Barbie: The Young Girls’ Ultimate Role Model?

Especially in this day and age, every young girl should have a role model. They need someone to look up to — someone who will validate their dreams, inspire their hearts, and represent all the positive, healthy ideals life has to offer. My mother is my role model, and so when I saw this commercial the other day, I assumed it was a shout-out to all the hardworking mothers setting their daughters on the right track. After all, at such a young age, who can inspire young girls to “go to the moon”, “dance”, and “teach the next generation”?


Apparently, Barbie can.

There are so many problems with this commercial. First of all, the ad implies — and even encourages young girls to believe — that it’s perfectly fine to idolize a 11.5 inch, unhealthily disproportionate doll. Last time I checked, living, breathing, animate role models served this purpose much better. What are we doing to the future generation when we suggest that they find solace, comfort, and inspiration in the domestic comfort of a Barbie? We should be pushing young girls’ dreams outside of the playpen, into the world, where they will be surrounded by real, healthy women who actually have their best interests at heart.

When the commercial first comes on, you think, “Finally! An ad empowering young women to break the stereotypes and have a profound influence on the world.” They want to be astronauts, bakers, and ballerinas — right on! But then we realize their dreams are being inspired by a Barbie doll. This comes as an unexpected shock; I know my initial reaction was to laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of the correlation! Suddenly, the girls’ hopes are trivialized because they are being attributed to a bastardized representation of what a woman ought to be.

Of course, the commercial wouldn’t be complete without the ever-present reminder that Barbie is first and foremost a doll desired for her attractiveness. “She has awesome style!” says one of the featured young actresses. We’ve all seen the horrifying infographics of Barbie’s severely screwed up proportions, and we can’t forget that even though Barbie has had 125 careers, she’s still showing young girls an unrealistic representation of the female body.

Some argue that by promoting Barbie’s workforce-related success, perhaps Mattel is attempting to change the image of the Barbie doll. But do the pros of this new Barbie image outweigh the cons of the “ideal” body image portrayed by the doll? If young girls are idolizing Barbie for her career, how can we be sure they won’t idolize her in terms of her body?

My advice? Change the image of the Barbie doll by changing the Barbie doll — chest size, waist-to-hip ratio, and all.


5 thoughts on “Barbie: The Young Girls’ Ultimate Role Model?

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  1. I saw this commercial a few days ago too, and it really didn’t make me feel particularly optimistic either, All the issues you pointed out, as well as an overemphasis on pink (of course) and the smarmy, pandering dialogue that you can tell they wrote just to shut us up.

  2. I just realised that as a child I had a ‘ballroom barbie’ a ‘barbie and the rockers’ barbie but my fave outfit was the 80s powersuit complete with stillettos (well let’s face it, Barbie can’t wear flats). As a teen I loved her ‘style’ like those young girls, and I ended up with very poor body image, and an eating disorder. I realise I reflected on different elements of Babie at different times of my life. This piece is spot on.

  3. I really don’t agree with all that attack on Barbies. I am not that fond of the dolls by the way. As a child I bought one and I picked a gypsy Barbie!!! But as a child I never idolized it or aspired to be like it. And as a teenager I was more influenced by models and images in print and on the screen than a doll. Because to me they actually represented real people as opposed to a doll. I will not try to justify the add cos the main target of it is to sell… but I can see many reasons behind it, such as following global trends and such. I think we should credit our young ones with better judgment than to make a doll their role model, and start viewing the doll as just means for them to express themselves as they do with other imaginary play or role playing.

  4. Yeah, I played with Barbies all my life and it did not hurt myself image in the least. I’m not anoxric, never wanted to look like my Barbie, she was just my play pal like dolls have been for years. Wonder what the corn cob dolls of my mother’s day did to her. Maybe that is why corn is her favorite vegetable…mercy, I should take her to a srink and see what he can do for her…how stupid we get.

  5. I’ve played with barbies my whole life and I’ve never wanted to look like barbie. In fact, I’m goth. Black has been my favorite color since I was 9. I will admit, sometimes I did (and do) wonder what it would be like if I was as pretty as barbie, but have never acted on it.

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