Barbie: Simple or Complex?

Since 1959, Barbie dolls have been a favorite toy in the homes of many. She has grown and changed with the times, always representing the most up-to-date fashions and trends, but also representing many different movements, organizations and career paths.

1971 Malibu Barbie

1971 Malibu Barbie

Under the “History” section, the Barbie website claims that in 1972, ” Title IX of the Education Amendment [was] passed, prohibiting sex discrimination in education, athletics, drama, band or other extracurricular student activities, giving girls equal rights to be in any class and on any field. Meanwhile, Barbie had already proven her athleticism by participating in numerous sports such as Tennis and Ice Skating.”

Barbie continued to encourage empowerment in the 80’s. The Barbie website states: “Shattering the ‘plastic ceiling’, Day to Night Barbie became a briefcase-carrying power executive-by-day and couture-inspired, ultra sophisticate by night.”

By the 90s, Barbie was running for president! This was to represent “The Year of Women” in Politics, which was 1992.

Moving into the 2000s, Barbie was still a huge advocate for girl power. In 2004, she broke up with long-time boyfriend Ken and proved her independence.


1992 Presidential Barbie

Even with her countless “accomplishments,” Barbie has received much hatred throughout her time on store shelves and in houses all over because of her appearance.  She has unrealistic proportions, a perfect complexion, and gorgeous blond hair, and we don’t all look like that. It has been thought that Barbie’s stunning good looks are discouraging for little girls, leading to confidence issues.

Artist Kari Gunter-Seymour expresses, “By not having dolls that are realistically structured to represent the actual norm, the message being sent is that normal  looking people are not acceptable.”

Ruth Handler, creator of the Barbie doll, says: “My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”

What are your views on Barbie and what she represents or does not represent?

Gunter-Seymour reflects her opinion in her exhibit “Barbie Falls on Hard Times,” hosted by the Ohio University Women’s Center from September 13 to October 10. Come check out this amazing work during the opening reception today, Friday, September 19, from 4-6pm.


Thanks for stopping by!

Anna Bekavac

Ohio University Women’s Center



About Ohio U Women's Center

The Ohio University Women’s Center serves and responds to the needs of OU women students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the community. Founded in 2007, the center is dedicated to creating an inclusive and welcoming campus climate for all members of the community through programs, resources, referrals, advocacy, and education. Located in Baker University Center 403.
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