Barbie Makes Girls Less Ambitious, Says Another Stupid Study
A new study says that young girls who are exposed to Barbie for a mere five minutes are less ambitious than girls exposed to Mrs. Potato Head. I understand why people feel Barbie is problematic, but this is just getting ridiculous.
The study was published in the journal, Sex Roles, and The Atlantic wrote a pretty comprehensive explanation of it. Thirty-seven girls between the ages of four and seven were randomly assigned dolls to play with. One was a typical Barbie in her girly attire, one was a “career” Barbie, and the last was a Mrs. Potato Head doll. After just five minutes of play, the girls who played with the Barbies (whether they were dressed for success or not) were less likely to believe that they were able to follow as many career paths as the girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head. They also thought that fewer occupations were available to them than to boys.
“Playing with the Barbie suppresses their ideas about their own possible futures, but their ideas about the boys didn’t change.” said Dr. Eileen Zurbriggen, a professor of psychology at University of California, Santa Cruz. She an her co-researcher, Dr. Aurora Sherman of Oregon State, found that when presented with 10 career options which ranged from restaurant worker to doctor, girls who played with the Barbie could envision themselves in 6.6 of the jobs, while girls who had played with the Potato Head saw themselves doing over 8 of the jobs.
Meh. I would argue that being given only five minutes with the doll isn’t nearly enough time to figure out who your new play thing will be. Didn’t you do that when you had dolls as a kid? Assign them personalities after you got them? This takes some thought. Mrs. Potato Head isn’t so much a “doll” as an interactive construction toy. You build her. Also, she doesn’t look like a human at all, so I never assigned her human characteristics. This was a weird choice for a third doll if you ask me.
Why isn’t this much thought put into superheroes? I can’t remember the last time I read that Iron Man is making our sons sarcastic jerks with a penchant for womanizing and destruction, can you? While I agree her measurements are problematic, and would love to engage my daughter with more life-like dolls, I’m confused as to why we keep shifting the focus on to her?
The first time I ever remember thinking about Barbie as anything more than a doll was when one of my friend’s older sisters had a t-shirt on that said, “I want to be Barbie. That bitch has everything.” I remember thinking it was weird for an adult to be wearing a Barbie shirt. That’s it. Not kidding.
My Barbie was a bad ass. She owned a hair salon, totally wore the pants in her relationship with Ken and was the person all of her friends went to for advice. I think we expose our daughters to things and those things become the things they dream about and those dreams are poured into their dolls during their playtimes. I never just stared at Barbie thinking, I wish my waist was that small, or I wish I had my own Ken Doll to buy me things so I never have to work. Our society is obsessed with looks and women are still fighting for equal rights and our daughters need better role models – but is Barbie really one of the things that’s holding us all back?
I really don’t think so.