Canadian academics ask: Is Barbie a feminist icon?
Published Sunday, January 20, 2019 3:07PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 22, 2019 3:09PM EST
Barbie’s latest designer will visit a Canadian university this week to debate the popular doll’s feminist credentials.
While the toy is blamed by many for negatively affecting girls’ body image, the plastic figure is admired by some as a feminist role model reinvented with a variety of skin tones and body types.
Alison Halsall, assistant professor in York University’s Department of Humanities, has organized a screening of 2018 documentary ‘Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie’ ahead of a chat with toy company Mattel’s vice president and head of Barbie design Kim Culmone.
“Barbie has had a changing relationship with childhood from its beginnings in the 60s all the way up to 2019,” Halsall said.
“We have to ask ourselves about the image she presents, because it is one that used to be a little bit more homogeneous with roughly two ethnic types, whereas now we see a whole range of body types as well as ethnic types, hair colours and skin tones.”
Halsall said the event is important to understand the marketing, brand and creation of Barbie.
“This reinvented Barbie has an even greater global potential to reach and shape childhoods.”
She questioned Barbie’s representation of ideal femininity, but believes that the toy helps provoke dialogue about sexism, body image and the idea of young girls being taught that heterosexuality is the norm.
The university credited Culmone with championing ‘the most inclusive Barbie’ in the brand’s history.
Culmone, who has held her role since 2013, started as a Barbie designer at Mattel in 1999.
The event takes place on Monday at York’s Keele campus.