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Tiny Waist, Big Dreams: Why Business Barbie Is A Confusing Role Model For Young Girls

Barbie may not be known as the best role model for young girls — after all, she seems to care more about Ken and her many-changing outfits than the fact that she’s had the same perma-grin since her conception, despite the fact that her unrealistic body proportions have literally forced her to crawl around on all fours.

But perhaps Barbie is, after decades, finally willing to evolve a bit. Now, as an “entrepreneur,” Barbie has her very own LinkedIn page, and likely already has more connections than you.

And really, this social media expansion for dear Barbie should come as no surprise. After all, Barbie has held hundreds of careers in a variety of industries throughout the years, ranging from lifeguard to princess to veterinarian.

Who knew Barbie had so many interests? Her resume must be a mile long — a fact that Barbie herself isn’t too shy to brag a bit about.

On her LinkedIn page, Barbie advises women to submit a one-page resume to employees, but then admits that this is an impossibility to her.

“While a one-page resume is best, I can't seem to get mine under twenty. It's just that when anything is possible, a girl is tempted to try everything she can.”

A girl might try, but is this the best message to send young women?

Without sounding too much like a cynic, I must remind people of the terrific speech TV writer and producer Shona Rhimes delivered at my own alma mater’s commencement ceremony in June.

In her honest (and hilarious) personal recollections, Rhimes admits that women must understand and accept their limitations, and the difficulty they distinctly have with juggling self-imposed pressures to have a successful career as those objectives clash with society-imposed pressures to be a perfect mother and housewife.

Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life… If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff.

That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother.

You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost. Something is always missing.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi iterated the same same truth in detailing how her daughters and husband were often prioritized below, “PepsiCo, PepsiCo, PepsiCo.”

It would appear that women can’t have it all (at least not in the way we’re currently conceiving this idea), even despite their hard work and super cute briefcases (looking at you, business Barbie).

And even if there were a “perfect” role model out there for working women, I’m not convinced that entrepreneur Barbie would be it. Because, in addition to all the cheeriness on her LinkedIn page, Barbie needs to add this line to her list of “accomplishments”: bad influence.

Entrepreneur Barbie still looks unbelievably pretty and perfect, although real working women like Nooyi and Rhimes would undoubtedly agree that they’ve never been so put-together after a long, tough day at the office.

And although this business Barbie seemingly has the accoutrement to make her appear bona fide — smartphone and work bag in hand — she’s still dressed up in pink, with a belt to nip in her waist and a flashy necklace to highlight her décolletage.

This seems to send the wrong message to young girls: You can be a legitimate professional, but as a woman you still have to look good doing it.

As a former TED speaker and way-wise-for-her-16-years, Adora Svitak said, female figures like Barbie encourage “an unrealistic expectation of beauty grounded in narrow ideals — whiteness, thinness, a lack of hair and an abundance of breast tissue — instead of kindness, smarts, self-confidence or athleticism.”

I feel inferior just thinking about it.

So instead of producing a doll that helps girls pretend and play make-believe that they’ll one day be a high-powered businesswoman, let’s actually engage with girls and give them the tools — like confidence boosting exercises and computer science classes — that will help turn those dreams into a reality.

Photo Courtesy: Barbie

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Katie Gonzalez

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Katie Gonzalez is a contributing writer covering fashion and feminism. Katie graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and currently lives in Haifa, Israel, splitting time between academic research and scouting fo ...
Katie Gonzalez is a contributing writer covering fashion and feminism. Katie graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and currently lives in Haifa, Israel, splitting time between academic research and scouting fo ...

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