• 75°

Another dubious role model for girls

WASHINGTON — Lego’s groundbreaking female-scientists set sold out almost immediately after it was released this month. But never fear, fans of feminist toys: A new Barbie doll, now in stock, is also shattering the plastic ceiling.
Yes, that swan-necked, thigh-gapped beauty has had a makeover and yet another career change. As of this summer, she’s available as Entrepreneur Barbie. She doesn’t belong to a specific industry or business, per se, but she’s sure got a fab wardrobe.
Clad in a tight, hot-pink dress and sky-high black heels (which presumably limit how far she can lean in any given direction), Entrepreneur Barbie carries a patent-leather briefcase, pink clutch and what appear to be a knock-off iPhone and iPad . She also comes with her own coterie of “Chief Inspiration Officers,” real-life female founders of organizations such as Rent the Runway and Girls Who Code, who joined her for a “pink power lunch” on Twitter. She even has her own hashtag, #unapologetic, the same one Mattel used when Barbie teamed up with Sports Illustrated for its latest swimsuit issue.
I want to love Entrepreneur Barbie. I really do.
If nothing else, she’s a huge improvement over Barbies of years past, when they cried “Math class is tough!” and were primarily (if not exclusively) confined to pink-collar occupations such as candy-striper, ballerina, aerobics instructor, nurse, flight attendant and model. Not so long ago, a line of career-oriented Barbie dolls called “I Can Be” even included “Bride” as a possible career aspiration. Even the more nontraditional, “empowering” jobs sometimes tended toward the twee and overtly nurturing: Barbie has been a doctor several times, with specialties including “kid doctor,” “baby doctor” and “newborn baby doctor.” Likewise, Barbie has been all manner of chef, including a cookie chef, sweets chef, dessert chef, pancake chef, pastry chef and pizza chef.
Her new job title also suggests that she’s her own boss, and she maybe even has employees. In an era in which little girls are still called bossy for behaviors praised as leader-like in boys, maybe this isn’t so bad.
Pop-cultural messaging matters for girls’ career aspirations. Girls Who Code, which organizes computer-programming boot camps for underprivileged girls, has found that one of the most frequent career aspirations cited by its applicants is, of all things, forensic scientist. Why? Think of all the badass, lab-coated women on TV shows such as “CSI” and “Bones” who happen to be forensic scientists. They’re the most visible role models for young girls who have shown an aptitude for science. As Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, puts it, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” So perhaps businesswomen Barbie dolls, like paleontologist Lego ladies, can provide a useful role model to impressionable young girls.
And yet, and yet. Something about this whole Entrepreneur Barbie marketing campaign seems so cynical and exploitative, the collision of two increasingly tedious, shark-jumping media trends.
One is the explosion of viral advertising campaigns marketed under the guise of girl power, like Pantene’s ad on over-apologizing women; Always on “throwing like a girl”; Dove on “You are more beautiful than you think”; or going back much further, Virginia Slims’ “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.” While ads that reinforce traditional gender roles or prey on women’s insecurities aren’t desirable either, this alternate breed of marketing campaigns often comes off as slick and disingenuous.
The second is America’s peculiar pop-cultural obsession with entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneur” is such a vague and nebulously trendy profession that Mattel might as well have released Buzzword Barbie.
Entrepreneurship rates are tanking across the country, but somehow the social status of entrepreneurs seems higher than ever. In the age of “The Social Network,” “Shark Tank” and media narratives that mythologize founder-CEOs, the job title of “entrepreneur” sounds as glitzy as being a princess, actress, fashion designer or any other traditionally glamorpuss Barbie profession. Barbie’s latest career shift seems designed to capture not the imaginations of 7-year-old girls (did you know what an “entrepreneur” was at that age?) but those of parents dreaming of get-rich-quick schemes that sound more respectable than “reality TV star.”
Of course, the reality of entrepreneurship isn’t nearly as glamorous as Hollywood, or Mattel, makes it out to be; a more authentic Entrepreneur Barbie would come not with stylish pumps and a fuchsia clutch but a bowl of ramen and a six-pack of Red Bull. But admittedly realism — in anatomical proportions, career trajectories or otherwise — has never really been part of Barbie’s appeal.
Rampell writes for the Washington Post.

Comments

Comments closed.

Coronavirus

Nearly 400 cases considered currently active in the county

Education

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College creates free course to help parents tackle virtual learning

Business

New unemployment claims down in August, could indicate positive trend for businesses

Crime

Salisbury man faces drug possession charges after overdose call

Crime

Police: Man charged after children call 911 from neighbor’s house

Ask Us

Ask Us: Who are people behind sign at City Park playground?

Coronavirus

Prison in Salisbury latest site of COVID-19 outbreak

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury Man charged with felony assault by strangulation

Nation/World

Trump vows quick Supreme Court vote, Biden urges delay for Nov. 3

Nation/World

New rule may strip pollution protections from popular lakes

East Spencer

East Spencer draws crowd for annual community day

Elections

In Rowan’s legislative races, Howard, Warren get off to strongest start in fundraising

Business

From Navy SEAL to Medicare agent, Trent Waller looks to continue serving his community

Elections

In 13th Congressional District race, Budd, Huffman differ on government’s role in COVID-19 help

Local

Rowan County Telecommunications joins new state digital 911 system

Education

School board will consider scheduling public hearings for Faith, Enochville closures

Business

Biz Roundup: Food Lion makes donation to support racial equality and justice

Elections

Republicans rally supporters at Saturday lunch

Elections

Budd holds wide lead over Huffman in fundraising, cash on hand

Crime

UPDATED: 1 shot, 5 in custody after shooting at haunted house that attracted 1,000 visitors

Nation/World

Trump picks conservative Amy Coney Barrett to fill Supreme Court seat

Coronavirus

Deadly September propels Rowan County to 100 deaths from COVID-19

Crime

Highway Patrol charges man in hit-and-run after finding vehicle hidden in woods

Elections

NC elections board, Republicans at odds over absentee ballot rule changes