“Girls can do Anything” The Philosophy of Barbie: Inspiring or Inhibiting?

Having multiple careers, a steady boyfriend and a dream mansion, Barbie’s portrayal of the dream life can be inspiring in developing healthy young aspirations…or can it be inhibiting?

The “girls can do anything” attitude has been a feminist message perpetuated by the fashion doll, Barbie for generations. Having something influential to say through every decade she’s been around, Mattel’s Barbie has both empowered little girls to aspire to bright futures…and according to some controversial feminists, actually demeaned little girls with negative stereotyping. But which is it? Is Barbie positive or negative for children growing up in the digital age? Is the doll’s representation of gender accurate…and more importantly, applaudable? By an examination of the philosophies of Barbie and her presentation of feminist, gender and stereotyping ideals, we can get to the bottom of these harrowing queries.

In this blog post, I will inquire into whether Barbie’s portrayal of the dream life is inspiring or inhibiting our children in the digital age…

Inspiring or Inhibiting?

Barbie’s idealistic lifestyle has been a part of her allure and mythology for generations of children. Having multiple careers, a steady boyfriend and a dream mansion, Barbie’s portrayal of the dream life can be inspiring in developing healthy young aspirations…or can it be inhibiting?

There is no argument, according to many,  that Barbie is not beneficial for the growth and development of youngster’s creative minds and identity. It is through the process of now often rare, tactile play that our future identities are moulded through interaction with imagination. Barbie provides an avenue for positive play and portrayal of people. Through having careers and boyfriends, Barbie demonstrates to young children that ‘you can have it all’ and live the dream life while still fitting to society’s stereotypes. But now, rather than aspire to be like the super-realistic heroine ideology that is Barbie, Mattel has released dolls (such as curvy and petite) that children share more similarities to. This is both a positive and a negative.

Relatability of Barbie dolls has created a child culture of stereotyping. While its’ intention is to promote diversity and difference to children, Mattel’s new Barbies can be seen to simply enforce cliches and sectionalise young children into groups amongst their peers. Curvy young girls are encouraged to be themselves, however, is it ethical to encourage overweight children in our society? Rather than unified by Barbie, children are now divided.

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Mattel’s petite, tall, curvy and African American Barbies.

On the plus side, this doll diversity is educating our youth to accept everyone for who they are and how they look. But as it has been discussed, this philosophy of Barbie being idealistic is not necessarily a bad thing; Barbie being on a pedestal of perfection has led to girls trying to better themselves and dream big. Now, with this relatability and Barbie’s normality, girls no longer typically aspire for dreams but simply for who they already are.

Seeking more philosophical nourishment? In want of more commentary on popular culture?

Look no further:

Finding Parents: What’s with Disney and their unhealthy habit of leaving characters with either a single parent or none at all?

Dabbling with Death: Philosophy in Flatliners

Here’s to the Fools who Dream: Philosophical Thoughts from La La Land