Iconic toy stands for long journey of modern females
Even though she hasn't aged a day since she was "born", one of the most famous figures in US culture recently turned 59. Barbie, the doll whose face is known all around the world, was created in 1959.
In the past half a century, a lot of toys have come and gone, but Barbie – short for Barbara – has always had a home on toy stores' shelves. This is probably due to the fact that "she" is not just a toy, but a "barometer" of people's changing attitudes toward women, as The New York Times put it.
When Barbie was first introduced by Ruth Handler (1916 – 2002), co-founder of US toy company Mattel, she had good intentions. "Unlike playing with a baby doll, in which a little girl is pretty much limited to assuming the role of Mommy, Barbie has always represented the fact that a woman has choices," she said, according to her autobiography, Dream Doll: The Ruth Handler Story.
But these good intentions still didn't prevent the earliest versions of Barbie being available only in a sexy swimsuit or a housewife's outfit, neither of which gave the image of a girl with many "choices".
During the following years, fortunately, the company made some positive progress, including introducing the first black and Hispanic Barbies and making Barbie separate from her long-time "boyfriend" Ken, as they needed to "spend some quality time – apart", as Mattel noted.
And on March 8, this year's Women's Day, the company launched a new line of "Inspiring Women", with dolls of famous female figures from throughout history, including legendary US pilot Amelia Earhart and UK boxer Nicola Adams.
But in spite of more "good intentions", the line has its problems. The Nicola Adams doll, for example, unlike the athlete herself, has no muscle at all. Instead, it's designed to have a slim body, just like other Barbies. And this, according to Independent reporter Biba Kang, exactly reflects the latest attitude that the world has toward women.
"We're allowed to be fit, but we're not supposed to be too muscular. We're allowed to be clever, but smart women are meant to look like models with glasses on. We're allowed to be creative and artistic, but quickly become 'crazy' if we start to look too individualistic or unkempt," she wrote.
Yes, Barbie isn't perfect. But the mere fact that she's spent her life trying to break the norm one bit at a time is perhaps the one thing that most real females can relate to.