• Sophie Stekel

Stop Hating on Barbie

As my cousin’s birthday approaches, her mother has one request: No Barbie presents please.


I could not believe it. Barbie was my absolute favourite toy growing up. My Barbie bin was overflowing with Malibu Barbie, Princess Barbie, Veterinarian Barbie. I even had a Barbie Corvette and yes, even the Dreamhouse.


I would disappear into my room to play with them for hours on end, transporting myself to what my parents would call “Barbie-land”, human population: 1.


Not allowing your child to play with Barbie, especially if they are asking to, is depriving them of one of the most beloved children’s toys in the world.


Barbie just recently celebrated its 60th anniversary. At her debut at the New York Toy Fair in March 1959, Barbie was just a doll in a swimsuit and ponytail, with white sunglasses in her hand. Today, Barbie is Mattel’s largest and most profitable brand with 100 Barbies sold per minute and a billion dolls sold to date.


Despite Barbie’s widespread popularity, a lot of feminist millennial parents ban Barbie from their homes because they claim that she has an “unrealistic body type” or that the toy is too gendered, too white or too domestic.


I beg to differ.


Barbie may have had an unrealistic body in the past with a large bust, narrow waist and tiny hips, but Mattel has addressed this by widening Barbie’s waist after vocal backlash. Also, in 2016, Mattel introduced 33 new Barbies, available for the first time in three additional body shapes: tall, petite and curvy.


I can assure you, young girls are not paying attention to any of this. I surely wasn’t. Throughout my years of playing with Barbie, I never once thought to compare my undeveloped body to that of Barbie’s.


In no way does she reflect normal human dimensions, and she is not supposed to! Kids clearly understand that Barbie is a doll made of plastic completely distinct from living humans like themselves who are made up of atoms and molecules.


Barbie has also faced issues when it comes to diversity. You can also say this for every toy brand that started 60 years at one point or another.


But again, Mattel has taken steps to rectify this as they now offer Barbies with seven skin tones, 22 eye colours and 24 hairstyles. They also have Barbies with disabilities, including being in a wheelchair and another with a prosthetic leg. Last year, Barbie debuted the first Barbie with a hijab, a doll of Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.


In my opinion, Barbie is such a successful brand because it is a way for young children to project themselves as grown-ups.


Barbie directly addresses the Dream Gap, which is a phenomenon that young girls around age 6-7 begin to doubt themselves and their intelligence. Barbie is empowering because it aims to raise “awareness around limiting factors that prevent girls from reaching their full potential.”


The tagline “Be who you wanna be” opens up a world of opportunities for young girls and encourages them that they can do absolutely everything and anything they want to accomplish.


Barbie has been employed since the very beginning 60 years ago. She has been a doctor, a pilot, a CEO, and even the president. Barbie has had a significant impact on young girls especially, by conveying characteristics of feminism and female independence. If Barbie can do it all, then they can too.


The most recent line of Barbie dolls is called the “Sheros” collection and consists of exceptional people like Canadian Olympic figure skater Tessa Virtue, supermodel and activist Adwoa Aboah, and gymnast Dipa Karmakar - the first female Indian

gymnast to qualify for the Olympics.

Barbie allows you to create and imagine a world where they can be whatever they want to be.


If I did not play with Barbie, my childhood would not have been the same. I would not have the active imagination I have today that allows me make connections and freely write on this blog.


If this blog post does not change my cousin’s mind, I guess I will have to save my Barbie hand-me-downs for my own daughter.


Sixty years later, we know that Barbie has the incredible ability to transcend generations.