We all have our opinions about Barbie! Some people adore this icon of American toys; some people blame the doll for distorting our perception of the ideal beauty resulting in 32,000 boob jobs a month.
We know Barbie is guilty of greenwashing and that she is toxic, but what do the little girls that play with her really think?
Discovery News reports:
Surprisingly little research has been done specifically on girls’ opinions of Barbie dolls; indeed, researchers Tara Kuther and Erin McDonald note in their article “Early Adolescents’ Experiences with, and Views of, Barbie” (Adolescence, Vol. 39, No. 153) that “the extant literature about Barbie dolls tends to be opinionated and based on essays and popular media articles” instead of science or evidence-based research…
The handful of research studies that have been done hold some surprising results. For example, the Kuther and McDonald study mentioned above concluded that “most notably girls reported ambivalence toward Barbie dolls.”
In 2005 a team of British researchers from the University of Bath “found that many 7- to 11-year-old girls hate the doll so much that they physically attack it. … Barbie is hated because she is ‘babyish,’ ‘unfashionable,’ ‘plastic,’ has multiple selves and because she is a feminine icon.”
Not only do many of the girls dislike Barbie, they actively mutilate and torture their dolls. According to lead researcher Agnes Nairn, “the girls we spoke to see Barbie torture as a legitimate play activity. … The types of mutilation are varied and creative, and range from removing the hair to decapitation, burning, breaking, and even microwaving.”
Not that I condone violence against plastic dolls, but the above descriptions of mutilations made me laugh.
The Discovery article goes on to say that Barbie does not influence our ideas of a perfect human body, “Nor is there good evidence that girls (or women) view the doll as a physical role model.” This statement I disagree with, especially when the author admits, “Surprisingly little research has been done.”
Advertising and marketing is effective because it sways public opinion about what we want, need, etc. For example, of tobacco ads using cartoon characters did not affect teen smoking, why were they banned? I feel a similar connection can be made between playing with Barbies as a young child and the desire to be blonde and buxom. When Barbie paraphernalia is includes the word “dream” (dream house, dream car, etc.), isn’t meant to influence you as to what you should aspire to acquire in life? Isn’t the whole point of the career-inspired Barbies to influence young girls into believing any career is possible?
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