Barbie: A Doll for Dreaming


Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Mattel

Six different iterations of the Barbie doll portraying six different occupations.

Toys are a way children use imagination and creativity, and little girls tend to lean toward dolls. Barbie dolls have stolen the hearts of little girls since 1959 and have been influencing them ever since. Adults believe the figure of Barbie to be horrifying and disturbing, with her being said to represent a Western ideal and an unachievable body figure. Barbie is also said to hurt the self-esteem of the children that play with her. Barbie’s stiletto-ready feet, cone-shaped breasts, and synthetic blonde hair seem to grab the attention of these children because of her beauty. She has become so popular because she keeps evolving. Children are attracted to the many stories that come with Barbie and how she encourages them to be anything they want to be. She also has friends to accompany her like Ken, Midge, Skipper, and Puppy Ruff. These other characters lead to more imaginative opportunities. Barbie may have a perfect figure that may be unrealistic and unachievable, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t impact the imagination and creativity of a young girl.

Barbie is looked at as a negative figure that restricts girls across the world. She is toxic to little girls because they may start to believe they need to look and act a certain way to be successful in their lifetime. Barbie is believed to give the idea that the unattractive don’t achieve their dreams and only the beautiful receive what they want. Barbie is also said to be racist. Most of Barbie’s friends are stereotypes and can be offensive to the people they are supposed to represent. These friends are seen as less fortunate than Barbie. They have different living conditions that show they are less than her. Some say she is portrayed as the center of attention, being that she is rich and white. Alex Roel, a student at Pennridge High School said, “Barbie is not a good influence because she promotes conformity to gender roles through her unrealistic body type, discouragement of male-dominant careers, and lack of racial diversity.” Alex had done research on the influence of Barbie for her AP Seminar project. She concluded, “by setting false and unrealistic expectations, Barbie is obstructing the minds and morals of young girls. With such a large audience, Barbie abuses her platform and is not a good role model for adolescents.”

Barbie may have a perfect body and the perfect life but she has sparked so much creativity in young girls. She is also very successful and takes on many jobs like a princess, doctor, entomologist, and even a UNICEF ambassador. This teaches girls that they should always aim high and maximize their potential. Barbie also stars in the show “Life in the Dreamhouse.” In every episode, her ability to problem solve and her proactive personality was brought to light. Even though she is white, there is an extensive range of characters that are of different races, abilities, and body types. This teaches young girls the importance of diversity. Barbie has helped give the image that successful women come in all shapes, sizes, and skin tones. Megan Nicolosi, a mom of a young girl, said, “I will say that I appreciated the different careers Barbies came out with because it made me feel that as a woman I could become a doctor, lawyer, etc.- whatever Barbie was, I could be too! Playing with Barbies (dolls in my case) was definitely great for my imagination and creativity. I could be in my room alone for hours putting my dolls in all sorts of imaginary situations.”

Little girls see her as independent and strong. Having Barbie as that constant reminder that you can be or do anything you want is what little girls need. What people don’t realize is that sure Barbie has this perfect body but she is so much more than that. She sets an example of courage and independence. She was said to be racist but the characters surrounding her were all different races. She works hard and is successful. She is caring for everyone surrounding her. She solves problems. All these different aspects of Barbie lead to the conclusion that Barbie is ultimately a good role model for young girls. Everything that Barbie teaches should be learned at a young age. By playing with her or watching a show of her, little girls will start to pick up on these important life lessons.