Barbie a Feminist?

20 Oct

She’s been a nurse, an astronaut, an air stewardess and now in Hamley’s toy shop she can be whoever you want her to be. But, would we be able to describe Barbie as a feminist?

Barbie arrived on the market 51 years ago, costing $3 a doll. She was the creation of an American businesswoman, Ruth Handler, who named the doll after her daughter Barbara. Their family business, Mattel, broke toy-selling records with Barbie, and her popularity lives on.

The question as to why Barbie is so popular is debatable, and journalist Moira Redmond controversially believes that it is due to Barbie’s feminist status.

Redmond describes Barbie as a “faboulas toy for independent-minded girls”.  

The tongue-in-cheek Twitter page made for Barbie reveals her desperately stalking Ken’s Twitter, asking followers whether he has a new girlfriend. Surely, an independent feminist would not care for such matters? Not to mention her shameless display on Toy Story 3 in cinemas earlier this year.

One thing is for sure, Barbie Roberts kept her surname, making the traditional feminist choice of keeping as her own person.


Redmond also believes that Barbie is a feminist because you are able to make her do anything, “you can make your Barbie’s do anything, be anything, and you can even beat her up”. Surely this isn’t sending out the right message, women should be in control of their own minds, not be an object for others to decide what happens to them.

Wanting to beat up Barbie is definitely not cool either. I know she is only a doll, but as women living in a still un-levelled society we should stick with other women, not fight them.

However, Barbie has had roles traditionally sought after by men, such as astronaut. She shows that women can break the mould, that we can be glamorous as well as intelligent. Feminists aren’t the stereotype of dungarees wearing bra burners; “for just as women come in all shapes and sizes – despite Barbie’s improbable vital statistics – feminists come in all different outfits too.” (cited from Guardian website)

 As Redmund points out, there certainly has not been a ‘housework Barbie’.  But there has been ‘french maid Barbie’, suggesting sexually liberated woman or woman dressing to please man? I’ll let you decide.


So is Barbie simply a harmless play thing, and should we really tackle the route of the problem and influence young women in different ways? Or is Barbie the stem of the problem which leaves women feeling insecure, forever striving towards the perfect figure and falsely perfect life?

I can quite proudly say I was not a fan of Barbie as a child. Sylvanian families yes, but then again the idea of a family of animals working in a green grocers was more believable than a woman with the bodily proportions of an infant/porn star, and who would topple if she were to be real.

Will you be heading to Hamley’s to buy a Barbie you can choose and dress

Hamley’s Toy Store, London

 and style? Or will you let her make up her own mind?


2 Responses to “Barbie a Feminist?”

  1. bedelia lewis October 20, 2010 at 1:12 am #

    i’d never noticed that barbie was an astronaut! But then i didn’t really ever play with barbie, especially not after my mermaid princess one lost her head – i don’t think i ever got over that. But i think to a degree barbie is a feminist, as children use this doll as an extension of themselves, what they aspire to be when they are older, and she shows them they have careers of which men traditionally have. But that’s just externally. Barbie has still got that ‘perfect’ figure, to me feminism is mainly about choice, and with barbie you don’t get a choice with her figure. This will be, to some children, subconsciously imprinting that they don’t have the choice to be whatever shape they wish and still be accepted the same as someone with this ‘perfect’ figure socially.

  2. sarah llewellyn October 24, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    Is it me or does anyone feel that with all the career choices, such as action figure, porn star, super cop and of course astronaut, that Barbie is just a figure desperate to please?? Maybe she just has not found what she want’s to be in life and is secretly hoping for a man better than the wet fish known as Ken..I mean c’mon…Ken??? So is she trying to appeal to a selection of different men in order that one day she will eventually please one of them?? I dont know..all I know is that I spent my childhood making her and my action men..yes men…simulate sex….after I had shaved all her hair off and painted nipples on her using my Mums nail polish. I would also like to stress I am not an action figure, I am a teacher and happy to remain…just a teacher..Now pass me my pen with the built in machine gun please??

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: