Feminists have made trenchant critiques of the Barbie doll. I appreciate those critiques on an intellectual level, but the critiques never resonated on an emotional level, precisely because Barbie was an imagination gateway for me (mine read Ms. Magazine and lived alone in her townhouse). This ad resonated with me (it’s a little long, but completely worth watching):
This Barbie ad reminds me of Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards’ discussion in Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future (2000). They wrote:
Barbie stands as a symbol of the lack of understanding between the leaders of the girls’ movement and the girls themselves….The traditional feminist distaste for Barbie has also kept many young women closeted about their dolly-loving past….[T]he lessening of Barbiphobia finally acknowledges that most girls don’t want to be Barbie; they want to use Barbie to explore what they can be.
Mattel is tapping into this understanding of Barbie with its new ad. I like that take on Barbie much better than the “Math is hard” Barbie.