Friday, August 01, 2008

Space Camp Barbie

The current Barbie doll career-related accessories are all pretty traditionally "feminine": "baby doctor" (wearing a pink frilly top and capri jeans), pet boutique owner, swim instructor. They all appear to reinforce the notion that women's jobs are all about "nurturing" children and small animals, while always looking very femininely fashionable.

Mattel is apparently trying to branch out a bit, with their new limited-edition doll: Space Camp Barbie, who comes with space suit and helmet. And Barbie has two friends who are also at space camp, Teresa, meant to be a Latina, and Nikki, who is supposed to be African-American (all three appear to be the same doll with different skin and hair color). While I do think it's nice that it does promote space camp as a girly activity, it's disappointing to me that they have the dolls heavily made up and dressed in pink and shiny outfits.

It makes me wonder whether there are dolls out there for girls who aren't into pink and frills and who want to make believe they are astronauts or bug or rock scientists (using kid terminology) or engineers.

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10 comments:

Kristin said...

Enough pink! Is that the only color women are "supposed" to like?

alh said...

I know I should be all anti-pink toys , and personally I'm not a pink fan, but I think there actually is a good side to all of this. If girls learn about space camp from barbie, or their parents are more likely to buy legos for them because they are pink, then these girls are one step ahead of the generation that didn't have any "gender appropriate" toys with scientific themes. One step in a generation isn't all that bad.

Le cinq blog said...

Hey peggy, thanks a ton for posting blogs that i myself would have liked to talk or blog about but haven't had the time to do so.

Yeah.. well ! My dad bought me a set of blocks when i was a kid,the one you use to construct different things.
I wonder if they categorize blocks as boys toys at the toy store.If they do,then the toy company needs to be sued for false propoganda of gender preferences.
Me and my sis both were girls and we loved blocks very much..Thanks to dad for buying us sensible toys.
BTw..I am a doctor now..a female doctor, and my sister is an engineer..a female engineer and well! pink is not the fav color of either of us..I like earthy colors and i like bike rides and i really don't like makeup..
I vote for unisex toys..Toys don't need to be gender categorized at all.
Infact , i find the word 'Tomboy' stupid.Women who don't play with barbies are called tomboys..why? Anyone can like cars and anyone can like barbies,they don't need to be abnormal for liking things that are not what they are expected to like..
The concept of 'Gender appropriate toys' is to be done with.I want to ask , "Is is inappropriate for a girl to play with toy cars?" If so , why?
Unisex toys is the way to go.
Infact, parents must take their kids to the toystore and allow them to pick whatever they want.If boys pick a barbie so be it,it is just that the boy likes to play with human figures.If a girl picks cars, well it is just that the girl likes cars.Ya know.

Btw, did you hear about this russian sexual harrasment court case where the judge actually told the woman that it is right of the bosses to make sexual advances to the women employees..I actually blogged about it in my 'An Antidote to anger' blog..Or perhaps my 'Not so Daily Ramble blog', I forget which one though.

Also,I am gonna repost this comment on one of my blogs too ,just so that my readers get to read my views on this issue too.
Many hugs and take care

Rock Doctor said...

Briefly, ever so briefly, Barbie did come out with a series of serious professional Barbie dolls. It was 1997, my freshman year, and I got a paleontologist Barbie. She had the same platinum hair, but what was notable to me at the time was that her outfit: a field hat, button down shirt (with pink and blue dinos on it) and shorts were all khaki and she had on sturdy boots, a rock hammer, no ring, toned down makeup, field bag, etc. She still sits proudly on my desk where ever I work.
My father-in-law, a writer in Hollywood, tells me (when I rant) that it is because of the lowest common denominator. They have to produce what sells. It is a depressing fact and the fact that Barbies like mine aren't made anymore suggests to me that we have slid backwards over the past decade.

Ginger said...

