Mattel’s new Barbie doll advert that landed on UK TV screens recently has already whipped up an intense media storm. Supporters of the advert have praised Mattel (Barbie’s creators) for tackling issues of workplace gender inequality that have been high on the agenda of many feminists since the birth of Barbie in 1959. The ‘anything is possible’ advert includes a number of young girls partaking in previous male dominated and male associated roles such as a football coach, a University professor, an astronaut and a pilot. The advert ends with the message ‘You can be Anything’. But how far does Barbie as a brand reflect the advert’s message?

Still from the new 'Be Anything' Barbie commercial.

Still from the new ‘Be Anything’ Barbie commercial.

Critics of the advert have claimed that although the advert is cute, Mattel should focus on adjusting Barbie dolls’ weight, race, body dimensions and outfit choices in unison with Barbie’s career prospects to truly inspire young girls to ‘be Anything’. Throughout the advert Mattel has linked career success to Barbie; a good-looking, white, young women with an unrealistic body shape who often wears sexually provocative clothing. Although Barbie is a child’s toy and was not created to represent reality (she does after all have unicorns as pets and a fairy princess castle to live in) and rather child’s play, many believe Mattel should look into representing these other differences too, if they are really serious about breaking down barriers to gender equality and inspiring young girls to ‘be Anything’.

Maybe in this respect, Barbie is the wrong brand to promote this message to young girls but surely we should praise Mattel for tackling this important issue head on and inspiring young girls to ‘be Anything.’

-Chloe Simm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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