Thursday, January 1, 2009


Barbie looks pretty good, for a woman of a certain age. The ever-lithe dame with missile breasts turns 50 next year, and she still turns heads: every second at least three of these dolls are sold, bringing in $3.6 billion annually in retail sales. To wit:

No doll outshines Barbie’s celebrity. If all the Barbies and her family members—Skipper, Francie and the rest—sold since 1959 were placed head to toe, they would circle the Earth more than seven times.

Perhaps the allure is in her personality?

Barbie's body has come under criticism for offering girls unrealistic expectations of womanhood, and even for inspiring eating disorders and related pathologies. Her measurements--at 36-18-38--if rendered in the flesh, would notoriously make it impossible for her to stand, or even live (despite evidence to the contrary).

Yet there's also plenty of evidence that Barbie is a modern have-it-all woman, with an array of powerful careers, a closet full of couture, a doting metrosexual boyfriend and very little pressure to marry and procreate (though she can always choose the domestic route, complete with apple-cheeked baby and a "dream house" kitted out in Pepto Bismol-pink accessories). So why isn't she considered more empowering? Why is Barbie such a lightening rod for feminist scorn?

In this audio interview for The Economist, Carol Ockman, an art professor at Williams College, considers these questions and analyses the doll's enduring appeal. What's clear is just how seductive the bombshell remains, even to those who consider her somewhat anachronistic and insulting.

Original here

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