Recently, we wrote about Mattel’s latest advertising campaign to rebrand Barbie’s image from sexy to empowering. For the most part, the marketing campaign is highly successful, as it features little girls in professional roles, allowing kids to believe they are capable of anything.
Except there’s still a problem. Kids don’t work that way. According to this piece in The Atlantic, in a 2014 study including girls ages 4-7, researchers discovered that playing with Barbie dolls limited girls’ perceptions about what they could be in the future. Between her super thin waist, revealing clothes, and strictly Caucasian features, the implicit message sent to girls is not about accomplishing your dreams so much as looking beautiful. It isolates girls, because no one actually looks like that, and influences their perceptions of womanhood before they’re even women.
In an age where women are sexualized in the media, whether it’s a Barbie doll or a Victoria’s Secret ad, we’re sending the message that sexy and thin is in. In another study, the majority of girls ages 6-9 chose sexualized dolls over the non-sexual counterparts when asked to identify their ideal self. All of this contributes to depression and low self esteem, which results in lower grades. Have we mentioned that about 90% of girls own a Barbie?
If Doctor Barbie is still wearing a miniskirt, the message is flimsy at best. Do they really want to tell girls that they can be anything, as long as they’re sexy while doing it? Do we really want to perpetuate calorie counting before girls become double digits?
I sure hope not.