“Barbie was everything we didn’t want to be…everything the feminist movement was trying to escape,” Gloria Steinem said in the recent documentary Tiny Shoulders.
Researching a book for the iconic doll’s 60th birthday, I was fascinated to learn how a toy invented by a female trailblazer empowered young girls like me, while enraging the entire women’s movement – who saw her as a vapid, skinny, busty blonde fashion plate. Yet they were stereotyping Barbie by her looks and body, the way they refused to be judged.
Growing up as the only girl in a Midwestern clan of boys, I was a Barbie fanatic, with the Dream House, pink convertible, Barbie, Ken, Francie, Julia, and Midge. When tiny buttons on their clothes were hard to unfasten, I’d just switch their heads. Unlike the Chatty Cathy baby doll I was supposed to take care of, Barbie was a cool teenager with her own job, pad and wheels. Mirroring her independence, I begged my parents for the orange Cutlass that cruised me to college at 16. Role playing with Barbies in multiple professions inspired my subsequent erratic freelance career.
SPECIAL NEWS BULLETIN:
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