Interesting. Good to see that Mattel at least acknowledge that girls can be interested in these topics (although I'd be more impressed if they'd gone for 'cardiac surgeon' rather than 'baby doctor'!) Personally I hated dolls, and have had a lifelong loathing of all things pink, so I don't think I'd have felt that excited to receive one of those as a child (it would have taken away from precious lego time!)

Now, as a grown-up female scientist, I do find it a bit puzzling as to what to do about the femininity thing. I'd never wear something just to prove a point that I wouldn't otherwise be interested in wearing. But as I veer from the 'tomboy/jeans/trainers/tshirt' to 'fairly feminine without being too girly' in my everyday life, I'm not always sure how to present myself in some science contexts. Should one downplay one's femininity, so as not to stand out for the wrong reasons? Or should one stick two fingers up at those who think women can't be intelligent and attractive, by making the effort to impress intellectually and personally. Oh, things would be so much easier if the only sartorial decision was 'tie or no tie?' ;-)

Anyhoo, this reminds me of an instance when a female lab scientist friend of mine was chosen to be photographed for a medical charity campaign as an example of one of the scientists whose work was sponsored by the charity's funds. Everyone involved in the photoshoot was having hair and make up done, and it was at this point that one of the charity's staff said to my friend 'Must be nice for you have your make up done'. The implication being that surely as a scientist, she couldn't possibly be that good at presenting herself in a feminine way on a regular basis.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is good that there is promotion of the fact that you don't have to be unfeminine to be in science, but equally I'd like it if there was no expectation placed on women of ANY profession to look a certain way.

Not much to ask, is it? ;-)

Peggy said...

alh: I do think there is something to the idea that pink space camp Barbie is better than no space camp Barbie. But what's odd is that I don't remember all the pink-pink-pink from my own girlhood back in the 1970s. I did go through a rainbows phase and I did have a Barbie, but pink toys, not so much. I don't know if there is more pink today, or if my parents just didn't buy me pink toys.

le cinq blog: I also dislike the term "tomboy". I think it clearly sends a message - intended or not - that certain activities are girl-like and others are boy-like and that a "tomboy" is acting like a boy, rather than a non-doll playing, sports-loving, and/or tree -climbing girl.

rock doctor: Your paleontologist Barbie is probably a collector's item! I don't know if my perception is accurate, but it does seem like girls' toys have gotten stereotypically "girlier" (pinker, doing more traditionally feminine activities), in the past decade. Somewhere I read an article that suggested this was some kind of backlash against the continuing breakdown of traditional gender roles. If that's the case, maybe it's a sign of progress??

Peggy said...

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is good that there is promotion of the fact that you don't have to be unfeminine to be in science, but equally I'd like it if there was no expectation placed on women of ANY profession to look a certain way.

Yes!! Although I'd add that I'd like the idea that being "feminine" is the same as being, for lack of a better word, ornamental - cosmetics, styled hair, frilly non-practical clothes and shoes, etc.

Frogs in my formula said...

As annoying as I find the pink outfit and lipstick, I am cheered by the fact that Barbie can choose from a range of careers. When I played with Barbies a mere 25 years ago), Barbie's only career option was as a clerk behind the cosmetics counter. The toys that really irk me are the the pink make believe kitchens, washers and dryers that plant the seed that girls should enjoy domestic-type roles. I have nothing against the Easy Bake oven but folding towels or ironing should not be sold as "girls' play."

Samia said...

Am I the only feminist in the entire world who likes pink? I's confoosed. :/

Peggy said...

frogs in my formula: I wouldn't have a problem with household chore-related toys if they weren't marketed as exclusively for girls. If girls' toys weren't coded "pink" so often, it would be easier to promote them as unisex. And maybe that's the point - as male and female gender roles have become less defined, some adults find it comforting to reinforce gender stereotypes in their childrens' play.

samia: No, you certainly aren't the only feminist who likes pink. At least part of my visceral reaction against pink-coded toys is because that seems to have become the only color for girls and very feminine women. Honestly, I like a bit of pink too, at least among other colors, but the whole "of course you love pink if you're a femme female" push just turns me off.