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Barbie Dolls in Child Development and Society Formation Research Paper

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Updated: Jan 30th, 2021


It is interesting to find out the impact of Barbie dolls when it comes to how it affects children’s and adolescent’s views on gender stereotypes. Four articles will be examined in this regard but even before engaging in the analysis of these four articles, the proponent of this study already has several ideas regarding the use of Barbie dolls. It is easy to understand that it is a toy that can be utilized by parents, to prepare their daughters for their expected roles in society.

The idealized version of a beautiful Caucasian female is the suggested idea behind a Barbie doll. But the proponent of this study was not prepared to discover that the impact of this toy goes beyond the borders of the United States. More importantly, it affects girls and boys based on the insights that can be gleaned from reading the said articles.

Discussion of authors

It is truly an eye-opener to discover that other cultures are affected by the Barbie doll phenomenon. It is also disturbing to find out that even children from other nations have a somewhat perverted view of what an ideal woman should be. The blonde hair, slim, and tall figure of the Barbie doll suggests that women should measure up to this standard. It is important to discuss these issues so that parents are aware of its implications.

  • Research Question: What is the impact of Barbie Dolls when it comes to how people view gender stereotypes?

Kuther and Mcdonald would say that the first impression one would have on a Barbie doll is that it is a mere toy. But a deeper examination of this phenomenon will prove that it is more than a plaything. It is a mere doll but because of its popularity when it comes to mainstream media, made it into a symbol of ideal femininity. Thanks in part to the tireless and efficient work of the marketing department; the Barbie doll is well known all over the world. Thus, it is easy to understand that the Barbie doll is a symbol not only of what a perfect toy should be but of how to become a woman, Kuther and McDonald would reiterate.

Kuther and McDonald would expound on this idea and assert that children living in the United States need not be convinced about this argument. They already accepted this as a fact but what is more interesting is the realization that even children outside the United States believe in the message that there is indeed an ideal symbol of womanhood.

Further discussion by article writers

The other three authors would nod their heads in agreement. Lilian Ross would completely agree with their view. Lilian Ross would even add to the discussion by saying that the Barbie doll is not only a symbol for the American children and adolescents but even children and adolescents in other countries. Lilian Ross did not provide more details in her article regarding the impact of the Barbie doll but in this discussion, she would encourage Kuther and Mcdonald to talk more about the impact of Barbie doll in nations that are outside the United States. She would like to know if American culture, especially when it comes to gender stereotypes can be imported to other nations.

Overview of their ideas

Wendy Varney would chime in that if this is true then the whole world requires re-education of what it means to be female and the impact of Barbie dolls on self-image. Wendy Varney will not only talk about the level of impact but she would even clarify her point by saying that it is not beneficial for children of other cultures to focus their attention on a Barbie doll made in the United States.

Varney may clarify her argument that there is nothing wrong with having this type of toy sold in the United States but when this type of toy-playing activity is allowed to prosper in other cultures then it is possible that these children would have a distorted view of what femininity is all about. Varney would also add to the discussion that young children create their interpretations of society through their toys.

Lilian Ross would chime in and say that even in countries like China and India, the power of the Barbie doll can be felt. Even if these countries are located far away from the US mainland, the influence of Barbie dolls can still reach the children who lived there because of mass media marketing. The radical transformation in transportation and communication technology made this possible. This concept is known as globalization. Lilian Ross would also add that because of the ability of the toy companies to market their wares in places like China, Russia, and Thailand, their global reach has reached profound levels. Thus, they can transcend cultural barriers.

Michele Dunbar would then ask Varney, Kuther, and McDonald to clarify their viewpoints when it comes to the connection of human behavior and role-playing with dolls. Dunbar would clarify that she understands that there is a connection but requires proof that indeed the impact is as profound as it seems. Dunbar would tell them that she completely agrees with the general principle but would like to know more the exact details regarding the influence of Barbie dolls on children. Dunbar is interested to know its impact on boys.

Kuther and McDonald will reply and speak directly to Dunbar regarding the impact of Barbie dolls on girls and boys. They would tell him that girls play with them pretending that they are real people. The girls in the act of role-playing would change the clothes of the dolls. But if the same toys are given to boys they would most probably destroy them. Kuther and McDonald would say that this destruction is not the symptom of psychotic behavior but a normal reaction for someone who does not know how to play with dolls.

Ross would add that boys are simply trying to develop a more exciting way to play and not because they simply wanted to destroy dolls. Dunbar would join the discussion and point at Ross would comment that her observations are very interesting especially if it can be linked to her study of a famous NBA player named Dennis Rodman. All the authors nod their heads in agreement, signaling the fact that they understand the connotation.

Dunbar would continue by saying that Rodman does not only pierce his body with different types of metal accouterments but he also “cross-dresses.” This is interesting according to Dunbar because there seems to be no indication that Rodman is homosexual. Dunbar would say there has been no proof or any disclosure about the fact that Rodman is gay. Thus, his cross-dressing antics are bizarre, to say the least.

Ross would chime in and say that there can be a simpler explanation to all that deviant behavior. Dunbar would say that yes Rodman may be doing all these to attract attention and nothing more. Nevertheless, the mere fact that he dresses himself up like a woman suggests that he is influenced by something that he had encountered while growing up.

Varney would say that it is easy to link his actions to Barbie dolls but there is no proof to support that assertion. Dunbar would say that it is possible that Rodman grew up with all these images of Barbie dolls that are placed in magazines, newspapers, and billboards.

In other words, he cannot escape the visual suggestions thrown at him by advertisers concerning the symbol of womanhood in America. By cross-dressing, he may have protested regarding the perpetuation of these myths. Dunbar interjected that it would be better to ask the opinion of Ross because being the only journalist in the group she possesses a different insight when it comes to the behavior exhibited by celebrities.

Ross throws in her observation. She said that it also possible that this is all a part of a stunt. Another way to look at it is that Dennis Rodman is a genius when it comes to marketing himself. Ross adds that people should not be naïve with regards to the marketing strategies employed by an organization such as the National basketball association. It is an organization that happens to be in the entertainment business. Dunbar, however, said it may be true but the fact that he dresses up like a Barbie doll tells this group that he too was influenced by what he may have seen in the past.

Writer’s Memo

This essay is an important step for me in understanding human nature. It never occurred to me that toys play a significant role in shaping society. I know that it has influence but not in the manner that was depicted by the authors of these articles.

Works Cited

Dunbar, Michele. “Dennis Rodman – Barbie Done Gone Horribly Wrong: Marginalized Masculinity – Cross-Dressing, and the Limitations of Commodity Culture.” Journal of Men’s Studies 7.3 (1999): 317. Print.

Kuther, Tara & Erin McDonald. “Early Adolescents’ Experiences with and Views of Barbie.” Adolescence 39.153 (2004): 39-51. Print.

Ross, Lilian. “Toy Dept.: Girls and Dolls.” The New Yorker. 2001. Web.

Varney, Wendy. “Barbie Australis: The Commercial Reinvention of National Culture.” Social Identities 4.2 (1998): 161-176.

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