NEW YORK CITY, New York – President, astronaut, veterinarian, teacher. These are just a few of the more than 150 job titles the iconic Barbie doll has held over the course of her existence. Yet at the international Toy Fair, which went from February 14 to February 17, Mattel introduced the newest installment of the career-minded children’s toy: Entrepreneur Barbie.
She is armed with a sophisticated pink wardrobe, sensible hairstyle, a SmartPhone and a tablet to tackle the toughest of business challenges. Though meant to inspire young children that they can be successful business owners, the doll has sparked controversy.
“Much like many real life entrepreneurs,” argues TIME NewsFeed’s Jessica Roy, “Entrepreneur Barbie seems to have little idea of what her company actually does.” Career Girl Barbie seems aloof, a mere figure head with little substance. Furthermore, this Barbie presents an idealistic model of a successful businesswoman and fails to convey women’s harsh reality in the work place.
The proliferation of this beautiful, unscathed and successful female CEO glosses over the blatant inequalities that exist in American companies, and worldwide. Marie Claire tells of the increase of sexism and sexual harassment as more women enter fields like medicine, technology, math and computer sciences.
In Silicon Valley, for example, comments downplaying women’s significance are common at data conferences. The tech industry is so rampant with sexual harassment, in fact, that entire websites have been launched to chronicle the occurrences, the magazine reports.
In addition, women continue to be stymied by unequal pay. Though great strides have been made since former United States President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 into law, a gap still exists between men’s and women’s salaries. Women make only 77 cents to every man’s dollar, says the Huffington Post.
The gap increases for African-American and Latina women and perpetuates many families into poverty. A National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF) study found that the median yearly wage gap is $11,084 for full-time employees. Furthermore, the Institute for Women’s Policy warns to the Huffington Post that if things remain as they are, it could take “45 years for women to women to catch up to men.”
The path to success in the business world is not as glamorous as Entrepreneur Barbie makes it look. As Roy suggests, maybe Mattel should debut “Making Less Than My Male Counterpart” or “Silently Enduring Sexual Harassment With the Hope I Will Get a Raise” Barbie. The journalist is not alone in criticizing Barbie, arguing that her hyper-perfectionist and sexualized image tarnishes our children’s perceptions of reality.
Student artist Samantha Humphreys’ recent art exhibit explores what Barbie would look like if her brand accurately represented the harsh realities women face.
The “What If?” series features a collection of photos of Barbies that have been stylized and posed as victims of sexual abuse, addiction, and eating disorders. Humphreys believes her art can help illuminate the challenges that many women face, though the content can be alarming. “Clearly, we wouldn’t dream of exposing children to such things,” she explains, “but by using Barbie dolls, an iconic toy that oozes perfection, I am demonstrating that life for some is by no means perfect.”
See the photos here: http://samhumphreys.com/
Meanwhile, Entrepreneur Barbie will continue being perfect. Despite the criticism, Mattel stands behind its top-selling doll’s image. “We always try to make career Barbie a reflection of the times,” Mattel spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni told CNNMoney. “Women entrepreneurs are more prevalent now and they’re growing in number. [It’s] a great way to encourage girls to also learn about this role.” Hopefully, Entrepreneur Barbie will help mobilize a generation of brave young girl, whether they are travel agents, astronauts, dentists, or business-owners, to stand up to gender inequality and rectify the discrimination women endure in the workplace.
– Mallory Thayer