Barbie hasn’t exactly had the best reputation over the past couple of years. With the introduction of more positive and empowering competitors such as Lammily and Goldieblox, it is not hard to see why Mattel wanted to jump on the girls in STEM bandwagon to ensure Barbie was also a source of empowerment for the next generation.
But with their huge computer science Barbie faux pas, could the iconic doll brand really recover and not just be known as a brand that perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards on girls?
It’s no secret that since her creation in 1959 she has had over 150 different careers, and lately she has started to choose careers that reflect the changing representation of women in society and in a variety of sectors including science, tech, engineering and math.
The latest Barbie campaign is something worth talking about as it is clear that the brand is really trying to send the right message to its audience. The Sheroes collection is a line of unique dolls based off real life female role models.
The collection was launched at the annual Variety Women Of Power Luncheon in Hollywood which is an event celebrating certain women who are using their platform to change the world in some charitable form. How does Barbie’s collection fit in?
All the women are based off women in entertainment and are quite diverse we have to say. Here are the women they picked:
- Ava DuVernay: Director of the Academy Award Best Picture nominee, SELMA, and founder of African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, which provides opportunities and resources to underrepresented filmmakers.
- Emmy Rossum: Golden Globe® nominated actress and spokesperson for Best Friends Animal Society, the only national animal welfare organization dedicated exclusively to ending the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters and a leader in the no-kill movement.
- Eva Chen: Breaking boundaries by bringing inspiration to print as the youngest appointed female Editor-in-Chief of a national fashion magazine, Lucky.
- Kristin Chenoweth: An inspiration on Broadway and beyond, the Emmy® and Tony Award® nominee and winner also founded the Kristin Chenoweth Art & Education Fund volunteering with young talent in the arts.
- Sydney “Mayhem” Keiser: Five year-old fashion designer with work appearing in Vogue and signed on with major national fashion brand, J.Crew, for the collection ‘Little Mayhem for J.Crew’ launching in June.
- Trisha Yearwood: A woman with many super powers, succeeding as an award-winning Country artist, best-selling author, Food Network host and entrepreneur.
The dolls are not available for purchase in stores, instead they were auctioned off by the real life versions of the dolls and proceeds were given to a charity of their choice.
“Barbie has always represented that girls have choices, and this Spring we are proud to honor six Sheroes who through their trade and philanthropic efforts are an inspiration to girls. Started by a female entrepreneur and mother, this brand has a responsibility to continue to honor and encourage powerful female role models who are leaving a legacy for the next generation of glass ceiling breakers,” said Evelyn Mazzocco, General Manager Barbie.
“For more than five decades, Barbie has encouraged girls to dream and imagine themselves as everything from a mermaid to a movie star, a fairy to a fashionista and a princess to a president. Embodying the empowerment message the brand stands behind, Barbie is honoring these Sheroes who, like Barbie, have broken boundaries, challenged gender norms and proven girls can be anything they want to be,” said a press release about the collection.
We are going to give credit where credit is due. Mattel is making a concerted effort. The inclusion of Ava Duvernay is a big freaking deal, and we love that! But here’s the problem we have. The fact that these dolls aren’t available for purchase by the general public make it just look like a publicity stunt, and one that is piggy-backing off a Hollywood event which is genuinely paying homage to what women in film are doing off-screen.
The Women of Power luncheon honored Lena Dunham, Glenn Close, Kim Kardashian, Whoopi Goldberg and Rachel Weisz for the charitable work they do. Topics such as sexual abuse, mental health, cancer, and education are among the causes each women is passionate about, and it is important to celebrate the women who use their celebrity status for something other than their own fame.
It’s great that Barbie wants to be part of that world, but if Mattel really wants to be different and break barriers, they need to find ways to infiltrate the mainstream in a way that makes them a stand alone source of empowerment. The obvious suggestion is to release a collection of Sheroes like the aforementioned, and continue to expand to include brilliant women who aren’t necessarily celebrities, but who are changing the world.
The inclusion of a black female film director is a major leap forward for the brand. We learned of the Queens of Africa dolls not too long ago created by a Nigeran man who was sick of not seeing any dolls that represented the women that his own daughter and niece are growing up with. Imagine if young girls everywhere, whether black, white, Hispanic, Asian or more, could grow up with a doll that looks like Ava DuVernay and think of black women as part of the “standard” of beauty that the doll so powerfully represents? Imagine the impact on a young black girl’s life seeing a black female film director being held up as the standard alongside all the other celebrities and notable women that she does not necessarily look like but wants to be like?
It’s just a suggestion, but one that we think would be worth the toy brand thinking over. We would love for Barbie to be a powerful role model, but she needs a major re-branding, one that isn’t just focused on physical appearance in order to diversify her body type. They chose the right women for the Sheroes campaign for sure, it’s just not enough for our taste.
However, we hope this is only the start of Barbie’s new focus, and we eagerly await what she will do next. In the meantime, you don’t need to wait for a doll collection to #besuper or to be a #shero in your life right now. If there’s one positive we can take away from this, is that being a superhero is not just reserved for the ultra famous. We can all be superheroes.