahlo — her trademark unibrow is virtually non-existent.
And look, I know a doll has to focus on external beauty because that's all there is. I know you can't crack open a Barbie doll and see its soul. But that begs the question: What's the fucking point of this ad campaign based on inner beauty?
It’s great that a Frida Kahlo Barbie exists, but it would’ve been greater had the physical feature that subverted (and still subverts) gendered western beauty standards not been minimized: https://t.co/aqzMlsoLHq
— Sam H. Escobar 👻 (@myhairisblue) March 7, 2018
Why would anyone think of Barbie as an appropriate medium for a message of female empowerment? She's literally a capitalist icon, right up there with McDonalds and Wal-Mart.
But more importantly, we're saying it's okay to turn feminism into a commodity — a product. You can literally buy it now, and occasionally on sale.
Mattel is one of the largest corporations in the United States, and Barbie is easily it's most iconic product
Although if you want to fight me and say it's Clue, that might be fair. (Clue was turned into an Academy Award-winning movie, just saying.)
Read any newspaper — like literally just one newspaper — and you see example after example of mega-corporations reinforcing white supremacy, patriarchy, and classism in every single aspect of every single thing they do, day after day.
So it's completely batshit that the "role models" they're making into Barbies dedicated their lives to battling those very same injustices. They're taking our role models, our heroes, and using their likeness to take our money and perpetuate everything we're trying to dismantle.
Frida Kahlo created art that questioned our conceptions of gender, race and equality. She's not your mascot, and she was literally a socialist. Ibtihaj Muhammad, a muslim fencer, repeatedly challenges society's rampant Islamophobia. Martyna Wojciechowska spent her life illuminating women's struggles around the world.
And you're reducing them to a $30 figurine.
My conflicted thoughts:
WHAT, a Frida Barbie!?
Wait, what did they do to her face?
She’s standing… does she have a prosthetic leg or is this pre-surgery?
She was anti-capitalist tho…
But if we don’t buy, will they stop making Latinx figures?
— Isabel Morales (@isabeljmorales) March 7, 2018
Why is having a toy in your image a "gold star" women get for their work on destroying injustice? We need to come up with something better, and something that doesn't help rich white dudes get richer.
The girls who need these role models the most will never have access to them
The role model Barbie cost about $30 a piece, making them incredibly unattainable to the young girls who are most vulnerable to injustice. Girls who are told most frequently that their dreams will never come true won't have these dolls. Nor will poor girls. Or girls who don't have a supportive parent or guardian to buy them a Barbie.
An incredibly expensive doll who says that ~all dreams are possible~ seems pretty ironic when most girls can't even realize their dreams of owning the fucking doll in the first place.
Oprah Winfrey adores her "Wrinkle in Time" Barbie because she was too poor for the real doll as a kid https://t.co/a8bzA02Fff
— HuffPost BlackVoices (@blackvoices) February 28, 2018
So come at me, Mattel — I see through your scheme
Your role models are exploitative. And they aren't super helpful to anyone, much less the girls you claim to inspire. You're making money in the worst way possible — by claiming to be "good." Eff you and your faux feminism and a world that makes women think they can support each other by buying a fucking doll. What a way to destroy real ambition.
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