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Barbie Goes Geek

03/12/2010 Comments (6)

Look at Barbie now ... she’s gotten all smart and nerdy!

“Mattel recently conducted an online poll asking girls everywhere to choose Barbie’s next occupation from the following choices — surgeon, architect, news anchor, environmentalist and computer engineer.

The overwhelming choice among the girls was news anchor. But adults in the blogosphere, on Twitter and Facebook launched their own campaign for computer engineer Barbie.

Mattel relented and decided to go with both, news anchor and computer engineer Barbie. ‘We couldn’t ignore the outcry,’ said Michelle Chidoni, a spokeswoman for the company.”

Of all the toys in America, none seem quite so controversial—or potentially influential—as Barbie.

There are anti-Barbie and pro-Barbie moms.

I guess I fall on the “anti” side—mostly because I don’t want to be picking up tiny plastic pink shoes. But then there are the pro-Barbie moms who see her as a role model for young women.

These are the moms, I suppose, who voted for her to become a computer engineer.

I always find it fascinating to see the “messages” we attempt to send our kids with the toys we give them, the television we let them watch, and the goals we subtly suggest for them.

In the end, though, kids like what they like. We can take away boys’ guns and they will shoot us with their fingers (and possibly get suspended for that). We can tell girls to pursue careers in math and science, but the majority of them will opt for relationship-based careers instead—nursing, teaching, and social work are all female-dominated fields. Or they might even (gasp!) put marriage and family ahead of their career paths, despite our best efforts to encourage them to do otherwise.

I remember at the end of “Career Day” in fifth grade, my teacher pulled me aside to ask, “Which career presentation did you like best? The doctor? The lawyer? The engineer?”

“The cosmetologist,” I told her.

“No you did not!” she gasped, much to my 10-year-old surprise, “A smart girl like you!”

I was a girl. I liked hair and make up.

And that’s what I find so amusing about this latest “Computer Engineer” Barbie. She still has fabulous hair. Whatever message Mattel might be trying to give our girls with career Barbie dolls, they know not to mess with the hair. That’s what the little girls are there for.

Filed under barbie, career, gender roles, style, toys

About Danielle Bean

Danielle Bean
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Danielle Bean, a wife and mother of eight, is editorial director of Faith & Family magazine and author of My Cup of Tea, Mom to Mom, Day to Day, and most recently Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Read more of her blogging at Faith & Family Live and DanielleBean.com.