Barbie, Our Cultural Ambassador

Barbie, the popular doll, has been the target of criticism over the years.  Many people think that Barbie’s improbable figure projects unhealthy concepts about the ideal female body for the young girls who love the doll.  Others say Barbie is too frivolous and clothes-obsessed.  Mattel, the maker of Barbie, has tried to thread the needle by offering Barbies with professional careers — like Barbie the architect — while at the same time selling the clothes and cars and houses that the pre-teen Barbie owners crave.

A recent news story, however, may help to rehabilitate Barbie’s reputation.  It turns out that the doll is the subject of a crackdown by the Iranian government.  It is removing the dolls from stores because they say that Barbie is a “manifestation of Western culture.”  In a benighted land where women must wear head scarves, interaction between men and women is strictly regulated, and opportunities for women are few, Barbie’s miniskirts, makeup, and general air of fun and freedom make the government uncomfortable.  So, the dolls are being confiscated — which won’t be easy because Iranian girls apparently love Barbie just like American girls do and have resisted previous crackdowns.

Who would have thought that a little plastic toy could carry so much cultural weight?  Anything that make the Iranian government feel uncomfortable — and might cause Iranians to see their government for the repressive authoritarian regime that it truly is — can’t be all bad.  Maybe, instead of architect Barbie, Mattel should introduce Ambassador Barbie.  Hey, or even President Barbie!

2 thoughts on “Barbie, Our Cultural Ambassador

  1. Although I feel that Barbie dolls encourage young girls to crave the Barbie figure and believe that Barbie can be noted as a factor causing eating disorders etc. in children, I do appreciate that Barbie represents a freedom to many girls. A freedom that allows you to dress how you want, without being judged, something that the Iranian government does not believe in. As you say, maybe the creators of Barbie should think more widely about the types of Barbie they release. Where are all the women running for the Office of the President in this upcoming election??? President Barbie would be a good way of inspiring young girls to achieve something great rather than worry about whether they can pull off a mini-skirt!

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