Why Barbie Is a Good Role Model Essay
Why Barbie is a Good Role Model It happened every year.
My sister and I received journals from mother to begin the school year. Looking back, I recall flipping through the blank pages to the inside of the back cover. I spotted questions like name, age, height, and what do you want to be when you grow up? My mother always filled these in. Mother asked me, “What do you and your sister want to be when you grow up? ” I put my hands on my hips, spreading my legs, giving my best Superman pose. The answer was easy.
I was going to be a policeman. My sister was next. She was four, just starting preschool.She answered, “I want to be a mommy and a housewife. ” Fast forward three years.
We had the same journals, same questions, different year, and mother filling in the blanks asking the same question. This time I wanted to be a fireman. So, when mother asked, that’s what I told her. Next, my sister answered, “Doctor”. This surprised me. I remember feeling jealous. She picked something better than me.
It was at that moment that I realized where my sister got this idea that showed ambition and lofty goals. She got it from her doll, a Barbie. This doll had changed the way my sister viewed herself.She no longer wanted to be a housewife. Now she wanted a career, one requiring an education.
Barbie has been helping shape the future of young women for fifty-three years. This has happened through Barbie’s inspiration to dream big and set lofty goals. She teaches girls to respect themselves and others. She also teaches girls to think for themselves, be independent, and take charge of their own life, not waiting for a man to complete who they are. She also shows them the importance of physical fitness and staying healthy. Ruth Handler, Barbie’s creator is a woman of vision with big dreams.As a young girl after graduating High School she wanted to go to college.
Ruth’s parents thought this was a bad idea. In the 1930’s it was more traditional for a young woman to get married and raise a family. Ruth followed her dreams, going to college and meeting her future husband Elliot Handler. Later, in the 1940’s the Handler’s along with their close friend Harold Mattson owned a company that made picture frames. Elliot, Ruth’s husband began making doll furniture with the scraps of wood from the picture frames.
Little did they know this would be the beginning of the most successful toy company on the planet?Later, the Handler’s along with their friend and business partner formed a company called Mattel. The name comes from a combination of Mattson, and Elliot Ruth’s Husbands First name. Ruth received most of her inspiration and creativity for the Barbie doll from watching her daughter and her friend’s play. She realized while watching them that playing pretend about the future was an enormous part of growing up. At that time all her daughter had to play with were paper dolls and most of them were infants she also realized it was just as important for girls to visualize what they could possibly grow up to become.
Ruth started to formulate and envision creating an adult doll. This was not an original idea. Adult dolls already existed, such as Miss Revlon and Cissy. These dolls were expensive most family’s couldn’t afford them.
Ruth’s vision was to create a doll that had all the accessories as the other adult dolls at a price that everyone could afford. Later, Ruth took a trip overseas, while in Switzerland she found an adult doll. She brought the doll back for her daughter. This German doll known as Lilli had begun as a cartoon character in a newspaper (Billy 19).
Lilli was known for her sexy clothing and big breasts. She was created for adult entertainment “a symbol of sex and pornography for the men of Germany” (Johnson “History”). From this doll called Lilli, Ruth found the inspiration she had been searching for. After being told by American designers it would be impossible to manufacture such a doll at an affordable price. Mattel bought the rights to Lilli, flew to Tokyo where they negotiated a deal to create an inexpensive new doll. In 1959, Barbie was first introduced to America at the American International Toy Fair in New York (Barbie Doll story).Barbie’s success went far beyond their wieldiest dreams. She had all those same accessories the more expensive adult dolls had at an affordable price.
Barbie established a new sales record the first year for Mattel, selling three hundred and fifty one thousand dolls at three dollars each (Barbie Doll Story). Mattel was forced to play catch up, taking several years to catch up with the orders. With the introduction of television a few years later Mattel discovered they could use TV as an advertising instrument. They realized the importance of this new consumer audience which included children and teenagers.Barbie’s introduction to America couldn’t have come at a better time, along with TV the suburban middle class families benefited from a strong post-war economy. Before TV, selling toys was accomplished by “mom and pop business with a seasonal focus on Christmas” (Lord 21). TV changed this, Mattel was able to market Barbie year around focusing on children.
Another reason Barbie appealed to children, “she was different. ” Most dolls on the market for girls were babies. These dolls included Chatty Cathy and Betsy Wetsy they were designed to introduce young girls to the skills required to be a mother (Wolf 2).Barbie was different than any other doll on the market.
She was attractive, shapely, and had all kinds of accessories. Children were able to relate their child-like fantasies, aspirations and ambitions to the adult world. Barbie and Ken are both named after Ruth’s children.
Other dolls were named after other members of the family including her grandchildren, Stacie, Todd, and Cheryl. Ken was created and developed to help fill one of the expectations of the 1950’s women. Ken was created because “women were considered failures without male companionship” (Johnson “Barbie’s Effects on American Suburban Culture”).This trend has continued for the last 53 years, her image ever changing with the times. Barbie’s accessories are always changing keeping her modern and ahead of her time. Her link to success is Mattel’s ability to change with the times.
