Did You Know Barbie's Running for President?

For the first time in history, this is a Barbie who can actually stand by herself.
Publish date:
August 24, 2012
politics, Barbie, women in politics

Did you know that Barbie’s on her fifth Presidential campaign? Because I certainly didn’t.

This year, she’s representing the B Party, in partnership with The White House Project, an organization working to get more women in leadership positions. Using Presidential Barbie as a launching point, they’re trying to get girls more interested in politics and the electoral process, complete with a Take Your Daughter to the Polls Day in November1.

So, here’s what I like about this campaign: Barbie actually has a long track record of, uh, breaking the plastic ceiling in terms of creating dolls representing women in a variety of occupations, which is pretty dang awesome for a ubiquitous toy aimed at girls. Whether you want to be a veterinarian or an astronaut, there’s a Barbie for you, which is rad, and the Presidential dolls are part of that long tradition.

It’s especially notable that the dolls are coming in four races; Black, Latina, Asian, and white, to allow many girls to find a doll who reflects their own experiences.

And the B Party campaign, while tongue in cheek, is also somewhat serious; obviously they haven’t put Barbie on the ballot or tried to get her into the debates, but they have created some of the framework you’d expect from an actual Presidential campaign. A lot of it’s also designed to be educational, so that girls being drawn to the campaign through the doll also get a chance to learn about politics and receive empowering messages about women in politics.

They also have a big social media aspect, reflecting the real-world election, right down to a Tumblr. The goal is to get girls engaged at any level they’re interested in, whether that’s playing with the doll or actually engaging with the campaign, and I love that. Instead of just being an aspirational toy, Presidential Barbie is also a great way to interact with the systems around us.

I love even more that for the first time in history, this is a Barbie who can actually stand by herself. She has bigger feet and weighted wedge heels, and that means she’s not forced to be propped up by someone else. That’s pretty powerful symbolism, and it makes me hope they might do the same for other dolls in their lineup; it’s long past time for Barbie to be able to stand on her own two feet2, right?

Here’s what I am not so in love with: PINK!

Land sakes, people, does anyone else want to get her out of her pink pantsuit pronto?! I don’t care if it was developed by Chris Benz, who also dresses the First Lady, though, really, Chris, the First Lady always looks amazing, why couldn’t you do the same for Presidential Barbie?

And can I mention how uncomfortable it makes me that she talks about her “glampaign”? Do we really need to make this all about fashion and makeup and pinkness to draw girls in? What about girls who aren’t interested in those things but might be good target audiences for conversations about women in politics? What kind of messaging is being sent to girls, here?

I realize that pink is pretty much the watchword in Barbieworld, but come on. I’m so tired of the pinkification of women and girls, and while on the one hand I don’t think women should be written down as less serious or capable if they happen to like pink, I don’t think that swathing the doll in pink is sending the best message to girls. It carries a lot of baggage about the best way to perform femininity and I’m so not into that.

If she came with an array of suits in different colors, I’d be way more down. Then people could choose how they want to dress their Barbies, maybe even thinking about some media strategy along the way depending on where they’re appearing; if Presidential Barbie is heading out for a factory tour in Detroit, she might want to dress differently than when she’s addressing college students in Texas, right?

And how about actual women in politics? How about Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi, Hilary Clinton for the Democrats? Condoleeza Rice, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann on the Republican side? Michela Alioto-Pier? Jann Brewer? Tammy Duckworth? Nikki Haley? Gwen Moore? I’m sure commenters can think of countless more women in politics who can be role models for young women aspiring to be leaders on all ends of the political spectrum.

Of course I’m excited about the possibilities of Presidential Barbie, but I’d love to see her connected with real women in politics, too. Why not joint campaign appearances or endorsements? I suspect at least some working female politicians would be willing to donate a little face-time or a quick video to the cause. Or campaign information leading girls to women active in politics so they can learn more about real-life women on the campaign trail and in the corridors of power?

1. Hey, not everyone was lucky enough to grow up in a polling place like me, I know. Return

2. Or roll on her own two wheels, in the case of Becky, the Paralympic champion. Return