A study “Boys Can Be Anything: Effect of Barbie Play on Girls’ Career Cognitions” by researchers Aurora Sherman of Oregon State University and Eileen Zurbriggen of the University of California, Santa Cruz, found that girls who play with Barbie dolls believe they can’t do as many jobs as dudes in the future. I didn’t play with Barbie as a kid because she terrified me, those eyes really freaked me out when I was little, so I can’t speak to this phenomenon. However, I did want a My Size Barbie because that was awesome.
The study found, “The girls who had played with homely Mrs. Potato Head reportedly believed they could go on to do just as many jobs as their male peers. But those who had played with Barbie, regardless of whether she was dressed as a doctor or a fashion model, saw themselves as having fewer career options than boys.”
It’s not unheard of that Barbie profoundly affects girls’ body image and may not always send the best message. Nevertheless, Barbie has been President, so it’s not as though she represents traditional gender roles anymore. I wonder if it’s the fact that she is a pretty blond woman. She is clearly meant to be exceptionally attractive and not everyone sees themselves in that light. A potato is a potato so how you identify with it is whatever you project onto it. Most girls know they’ll never be Barbie (it’s literally impossible given her non-human proportions), so maybe they believe that these careers are only available to beautiful people?
“Perhaps Barbie can ‘Be Anything’ as the advertising for this doll suggests, but girls who play with her may not apply these possibilities to themselves. Something about the type of doll, not characteristics of the participants, causes the difference in career aspirations,” Sherman said although it’s still unclear to them why Barbie can affect girls’ career aspirations. What do you think? Did you ever play with a toy that made you feel weird about yourself or inadequate?