Written by Harriet….
Until recently, the last I heard of Barbie was the debate surrounding how the dolls promoted an unhealthy body image in young girls. I can’t say I took too much notice, as quite frankly I had more important things to focus on once I transitioned out of toy-playing age.
When my mum wrote about Barbie’s evolution in our book, Mother of Millennials, I realised the doll hadn’t stayed stagnant as the figurine I used to dress in a pink top and blue mini skirt. She had flown to the moon, qualified as a fire fighter, and even become a robotics engineer! Far more than I’m yet to achieve in my career.
As my sentimentality towards Barbie was non-existent, due partly to the passing of time and partly to being a huge tomboy as a child, learning of her career achievements did nothing except ignite a mild satisfaction; that such a well-known brand was promoting all areas of work, and had made a good business decision in evolving with the times.
I can’t say whether playing with these career dolls would have had an effect on me. Even if they had, the education system and social norms will have played the dominant role on mine, and other children’s ability to dream and achieve in the world of work. However, these positive messages, at such a young age, surely can’t be detrimental to a child’s ability to believe in themselves, and their career options.
The first time I ever visited Barbie online was to find out more about her 60th Birthday, and write this piece. And I have to tell you, I was shocked! Career changes weren’t the only thing Barbie had been up to…she’d changed body shape, skin tone, morphed into inspirational women and sheros, and was playing an active role in inspiring young girls to be who they wanted to be.
The website’s cute-as-heck videos showing young girls embracing the roles of palaeontologist, veterinarian and professor, highlight how Mattel is trying to use Barbie as a source of imagination and aspiration for children, promoting that #YouCanBeAnything.
What really struck me was their Dream Gap Project, created in a bid to #CloseTheDreamGap. This project aims to change and prevent the self-limiting belief girls acquire due to cultural stereotypes and social cues, thereby allowing them to continue to dream big and not have a gap between what they dream, and what they can achieve. The project is a global initiative to fund research into this under-examined area, highlight positive female role models, and continue to inspire children with their content and products. Good on you Barbie!
I now feel slightly bad that I let Barbie slip into the realm of non-existence, but I’m happy to learn of her continued proactivity in changing young girls’ lives for the better. With initiatives like this from well established brands, or even just you and me, we are propelling forwards the movement to give girls an equal chance, and help them dream and achieve their brilliance.
If you are actively helping females, of any age, please get in touch and share your stories, as I’m sure there’s still a bit of Barbie in all of us.
Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org