It feels important to start with a simple fact that it feels as though everyone should be able to agree with: Barbie dolls are not feminist.
As much as this feels like common sense to me, this statement will have the girlies in a fit. To get everyone on the same page, no, Barbie is not a feminist because she is a career woman who has done every job under the sun. Barbie has not had any jobs, actually. She is a doll. If anything, her job as a doll is to be appealing and marketable to whatever girls are currently being told to idolize and the aspirations they are being told to have. Mattel is never going to break barriers with their Barbies, they will simply sell whatever is currently going to make them the most money.
Barbie has had plenty of controversies throughout her long reign in the toy aisle. In 1963, Babysitter Barbie came with a book called How To Lose Weight that came with the age-old advice, “don’t eat.” Later, in 1965, Barbie came with a scale that was permanently set at 110 pounds. In the 90’s, Barbie was able to talk and uttered controversial phrases such as “will we ever have enough clothes?” and “math class is tough!” My cousin in the 80’s was not allowed to have Barbies because of the unattainable body standards she represented — my aunt later gave up on this. It’s not that Barbie, or more specifically, Mattel, is necessarily setting out to hold girls back, but that Barbie is a product whose bottom line is to make money.
Despite this, I have seen endless discourse online about how Barbie Is A Feminist Toy Actually and Women Who Are Not Excited About Barbie Are The Real Villains, Actually. The fourth-wave feminism tendency to try and defend every little choice and hobby a woman has by treating it as a feminist act has done nothing to save us. Every time a woman creates something, we pick it apart as though it must be the ultimate feminist text or else it does not exist. This process requires the audience to do less thinking. We do not need to do a feminist analysis or look at it through our own lens if we are being told that simply going to the movie is the right thing to do, and everything about the movie is morally good. At the same time, it puts pressure on women to be perfect. Just like everything does, just like Barbie does. As the concept of intersectionality becomes more mainstream, it is constantly used as a litmus test rather than a framework. Greta Gerwig was never going to make the perfect feminist movie because that movie does not exist…