Presenting Entrepreneur Barbie, the doll ready to play and work! According to Time, Mattel launched the Amazon sale of the 2014 “Career of the Year” doll this week.
Entrepreneur Barbie wears a tight pink dress, black heels, and a dazzling necklace. She comes with a briefcase, tablet, smartphone and clutch. On Amazon, “Barbie Entrepreneurship Doll” is white, but one can also purchase “Barbie Entrepreneurship Hispanic Doll,” as well as dolls in Asian and African-American ethnicities.
Mattel partnered with eight female entrepreneurs, such as Jennifer Fleiss of Rent the Runway and Reshma Saujani of Girls Who Code. In an interview with TechCrunch, Fleiss praised Barbie “as a role model, an icon in the form of an entrepreneur [...] and the best form of inspiration.” Saujani said, “You can’t be what you cannot see,” and “inspiring young girls to be entrepreneurs is exactly what we need.”
But to what degree is Entrepreneurship Barbie a step forward? While young girls will see that Barbie is a businesswoman with what Mattel calls “smart, professional touches,” Barbie should perhaps be criticized for maintaining her unattainable silhouette. One questions how much progress this Barbie career woman can incite if, at the end of the day, she’s still the same Barbie in different clothing.
“If they can dream it, they can be it – anything is possible!” says Barbie on Mattel’s website, yet, no matter how much girls dream, they will never be able to mimic Barbie’s impossible frame. Barbie’s fitted dress—not the pantsuit of many women professionals—remains pink and fitted, perfectly matching the heels she could theoretically forgo.
While Mattel must still produce an attractive doll that girls will want to buy, one could assume that the momentum of the Barbie name and branding could inspire real change if Mattel took more of a chance with the actual doll. While the idea behind the doll is undeniably valuable, to what extent will young girls look beyond the exterior of the doll to realize the message she presents? Will young girls think that imitating an entrepreneur means holding a tablet in a tight dress? Instead of taking the opportunity to shift a frequently criticized ideology of outer rather than inner beauty and an unrealistic figure, Mattel took the easy way out when the company could have given the doll a less feminine outfit and a more realistic body image.
Mattel has also been using the hashtag #unapologetic to accompany Barbie’s new drive and independence. Barbie first introduced this concept in a controversial statement made in response to criticism of her Sports Illustrated 2014 cover, where she said, “The reality of today is that girls can go anywhere and be anything. They should celebrate who they are and never have to apologize for it." In other words, Barbie does not have to apologize for her girly appearance.
Many today would argue that the first sentence of this statement does not ring entirely authentic when women hold CEO positions in only 4.8% of Fortune 500 companies and millennial women today still make less than their male counterparts (though this argument does not come without dispute). The recent movement to change universities' reactions to cases of sexual assault, the shootings at UCSB, and #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter imply that our society still must implement more measures for true gender equality. Barbie, in contrast, seems to be speaking from the ideal, not the reality. Girls and women should feel that they can do anything, but if Barbie wants to be a driving force for gender equality, she should be advocating more rather than claiming an equality that does not exist.
While women in general do not have to apologize for wearing high heels and sporting pink every day, Barbie is more than just a woman. She is a fashion icon, a millionaire, and an ideology to which millions of young girls around the world subscribe. If Mattel wants Barbie to actually incite a change in how the girls view themselves and their place in society--and not shortchange the inspiring entrepreneurs with whom it has partnered--perhaps Barbie's appearance in her new career actually does have some explaining to do.