Mattel has developed a team that study’s societal trends, cultural patterns, and the latest craze. This helped ensure they capitalized on the teenage suburban market. They used this team to help formulate a persona for Barbie, projecting her as a role model for young girls. Through Barbie, “aspects of suburban life and femininity were mirrored for girls (Riddick “Introduction”).We live in a world filled with excessive lifestyles and a person’s image is everything. Barbie rivaled in these standards, she always had the most expensive and newest clothes, cars, and accessories. Mattel has proved time and again their research team has been able to “correctly assess what it means to a little girl to be a grown-up” (Riddick “introduction”).
Ruth Handler has unquestionably created an American icon that functions as a role model for young girls and allows them an outlet to dream big. She also serves as an ever changing reflection of our culture and American society.At a very young age, all children are exposed to society which is laden with gender stereotypes and biases. To understand these, we must first understand gender roles.
Psychology Review states, “A child’s gender role is a set of socially and culturally defined expectations, describing how males and females should think, act and feel” (Workman 8). Gender roles do vary between cultures. Gender differences encompass inconsistencies in regards to male and female and behavior between the sexes. Gender stereotypes are views that we maintain with regards to gender differences and seem to be pretty universal.While there are some benefits to adhering to strict gender stereotypes, like enabling decision making and giving us a sense of security (Beal, 1994), stereotyping has major drawbacks as well, limiting opportunities, ignoring talent, and propagating unfairness in society.
Toys for girls and boys pass down stereotypes of gender roles. Through these gender-biased toys, girls learn about activities deemed appropriate for members of one’s sex. Girls form an image of themselves as a girl by the time they reach 3 to 4 years old (Bryjak 214).Toys and games along with parents, teachers, and other members of society, we come in contact with, help to form these images and beliefs. Same sex stereotyped toys teach girls their “roles” inside the home, such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the young while looking beautiful. This, along with an overall message that a girl’s gender role cannot be superior to a man’s, sends a message, limiting opportunities and creating unfairness in society.
Barbie, on the other hand, sends a message that girls can be active, dominant, and competitive along with the cultural gender norms.Barbie is a good role model because she shows girls it’s important to include physical fitness into their everyday life. She offers the opportunity for girls to imagine themselves in many different sports and active scenarios. Barbie is a gymnast, plays volleyball, scuba dives, ice skates, surfs, skis, and has won gold medals in the Olympics. This sends a message to girls that physical exertion is fitting, appropriate, and healthy for girls.
As a young man, I remember girl’s choices for sports were limited. They could play tennis, volleyball, swim, and softball. Today girls have almost as many choices as boys.Barbie shows girls these choices and sends the message that, just because you’re a girl, doesn’t mean you can’t be competitive. When Barbie’s not working or playing sports, she’s being physically active with dinner parties, going to movies, walking her pet, shopping, or having cookouts.
These activities all send a positive message that staying active is healthy and appropriate. In today’s society, with obesity on the rise in adolescents, Barbie is one of the few dolls that stress this message. Other dolls mainly focus on child care and being a good home-maker. Dr. Smith states “for young children, fantasy and play are vital parts of socialization, in which they internalize ideals and values” (Sutton 1997). This shows when girls imagine themselves doing these activities, they could be internalizing ideals and values they will use in the future.
This will have a positive effect on their health, self-image, and promote a longer life due to their life style. Most toys for girls promote playing inside, “playing house”. Barbie teaches girls there’s more to life than playing house.
She shows them it’s ok to play sports. Barbie inspires girls to dream big and think of the future.She symbolizes success, strength, and independence for young girls. Barbie has had over eighty jobs throughout the years. Many of the jobs Barbie held, had not yet been obtainable by woman. For instance, in 1965, Astronaut Barbie was introduced.
In 1983, Sally Ride became the first woman in space (Dana). I’m not suggesting Sally played with Barbie and this is why she became an Astronaut. What I am trying to say is, “the time line fits”. Mary F. Rogers, author of Barbie culture, states, “99% of 3 to 10-year-olds, in the United States, own at least one Barbie doll” (Rogers, 1999).
This percentage, along with the time line, does imply she might have. Nurse Barbie went back to college in 1973 to become a doctor. She graduates medical school and becomes a surgeon. The percentage of doctors who were female in the 1970s was 10%. Today, that number has risen to 33% (Dana). Barbie’s success, in the work force, shows and inspires young girls to develop their dreams that they may have never thought possible. The fact that Barbie goes back to school to follow her dream, stresses education. This also tells them never give up on your ambitions.
The year Bill Clinton became President, in 1992, Barbie ran for President. Hillary Clinton ran for President sixteen years later and earned 18 million votes in the Democratic primaries (Dana). Now, I’m sure Hillary wasn’t still playing with dolls, but her daughter was. Barbie shows us again, it is possible to make a difference, and aspire for rolls in the workforce that have normally been filled by men. This tells young women, you don’t have to settle for being the President’s secretary.
