What to Make of Barbie’s Presidential Run

by | April 11, 2012
filed under Feminism, Pop Culture

by E. Cain

It’s official. Barbie has launched her candidacy for US President.  The “I Can Be” President Barbie is an initiative between Mattel and the White House Project, a multi-partisan U.S organization promotes women’s leadership.

At first glance, I wasn’t sure what to think of this partnership. I am passionate about increasing women’s representation in politics, but I can list off a number of serious critiques of Barbie.

As was aptly pointed out in a blog post I read: “She [Barbie] is a timeless icon that continues to influence young girls perception of ideal beauty, a model to emulate. But with her alien measurements, Caucasian features, ivory skin, blond hair, and unnaturally thin body… how can anyone measure up?”

I would also add that for black children, Barbie’s long silky hair promotes an ideal that isn’t natural – something children’s shows and products are only recently starting to wake up to. Take Sesame Street’s “I love my hair” puppet, for example.

Nonetheless, I had a Barbie collection as a child – so did all of my female friends – and this hasn’t changed for children today. Barbie remains one of the most popular children’s products on the market.

Yes, Barbie does have some positives. Over the years she has built up an impressive resume of 130 careers, including an astronaut, surgeon, business exec and doctor. What’s more, Barbie is no stranger to politics. This is her fifth time running for President.

Also, I couldn’t help but cringe at a Globe and Mail article that began with the following intro: “With a head as big as her hips and a do worthy of Callista Gingrich, Barbie is running for president.” Looks like not even Barbie is immune to sexist media coverage….

But in all seriousness, I can understand the motivations behind this Barbie initiative. It’s important to encourage young girls to dream big and start thinking of themselves as politicians. Perhaps Barbie is the vehicle to achieve this, as young girls – just as I did – still like to play with the doll.

However, considering the valid critiques often leveled against Barbie, one must question whether the “I Can Be” President Barbie is sending a mixed message.

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