The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

86° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: If you have a problem with the new Barbies, you’re part of the problem

Millennials like us are pretty well-versed in spotting antiquated versions of racism, sexism and overall prejudice. Most of us female millennials also probably grew up playing with Barbies.

I will be the first to admit that in my childhood home approximately 20-30 odd, tattered, blue-eyed dolls sit in the attic. It seems as though the dolls were a rite of passage growing up; the more you had, the more social currency you received on the playground. Oh, to be 7 years old again.

Thankfully, millennials have grown up and as we’ve evolved, so has our aptitude for addressing social wrongness. Distributing figures that represent a tiny portion of the female population that create an ideal standard of beauty is just that: wrong. Girls—and boys—should be able to walk into their local Targets and see themselves, both their races and body types, represented. Thankfully now, to an extent, they can.

It has been a long time coming, but the Barbie line now features dolls with different body types and skin tones so that a broader audience can feel connected to the figures. While this is a large step in the right direction, the motivation behind it is less than socially favorable.

According to a recent article published by the New York Times, the change in the company’s marketing approach is merely based on financial struggles and a downward spiral in the doll’s relevance. So any sorts of humanitarian awards can be put on hold for now.

Understandably, the toy industry is a business and profit is the first priority. But a massive change like this could have assisted the company years ago. So why did it wait until the last possible second to conform to the world around it?

That is the question I have for the executives that must have sat around in boardrooms for years pondering the necessity of diversity and representation in their products. Just because they finally reached the right answer does not mean there isn’t grounds for questioning the morality of their long overdue actions.

More worrisome than the execs that made the decisions are the people left disappointed by them. The New York Times’ article cites several tweets of different displeased citizens, remarking least favorably on the new “curvy” Barbie doll.

How anyone could take issue with girls having more accurate representations of themselves in the media, that personally affect their lives, is beyond me. Barbies are 57 years old and while tradition is important, changing tradition is almost more so.

Equally as important are the gender stereotypes associated with the dolls. Lately there has been a larger push to incorporate a sense of a “career-oriented” Barbie. Apparently for the last six decades, no one thought that girls needed to aspire to anything more than unattainable, thin waistlines too.

While the efforts are commendable, once again, the timing is simply too little and too late. The fond memories Barbies have given me will be forever cherished, but I am thankful to be as aware as I am today of the issues they present. Girls today should not have to wait two decades to see the problems their childhood possessions present.

Follow Stephanie Shaw on Twitter.

More to Discover
Activate Search