Jennie is not your average girl. She is 5 years old and lives in Woodlawn, NY. Her family is one of hardworking individuals but still do not make more than the average for her housing area. When shopping for toys Jennie is persuaded to want baby dolls, house play sets, Barbie’s, fair princess dolls, and dress up sets. The main things that all of these toys have in common they all share the same-targeted gender. These toys are always targeted to girls of any age because they are showing them that they should grow up with a baby doll and love to dress up like little princesses.
In Newman’s article he states, “Saturday morning television commercials or a toy manufacturer's catalog or web site reveals that toys and games remain solidly segregated along gender lines. Decades of research indicate that” girls' toys" still revolve around theme~ of domesticity, fashion, and motherhood and "boys’ toys" emphasize action and adventure” (Newman, 112). This trend of segregated toys is still seen in toy stores today especially Toys R’Us. Upon entering the store it is clear which sections appeal to which gender. In Barbie land the isles are pink and filled with dolls, clothes, princess tiaras and more. On the other side of the store it is clearly focused on little boys with blue isles filled with legos, GI Joe action figures, and hot wheels.
Jennie does not resemble the toys that she is shopping for because unlike Jennie many of the dolls and toys that she likes are white. Jennie is Latino and none of the Barbie dolls that she likes to play with are. Her mother allows them because of the convenient price and Jennie likes to play pretend with Ken and other Barbie products and friends. When looking at the Barbie section the only dolls which somewhat resemble Jennie are the “Rockawear” Barbie line. These dolls are to be considered “ghetto” with their Rockawear clothes and long dark hair along with a darker skin color.
When looking at socioeconomic status in relation to Barbie’s they are considered to be desirable to all economic statuses. The Barbie dolls range in price from $5.99 to $14.99. This price range allows children of all economic statuses to purchase them and Barbie dolls are available in various locations and have a large age range appeal for kids. When comparing Barbies to Cabbage Patch Dolls, there is a large differential in price. Cabbage Patch Dolls start at a price of $29.99 and are really only targeted toward very young children who like to play with baby dolls. Cabbage Patch Kids are not toys that children from less privileged households can grow with, continue to play with, or even purchase. Because of price points, Barbie is considered to be a good deal for children of all ages and economic status.
Although Barbie is a great value for little girls who love to play with dolls, she isn’t considered to be the best role model according to Hesse-Biber. In The Cult of Thinness it was stated that, “ The Mattel Company describes her as having “white makeup, a traditional hairstyle, white socks and Japanese sandals, she is the picture of femininity” (Hesse-Biber, 43). This idea of being the “picture of femininity” is what is being marketed toward little girls. No matter what Barbie is put out by Mattel she will always be described as “cute” or “pretty”. This idea is what little girls of various ages want to be like because Barbie shows them that they can be a doctor, veterinarian, surgeon, or even an aerobics instructor. Although half of these careers are not typically targeted toward woman Barbie makes them appealing because she is always “cute” while doing them with her feminine outfits.
Barbie promotes the idea that kids can be anything they want to be. Yes, Barbie does promote an unhealthy body image because she is 5’6” with extra large breasts, extremely long legs, no hips or genitals, and a waist that is considered to be thinner than a lady from the Victorian age (Hesse-Biber, 43). This ideal body type is extremely rare and in reality not able to be achieved. Because of this, Barbie may not be considered to be the best role model for young girls. Although, Barbie’s price value cannot be beaten, the ideals that she represents should not be looked up to by little girls.
In recent years Barbie continued to change and all changes were generally related to her body image. In 2009 Barbie was re-designed by famous designer Christian Louboutin because her ankles were considered too large and her feet were too fat. Christian stated that Barbie should not have “cankles” the fat ankles were what Christian was stating to be undesirable or unattractive. In many cases this leaves the question if Barbie is not considered perfect in today’s society who is and will any girl or woman be able to live up to the unrealistic and unhealthy standards?
Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. The Cult of Thinness. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. 32-60. Print.
Newman, David M. Identities and Inequalities: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2006. Print.