Barbies. Pretty much every girl had at least one. Beach Party Barbie, Magic Hair Barbie, Holiday Barbie. Many titles, many dresses; the same pink, high-heeled shoes, and big blond hair. We played with them, dressed them up, and took them on dates. They were familiar toys with a familiar figure doing all sorts of tasks with all sorts of apparel. I still have a large Rubbermaid bin of them stored away at my parent’s house.
With nostalgia blooming, and International Women’s Day just gone by, I read the news headline about Barbie’s latest additions to the “Shero” line, a line of dolls modeled after exceptional women. Barbies resembling Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart, and Bindi Irwin just to name a few. There are 19 dolls listed on the website in total, encompassing women of colour, different ages, and a variety of walks of life. The complete list can be found online on the Mattel website.
Barbie dolls have long been criticized as advocating an unrealistic body image for young girls: large breasts, long legs, thin waists, and skin tones in only slightly varying shades of white. These dolls have been labelled as discriminatory and non-representative of all women. She is glorified mainly for her beauty, and has been the longstanding poster child for “girl toys.” As a kid, I remember walking down the aisles at Toys R Us, seeing the distinctly blue aisle, and beelining for the very pink, very labelled “Barbie” aisle. All of my allowance always headed straight for that doll in a box, perfection incarnate. Barbie, everyone’s favourite girl. An unreachable goal if there ever was one for a knock-kneed, buck-toothed, bespectacled girl.
But heralding in a new future is Margaret “Margo” Georgiadis, CEO of Mattel. It seems as though the direction of Barbie in the last few years has been a response to the critique the doll faced over time. Not only have realistic bodies become prevalent in the line, the new “Shero” line appears to be another move in a positive direction. Showcasing women such as Chloe Kim, olympic snowboarder, Patty Jenkins, director of “Wonder Woman,” Ibtihaj Muhammad, the hijab wearing fencer, and Helene Darroze, a world-renowned chef, is a beautiful testament to the women in this world that little girls can aspire to be.
Seeing that a girl can be more than pretty, more than the popular pink princess, is, in my opinion, a step forward, in shoes that are more sensible than hot pink high heels. My niece is still too young to play with toys with tiny parts, but you better believe that I will be buying her one of these for her birthday. Gone are the days when “princess” or “mermaid” are the only words emerging from the mouths of little girls when asked what they want to be when they grown up. Let them be astronauts, mathematicians, boxers, rule breakers, game changers, world quakers, ground shakers. Let them be whatever they dream of being.