In the past few weeks, you must have come across one or more Instagram reels of women flaunting pretty pink Barbie outfits or advertisement videos of high-end brands selling Barbie-inspired fashion clothing, footwear, accessories, food items, and even putting on rent the Barbie-inspired bungalows. The brand marketing team of the Barbie movie deserves applause, for some of us have even started getting Barbie ads in our dreams! But is that all that Barbie is about?
A still image from the Barbie movie. Picture: Courtesy Google Images
It was back in the 1950s when the American toy market was dominated by toys meant for boys. Young boys could choose from various options like- cars, puppets, balloons and dozens of other trinkets. But young girls often felt a slight discontent with the selection of toys available to them- they had to settle for one of the trinkets from the boys' lot, or the only "feminine" choice available was different versions of kitchen sets- which reminded them that they were destined to be in the kitchen as grown-ups.
Ruth Handler often felt that there was a need for toys specifically designed for young girls whenever she observed her daughter Barbara discarding conventional toys in exchange for her paper dolls. She was amazed at seeing her daughter playing and giving her paper dolls the adult roles, making them protagonists of even the mundane scenes of everyday life. And so, to encourage girls like her daughter to aspire to anything other than motherhood and make them believe that "they could be whatever they wanted", Ruth Handler introduced Barbie, the first-ever "woman" doll, in 1959. And within a few years of its introduction, this plastic doll with a revolutionary attitude took the toy market by storm.
"You first need to imagine to create some sort of impact".
Imagine a female doll who's financially successful, independent and loaded with material wealth- back in a time when women couldn't even have their own bank accounts. She had her own house with a swimming pool, jacuzzi, couture wardrobe, and a car. It's super superficial, but it's also incredibly profound at the same time.
Born with the aim to make young girls understand that the life of an adult woman is more than just about being behind the kitchen slab or a caring mother, Barbie shattered the glass ceiling by introducing herself as a working woman. Her influence extended far beyond her initial career as a model in stylish attire and glamorous accessories to break gender stereotypes by exploring various professions. She can put on a suit, and she's a lawyer. She can put on a space helmet, and she's an astronaut. From teachers to doctors, businesswomen to athletes, Barbie became a symbol of empowerment and inspired generations of young girls to dream big and believe in their abilities.
While playing, these young girls were not just imagining being a pretty woman like Barbie when they grew up; they were also imagining having their own house, car, and careers. Thus challenging societal norms, Barbie paved the way for little girls to envision a world where they could achieve anything. She catalysed conversations about gender equality and encouraged young minds to think beyond traditional roles. Her journey reflects society's changing perspectives and aspirations, making her an enduring and cherished figure in the world of toys.
As Barbie continues to evolve, this time through a cinematic avatar, here's hoping that she keeps empowering the coming generations.