Barbie – How to be a Girl

In this week’s readings, Shirley Steinberg discussed Barbie, which is a discussion that, as a Communications major, I have heard many times before.  Still, I always find myself learning something new with each different discussion of Barbie.

Barbie teaches girls early on what it means to be a girl in today’s society, and some of these values are shown in the photos above.  These include…

Cute clothes


Getting a date with the hot guy


And having a slim body, etc.


Steinberg also points out that Barbie has no nipples or pubic hair, and Ken’s genital area isn’t exactly…well, accurate.  Personally I’m fine with that; coming from someone who loved Barbie as a kid and never had brothers, seeing a penis on a doll might have given me nightmares.  Maybe the toy creators though those things were too vulgar or tasteless for young girls to see, but Barbie having no pubic hair is interesting; back in the 1970’s, it was perfectly okay for girls to not shave their pubic hair, but now men generally want to see little to no pubic hair on grown women, whether it be romantic partners, porn stars, etc.  This shows that even today, Barbie is teaching us how to be a woman, and she doesn’t teach that solely to young girls – even adult women are being told to look like her!

Barbie has the easy life.  She has been in every time period, had every job imaginable, has the cute boy-toy (although never married him, but I did own a Wedding Barbie as a kid), and always gets the cutest cars, clothes, houses, etc.  She is also seemingly never unhappy; in books, video games, and television shows that feature Barbie, you never see her sad or angry – always happy.  Is that how girls are supposed to be, too?  Are girls just never supposed to show weakness and always be happy?  Should we just never show real emotion?

(Note: This artifact was added 4/22/2014)

Steinberg would like to see more real-life interpretations of Barbie.  Maybe not an Angry Barbie or a Crying Barbie, but maybe a Politically Active Barbie, a Prostitute Barbie, or even a Bisexual Barbie.  Times are changing, and we are seeing many more of these people in our day and age now than when Barbie was first introduced.  Should these kinds of Barbie dolls be put on display to expose our children to the realness of our world that is not all sunshine and rainbows, or are kids too young to see these kinds of things?

Steinberg tries not to go into how Barbie portrays unrealistic body expectations since so many others have already discussed this.  However, you actually can look like her – with enough plastic surgery.

Barbie model

This is Valeria Lukyanova, otherwise known as the Real-Life Barbie.  The Ukranian model has had breast implants and uses fake contacts in order to give her the bust and the eyes of the infamous Barbie doll.  She has reportedly had Botox, a chin liposuction, and spray tans.  Also, she says she is undergoing hypnotherapy in order to become brainless.  She claims she gets her slim body from daily exercise and a strict diet, which has now been revealed to be breatharianism, the belief that food and water are not necessary.  She claims that she is able to live off of just air and light, so she does not consume food or water.  This is a belief that has been around for quite some time now and, needless to say, it is not the healthiest way to live.

Here’s the real kicker: she had a huge doll collection as a kid.  Her aspiration to look like a real-life doll, though, is very startling.  This is an extreme case of a girl’s fascination with dolls going too far.  We can only hope that young girls see this as a bad thing, and not something to look up to.