Jane Goodall is the latest step in the strange evolution of the Barbie doll

In the news perhaps not many people expected to see, said no-frills, outdoorsy, animal behavior expert and conservation activist Jane Goodall. be a barbie doll (with his famous chimpanzee, David Greybeard).

[Photo: Jane Goodall Institute/Jane Goodall Productions/courtesy Mattel]

Toy Maker Honored as Latest Member of Mattel’s “Barbie Inspiring Woman Series” Historical and Contemporary HeroinesGoodall joins aviator Amelia Earhart, NASA mathematician and physicist Katherine Johnson, artist and political activist Frida Kahlo, tennis great Billie Jean King, medical reformer Florence Nightingale, and early civil rights activist and journalist Ida B. Wells, whose Barbie debuted in January. had started. ,

The series was launched on International Women’s Day in 2018, as part of Mattel’s response to mothers’ concerns about their daughters being role models. To date, each doll is accompanied by about a dozen “inspiring” Barbies with information about the achievements and influence of her name. be dressed and posed instead of having a generic plastic body, the doll was now standing As “real” women, Mattel is “engaged in shedding light on empowering role models of the past and present in an effort to inspire more girls.”

What makes a heroine?

Barbie has certainly come a long way since it was first produced in 1959 and has become synonymous with what feminists saw as the objectification and objectification of women.

But the fact is that some of the most famous and forceful women in the world – who had sought careers outside of their physical appearance – were now being remodeled because plastic dolls were also what I loved professionally.

my new book, Heroines in History: A Thousand Faces, examines the patterns that have underpinned the creation of heroines over the past 200 years. In it I argue that the representation of women who rebel, move, move and change the world is obliged to refer to them as “super-women” or “honorary men.”

Taking on individual stories of women, including those now appearing as Barbie, I explore a range of core themes, revealing how heroines are created by hetero-sexist societies.

I 1 90776077 Jane Goodall Joins Barbie
[Photo: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images]

Despite many advances for women, the persistence and reinvention of the Heroic Statue for Women values ​​image over substance. And because of their iconic appeal, it has been common for heroines to be used for commercial purposes throughout history.

For example, in the 19th century, the image of British maritime heroine Grace Darling appeared on boxes of chocolates and was used to advertise soap. Since her death in 1954, Frida Kahlo’s face has fueled everything from tequila to lip gloss. And Marilyn Monroe’s image is enduring for any number of products she sells.

Opposing Feminism?

So heroic ladies’ appropriation of substance as plastic Barbies shouldn’t surprise us.

After all, dolls have a long and rich history. They have appeared as representational figures, including gods and royalty, or dressed in different costumes representing national identity. They have served as lucky charms and magic talismans.

As they evolved from eclectic home clothes, woolen and wooden figures to mass-produced commercial items, they became important in the gender roles of children. Rehearsing for their adult years, the boys played with toy soldiers, action figures, and superheroes, while the girls had charmingly dressed and model dolls to groom.

In a sense, the Inspirational Women series can be seen as a positive development, encouraging empowerment by involving a wide variety of ethnicities in order to appeal to girls whose communities have been referred to as Barbie before. was not represented.

Overall, however, Barbie has much work to do with her image as a “living doll”, in the words of author Simone de Beauvoir, as opposed to the feminist goal of freeing girls and women from life. .

I 3 90776077 Jane Goodall Joins Barbie
The first Barbie was created in 1959 by Ruth Handler, an American businessman. [Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images]

In 1991, writer Susan Faludi also defined feminism, citing Mattel’s famous product: “It’s the simple word flaunted by a little girl for equality in the women’s strike of 1970: I’m not a Barbie doll.”

Barbie dolls have also been Social scientists criticized To promote a white, ideal body type that elevates a kind of compulsive heterosexuality and subordination. the call was for women escape the low life To be recognized as “sexual objects” and to pursue “real” lives instead and for their achievements.

And yet, some women even had plastic surgery to mimic the Barbie body. As feminist writer Martyn Delvaux observed, “What happens to Barbie women is their image of an invisible and silent murder.”

Can dolls laden with so much cultural baggage really inspire respect for women or serve as feminist role models? Or perhaps it would be better to see them as an example of “designer feminism” – where image and substance collide, but where valuable presence ultimately falls short and there is achievement?

The clothes of these dolls can be symbols of real life; But the bottom is still a plastic body.

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