When relaying 2012 election facts to your little one this fall, don’t forget about a new lady on the ticket just for them: Barbie. In her fifth run for office, the girlhood icon will again take to the shelves in a bid for America’s highest office. And although parents might be delighted to see Barbie continuing her eclectic career with yet another girl-positive incarnation, this 2012 plastic candidate again presents a problematic message for girls given those extreme and notorious bodily proportions.
A quick gander at a lot of women in politics reveals a likeness to this new “I Can Be…” Barbie, as if you cut that blonde helmet of hair, you might as well be looking at Callista Gingrich. As much as a wife in politics has been known to play an influential role, being the spouse of a president isn’t exactly the leadership position Mattel and The White House Project is hoping to say with this product. Forbes reports:
“Being President culminates Barbie’s career path,” says Mattel’s Cathy Cline, VP of Barbie Brand Marketing in North America. “She stands for inspiring girls to be informed and involved in their local communities. We hope that one day we’ll have a female president standing in the Oval Office.”
But this presidential Barbie, which will debut in four different ethnicities come August, still sports the problematic bodily proportions that Barbie has been slammed for in the past. In fact, clicking through Forbes’ gallery of Barbie’s many professional advancements, including surgeon, astronaut, and computer engineer — all applaudable — her head continues to get bigger while her body gets increasingly smaller. We’re all well aware that Mattel has those stomach-churning Bratz dolls to compete with, but the quickness at which Barbie’s form fades away is concerning if we’re going to deem this doll a positive one for our daughters.
It’s been noted already that young girls today do feel that they are able to tackle a variety of previously male-dominated fields, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects. Yet, where we continue to fail girls as a culture is in our “yes, but” mantra, observed by girls’ issues author Rachel J. Simmons, which tells girls that of course they can run for president, of course they can be doctor, of course they can be an engineer — but they better look conventionally sexy while they do it.
We see this troubling tendency bubbling up in array of studies that finds girls’ self-confidence at an all-time low, with half of 10-year old girls saying that they feel better about themselves when they’re on a diet, and at a time when — if we consider historical advances for girls — it’s never been a better time to be one. Girls are heading into undergraduate and graduate programs in droves, getting scooped up by colleges like Harvey Mudd, and being given mentorship opportunities with NASA via the wonderful organization that is Girl Scouts.
Yet although this Barbie reflects an aesthetic that is common among a lot of women of politics, I don’t find that likeness to necessarily be an empowering one. I’m all for encouraging girls to take an interest in government and “their local communities” through products and toys, but if we’re going to encourage girls into public office, let’s not encourage them to need a mythological waistline like Barbie to get there.