Iconic doll mistreated as sexist symbol
Jeff Eldridge is picking on a 50-year-old lady.
Eldridge [D-W.Va.] wants to ban the sale of Mattel’s Barbie, claiming its image encourages young girls to prioritize appearance over substance.’
Barbie, who turns 50 on Monday, is a potent bone of contention as an image of the American woman. ‘
Feminist rhetoric raises some valid points. Barbie was inspired by and virtually duplicates the proportions of ‘Bild-Lilli,’ a German fetish doll Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler found while on vacation. The doll has also been marketed with expensive luxury goods in its wardrobe, as well as the swank ‘Dream House,’ ‘Dream Car’ and even a mink coat. Barbie’s first job was as a fashion model.’
Given the disproportionate body of the doll and the prevalence of body dysmorphic disorder, anorexia and bulimia among its target audience, the doll’s ‘wholesome’ image is questionable. ‘
However, Barbie protests are equally questionable. ‘
Barbie is burnt, sliced, mutilated and targeted as a consumerist icon and labeled as a vehicle for the gender gap. She suffers from much the same vilification as modern women, including the burden of symbolic behavior. ‘
Abuses of Barbie as a representation for the intellectual repression of girls is little different from the way female icons have suffered throughout human history. Even now, women are attacked all around the world in the name of chastity and family values.’
Accusing a child’s toy of mirroring the values of popular culture is a no-brainer. It certainly doesn’t validate bashing people who enjoy escapism or children who incorporate the doll in their play.
In truth, if children are educated to the history of the doll, she’s not a bad role model. After all, she became an astronaut in 1965, a UNICEF ambassador in 1989 and ran for president three times. ‘
Eldridge and others who target the doll might do better by promoting healthier alternatives for girls and breaking down the barriers of gendered toys instead of taking cheap shots at Barbie.’