I’d guess that most readers of this blog are not thrilled at the idea of buying one Barbie, still less a flock to distribute among the girls they give presents too. However, a recent op-ed In the NY Times argues that anti-Barbie feelings are a prejudice that valorizes boys toys – and so signs of masculinity – over a femininity in girls.
Eschewing femininity in girls while embracing masculinity in boys (and girls too) sounds initiatively pretty bad. The writer misses, however, the extent to which the icons on each side encode, and propagate, particular values. It would be very hard to copy Barbie, though not impossible. But her presence can still make clear societal values concerning weight, skin color and wardrobe. Be thin! Lighter is better! Wear the trendy! It isn’t that being thin is bad, but the message that thinness is the preferred look can, surely we all know, be harmful.
Is my negative reaction right? What do you think? One quasi-objection might be that for younger people what I’ve called icons are in fact less gendered. What difference might this make?