Despite attempts at multiculturalism, Barbie ‘falling short’

Megan Booth

Barbara Millicent Roberts, the original queen of the plastics, has only been around for 52 years. She has succeeded in more than 108 professions ranging from a surgeon, gold medal gymnast, astronaut, UNICEF diplomat and even a McDonalds employee. Roberts, more commonly known as Barbie, has definitely come a long way from her original catchphrase of “math is hard.”

Barbie to some is the ideal woman: She always has a great job, she has the perfect relationship with Ken, she has transformed into almost every ethnicity imaginable with a simple coat of skin tone-colored paint, and she is able to do all of those things while maintaining an estimated body mass index of 14.9 — pretty good for a 52 year old. Barbie has come far, but can she be considered a role model to young girls of all races?

Cailun Booker, vice president of Zeta Sigma Chi sorority hosted “Barbie and Multiculturalism” last night to a small group hoping to discuss diversity and the evolution of the Barbie franchise.

In 1980, Mattel released an around-the-world collection, showing that Barbie can not only have multiple jobs but can be multiple races. Mattel used the same facial structures, only changing skin tones and outfits to represent girls from all over the world. This practice proved to be very controversial. Mattel released minority dolls in hopes of giving minority girls a positive self-image.

“I’ve noticed the cultures they highlight have dwindled over the years and the ones they do continue to make are falling short,” Booker said. “In the future, if they are going to continue with these dolls they need to make more ethnically-distinct faces or people will start to catch on and business will fall by the wayside.”

Another thing that Booker said Mattel needs to keep in mind is Barbie’s physical features.

“Physically, Barbie is very unrealistic, if that is all girls have to look up to they will end up having body issues. Her body can affect psyche of young girls, who want to live up to her very unrealistic body type,” she said.

Over time, Barbie’s jobs have become more challenging: Rather than a nurse, she became a doctor, and rather than a flight attendant, Barbie became a pilot. The evolution of her occupations shows that women could be anything. In 2000, Mattel released President Barbie, making her the first female president.

So can Barbie be a role model? Her resume says yes, but does her failed attempts at being multicultural disqualify her?

“Physical aspect aside and just focusing on the life she has lived you can see the positive side of Barbie. She is making strides, she is doing jobs that other girls dream about having. She has done so much besides living in the dream house and being the cheerleader,” Booker said.