The Barbie Liberation Organization sheds a light on the strong gendering of children’s toys with Barbie and GI Joe products. Over the years though, I find it interesting that Barbie has seemed to show efforts in trying to break away from traditional gender norms; whether they’re effective or not can be debatable, but there is no denying that there is effort. In 2015, Barbie released a commercial for their new Moschino doll, and the commercial featured a boy playing with it. Also in 2015, Barbie released a commercial called Imagine the Possibilities. In the commercial, young girls are seen teaching college courses, working as a veterinarian, coaching a soccer team, being a museum tour guide, and even conducting business over the phone at the airport. The commercial ends with the words, “When a girls plays with Barbie, she imagines everything she can become.” Even in 2016, Barbie released a line of dolls containing new varieties of skin tones and body types. It seems that in recent years, Barbie has (finally) gotten the message that not all young girls look and think a like and while they may not be massive changes, they are changes that are heading in the right direction. On the other hand, I wasn’t able to find anything from GI Joe advertising that made similar strides. I couldn’t find any commercials or ads with girls. And I couldn’t find any commercials or ads that encouraged young boys to be anything but strong hyper-masculine war men.

Moschino Barbie commercial:

Imagine the Possibilities commercial:


8 responses »

  1. palomapineda19 says:

    I am glad you brought up the hyper-gendered Barbie as I think this is a really important topic in the recent feminist movements encouraging women to enter careers mostly dominated by men. I think we are making progress on this area though – with admissions at engineering schools at an all time high in the ration between men and women.

    As for toys that represent a variety of people, I know American Girl Doll has been working to embrace differences and disabilities:

    Though this campaign is a far cry from eradicating gender stereotypes, it is still a move towards appealing to a wider audience. I think the next stop for companies is to create a doll that doesn’t adhere to gender binaries, though I doubt this will be happening anytime soon.

  2. alicecmullin says:

    It’s good to hear this about Barbie! Watching the video during the screening reminded me of when I had “Business Barbie” in the early 2000s and she said things like “I can’t wait for my date later!” and nothing about actually working…

  3. ddmaoz says:

    Fitting with the “hyper-gendered” (as Paloma put it) barbie doll, it is also somewhat sad to see how these toys are hyper-sexualized. Within dictating gender roles for young children, toys like this also enhance a specific understanding of how women should look like.

    There has been a project called the “Tree Change Dolls” – where the artist takes old Bratz dolls and gives them a makeover.

    This project started out with no political intentions, according to the creator, but it has received an overwhelmingly positive response as parents have been seeking toys that will not make their children feel bad about their own bodies.

  4. evbeel says:

    I loved these videos thanks for posting! I remember playing with my barbies as a child and my mother always making the barbies do radical very non-barbie things.
    This also reminded me about the new barbie that came out that was meant to be like the body type of real women rather than the fake anatomically incorrect barbie. It came out in three different body types curvy, tall and petite. I think this a good example of how people are realising the impact that media images have on body image of young girls.

  5. bhedigan says:

    Both this post and the previous comments reminded me of a “What Would You Do?” segment from a few years back. The scenario: actors went into a Halloween shop, and two skits took place. In one, a little boy and his mom argue about the boy wanting to dress as Belle for Halloween. In another, a little girl and her mom argue over the girl wanting to dress as Spiderman. Hidden cameras capture the responses from customers in the store, who have no idea the whole thing is a skit, or that they are being filmed. It’s incredible just how strongly all of the parents feel regarding gender roles, and how insistent they are to force these gender roles onto their children. Given the changes already occurring within the toy industry, hopefully such strict adherence to “acceptable” gender roles will lessen as time goes on.

    Here’s a link to the segment, if anyone is interested:

  6. The G.I Joe and Barbie segment from the screening also caught my attention. I like that you brought up the differences in the “evolution” of toys for girls vs. toys for boys. I think it’s worth mentioning, however, that even though the roles for Barbie have diversified over the years, there is still a lot of work to be done. I wonder what kind of conversations are being had at the company producing the toy. For example, a Computer Engineer Barbie was produced and while everyone was initially excited, upon further reading of the description, Barbie is quoted as saying “I’ll need Steven and Brian’s ideas to turn it into a real game!” This makes me think that even though the products may seem to be more “progressive,” the mentality about gender roles within the company have not changed.

  7. ariatung says:

    I think there is just a lot more fluidity and room to play around for girls with interests that may be seen “for boys”. Girls seem to have more ability to try different things and not get backlash (at least when relating to toys and such). For example, if parents have a boy and a girl, I feel like if the girl wanted to play with trucks or any other “masculine” toy, the parents wouldn’t mind. But if the boy wanted to play with barbies or “feminine” toys, they would be told that isn’t appropriate by the parents.

  8. carlywinant says:

    I totally agree with Aria’s point. It’s just another way that proves what a patriarchal society we live in that more masculine activities/appearances/toys are more often seen as acceptable regardless of the person’s gender.

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