Ken could be your secretary and you could be the first female President. These kinds of role models are how change happens.These dolls help girls envision their future, showing them all things are possible CEO Barbie is the latest craze. She comes with an underpaid assistant, Ken. The most popular version is the talking CEO. She says things like, “Did you get those projections”? Or, “We need to cut operating costs by 10%”.
Some would say it is dishonest to dangle this carrot of success in front of our daughters’ noses when we know that the odds that a girl will grow up to order someone around are virtually zero. I believe this is wrong. Women outnumber men in the college classroom.
There are women occupying the position of CEO already. 0 years ago they would have said the same thing about running for President or becoming an Astronaut. Young girls can be anything they want. There is nothing standing in their way. I do believe we should encourage our daughters to reach for the stars, but there are things standing in their way.
Gender roles and gender stereotyping for one. How about culture norms? My grandmother graduated Berkeley in the year 1918. She told me, at that time, the only respectable occupation for an educated woman was teacher and nurse. This shows things have changed, but there are obstacles.If we educate our girls and they know these things do exist, we better prepare our daughters for the future. We have an obligation to give them the tools and insight to help them be successful.
Further, Barbie teaches our daughters independence from men. Barbie has never been married. The only man in her life is Ken.
He plays a minor role in her life. Ken’s only purpose is to go on a date with Barbie, when she feels like it. Barbie never has to wait on Ken. Her life revolves around her female friends. Barbie’s social world helps young girls think in terms of directing their own life without waiting for a man to lean on (Henecke 2).
In the past, finding the right man has been the most dominant goal of most young women. Today, thanks to Barbie, girls learn that the right man is great, but it’s not what defines them. She also shows young girls, friends are more important than waiting around for a boy and that’s a good lesson for all ages. Next, she teaches girls to not discriminate against other cultures and colors by demonstrating caring and respect. Chief executive Bob Eckert from Mattel stated in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, “Barbie stands for good” (Chang).
This is probably the biggest reason Barbie is a good role model. These alues, caring and respect towards others are all things that make a person a winner in my book.She is multinational. She can be found wearing a wide variety of clothing from all over the world. She has represented 45 nationalities like, indian, Chinese, and african. Some feel the worldly clothing can be stereotypical.
This may be partly true, but I feel it helps girls relate to other countries and cultures. Deb Moore Henecke, author of the article Rethinking Barbie, feels a young girl’s global view of her environment could be influenced by Barbie in native dress, arousing interest, causing young girls to take a global view of her world. That’s certainly a good thing” (Henecke 2).
This is how new ideas start. This is how a young girl first starts to develop a world view. When kids see something they perceive to be wrong or socially unfair or that they don’t understand, they ask parents and teachers questions. Barbie is a toy that shows young girls these issues and injustices. Her first black friend was named Christie, in the year 1968. Racial tensions in the US were enormous, at that time. This social involvement with a child of color was considered radical and going against the social norm, but was also doing the right thing.
Christie, her first black friend was essentially a white doll painted brown, no facial features were changed (Leonard). In 2009 Veteran Barbie designer Stacey McBride-Irby, Who is black, designed a new black doll (Leonard). This doll is more realistic.
Designed to look more like neighborhood friends in California, so her own children could have dolls they could relate to (Leonard). This teaches girls we are all people, no matter where we’re from or what color our skin is. She introduced a friend named Becky. She is disabled, confined to a wheelchair.
This again shows empathy and respect for others. This teaches girls it’s ok to be friends with people that are different. Kids also want dolls to play with, that reflect their friends and themselves. Children with disabilities need toys to play with that reflect the people they are or will be. Becky is needed for exactly the same reason as multiracial dolls are needed to serve as a role model. Barbie is a beacon of hope and a positive role model for girls around the world.
Children are feasibly the most persuasive of all age groups.When children perceive an inequality, unfairness, or discrimination, they don’t hesitate to ask their parents and even go so far as to grilling them to get answers that make sense to them. Adult dolls with a career, didn’t exist until Barbie. To present day, no other doll has achieved anywhere close to Barbie’s accomplishments. Most dolls on the market today are baby dolls. What kind of lesson are we teaching children when we give them a doll that requires feeding, diaper changes, and cleaning? The lesson is they should be mothers. It also causes young girls to dream of having a baby. What kind of message is that”? Barbie, on the other hand, is the kind of role model I would want for my daughter.
She teaches girls that an active lifestyle and physical fitness should be part of their life. She sends a message that girls should dream big and that if they get an education they can be anything they want. Barbie teaches girls what should be important: respect, friends and not to judge people because of color, culture, or disabilities. These are all positive reasons why Barbie is a good role model. So, next time you’re at Toys R Us, shopping for your daughter or niece, what are you going to buy?