As a child, I distinctly remember playing with my Barbie dream house. It’s pink frames a stable of living room growing up. Throughout my childhood, I owned a variety of dolls, but all of the dolls were white. As we can see from brands like American Girl Doll, girls want dolls that look like them. However, I don’t remember wanting a doll that looked like me. I used dolls as a way to escape my reality, to be transported to a different world. In this advertisement, from Ladies Homes Journal circa 1986, we are invited to come home for the holidays in Barbie style. The house shown is clearly expansive conveying another aesthetic feature of white beauty culture. As Hunter, in “Buying Racial Capital,” outlines the images of white women with blonde hair and blue eyes convey “an entire lifestyle imbued with racial meaning. The lifestyle that is communicated through these ads sells whiteness, modernity, sophistication, beauty, power, and wealth.” While imaging the fantasy lives of my dolls, I was unaware of the obstacles that would await me as I developed into a person.
The representation of Barbie and her blonde haired owner further problematize issues of adequate representation. I don’t know why I never questioned the race of my dolls, but conversation throughout class have shown me just how important this can be for some girl. Emily discusses in her blog having a doll with the same features as her “was common among my friends- we all wanted the dolls that looked like us.” The problem is these dolls can be expensive, but even then how can we be sure that every girl is represented in one way or another?
“Advertisement: Barbie.” Ladies’ Home Journal 103, no. 11 (11, 1986): 97. http://ezproxy.carleton.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1879220598?accountid=9892.
As I look back I don’t think Barbie’s were harmful to me as a Black woman because her representation is so far from how I see myself. But as a whole do believe Barbie’s work to reinforce the issues of tokenism, unrealistic bodily representations for both men and women, and other norms. the overall goals of Barbie are ones that I align myself with, as a feminist. Her slogan, “We girls can do anything. Right, Barbie!” demonstrates this best. It is difficult to find adequate representations in a world that so often works to make us invisible. However, we cannot be complacent with these absences and should work to create the images we so desperately want to see.
-“Advertisement: Barbie.” Ladies’ Home Journal 103, no. 11 (11, 1986): 97. http://ezproxy.carleton.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1879220598?accountid=9892.
-Hunter, Margaret L. “Buying racial capital: Skin-bleaching and cosmetic surgery in a globalized world.” The Journal of Pan African Studies 4, no. 4 (2011): 142-164.
-““I Want a Doll That Looks Like Me!”: Kinship, Race and Motherhood in Dolls” by emilyperlman