Study: playing with Barbie limits girls' perceived career options

Girl Scouts thus urged to end their barbie partnership

A recent study by researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz and Oregon State University indicates that girls who play with Barbie dolls are more likely to take a limited view of their own future career options, compared to girls who played with non-sexualized toys such as Mrs. Potato Head. The study indicated no difference between Barbies clad in fashion clothes and Barbies dressed as doctors and similar role models.

The study, titled “Boys Can Be Anything”: Effect of Barbie Play on Girls' Career Cognitions is published in the March issue of the journal Sex Roles.

In light of this study (in addition to the countless others demonstrating that Barbies give girls unrealistic self-images), the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is urging the Girl Scouts to end its “troubling Barbie partnership.” In a prepared statement, CCFC's director, Dr. Susan Linn, said:

“Holding Barbie, the quintessential fashion doll, up as a role model for Girl Scouts simultaneously sexualizes young girls, idealizes an impossible body type, and undermines the Girl Scouts’ vital mission to 'build girls of courage, confidence, and character … It is particularly troubling that the youngest scouts are encouraged to wear a Barbie patch on their uniforms, transforming them into walking advertisements. While Mattel and the Barbie brand benefit enormously from the Girl Scouts’ endorsement, the partnership harms girls.”

No organs

Linn wasn't exaggerating when she dubbed Barbie's body “impossible.” In 2013,, hoping to call attention to the problem of eating disorders, released a chart comparing Barbie's proportions both to those of an average healthy woman and a typical anorexia sufferer.

The conclusion? Forget about things like “normal levels of body fat”; Barbie's body doesn't even have room for “normal levels of internal organs.”

Turns out a real-life woman (or any human) with Barbie's proportions literally could not survive: if your neck were as thin (relative to everything else) as Barbie's, you would be incapable of holding up your own head. A waist as small as Barbie's could hold no internal organs except for a few inches of intestine and approximately half of an ordinary-sized liver.

Barbie-sized ankles and calves are too weak to allow standing, let along walking; Barbie would have to crawl around on all fours.

So even if you hope to inspire your daughter's intellectual growth by giving her a Doctor Astronaut Physicist Barbie rather than a Fashionista Talking Bimbo Barbie who utters such pre-recorded phrases as “math class is tough!” and “party dresses are fun!”, there's also a good chance of inspiring body-image issues in a developing girl whose beautiful doctor-astronaut-physicist role model still teaches her to believe: “If my waist is thick enough to hold all the organs evolution requires for basic biological survival, that means I'm too fat.”

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