When I was a kid, I had an Astronaut Barbie. (I ended up cutting all of her hair off and giving her a black eye using nail polish - but that’s a story for another time.) I thought it was pretty cool that she had this space suit and all, but remember wondering how she was going to walk on the moon with such uncomfortable looking knee-high plastic boots. But hey, it was the 80s.
Mattel has just launched a new Barbie who is running for President as part of their “I Can Be…” Barbie collection. It’s a collaboration with The White House Project, a great organization dedicated to getting more women to run for office. So I really want to like this. But I can’t.
Check out this description from Mattel, emphasis theirs:
Barbie I Can Be… dolls and accessories let girls explore different roles and try on fabulous careers, including President of the United States! This inspiring and stylish Barbie doll wears a smart suit in her signature pink, of course! She accessorizes with a sophisticated pearl necklace and earrings and proudly sports a B Party campaign button, representing girls nationwide. Vote for Barbie!
I don’t want my daughter growing up to think that careers are something “fabulous” you try on like an outfit. I don’t want her to think that only someone who looks like a Barbie doll can be President, or be successful. And I don’t want young American girls’ dreams of running for office to be part of a consumerist ploy that reduces political participation to a cutesy doll.
Maybe I’m just being cranky, goodness knows it wouldn’t be the first time. I just think there are better ways to get girls interested in politics than to slap a pink shiny package on it.
It’s also worth noting that this presidential candidate Barbie is the first Barbie ever who will be able to stand on her own. It’s touted as a good thing - which I suppose it is - but it just reminds me that Barbie has never been able to stand on her own feet before.
I understand wanting to encourage girls to run for office and see things like becoming president as a reality, I really do. But in a culture that disdains women and in a country with such abysmal rates of women’s political representation, putting out a doll that embraces the fantasy of a woman president doesn’t give me much hope for the reality.