Barbie the feminist?!

There can be few things more desirable in our society than gender equality but is the solution really to buy your child a doll still sporting more than a few traditional stereotypes? I’d suggest that parental support, hard study and equality of opportunity in the real world may be a little more important. I wrote to Mattel Inc (via their ‘Barbie’ Facebook page) to ask them to back up the claims offered by their Christmas ad campaign with a few guarantees. Here’s the note. I’m still awaiting a response…

Dear Mr/Mrs Mattel I am writing regarding your recent television advert showing several young girls, perhaps only five or six years of age, undertaking roles which were certainly surprising in my book, but what do I know! The sight of mere infants, training a deferential All-Blacks rugby team, delivering a lecture in a purpose-built theatre and taking tourists on an informative tour at The Natural History Museum was inspiring and indeed moving. I must confess to having been forced to wipe away a little tear (and a globule of snot) at their compelling and authoritative displays (handy screenshots are attached).

As the father of ‘Chantel’ a girl of a similar age, living in Barnsley, the only logical course of action in my mind was to buy her a Barbie doll and to encourage both her, as well as her hyperactive brother Zak to play ‘University Lecturers’ with it. My purchase emptied my wallet of a not-inconsequential sum of cash but, as I was investing in my daughter’s future, and hopefully ensuring that my offspring do not, like me, end up working nights in a sausage meat factory, I felt that I could get by with just a six-pack of John Smith’s this weekend. At first all seemed to be going well. Zak’s Power Ranger figures were sat attentively in the back row, with his Action Men placed securely at their desks at the opposite side of the arena (made from an upturned baby’s cot – don’t you think there’s a certain symbolism there).

Barbie, ready for ‘study’.

I left them to it, slipping off quietly to catch the semi-final of the darts on Sky Sports, but worryingly, after only three legs of arrows, all hell was breaking loose upstairs. It seems the problem arose when Barbie wanted to ‘change her baby’s nappy and put her to bed with Fifi the bunny’. My daughter had asked ‘Ken’ if he would read baby a story but he had been abducted by ‘gripping hands’ Action Man and was having camouflage paint applied to his cheeks whilst being tooled up with an AK47. With some diplomatic, albeit stern words, I rectified the situation (with promises of sweets and an extra ten minutes on the X-Box if they would play Daddy’s nice game for a little longer) but the respite was only temporary. Just as Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor was eyeing up double tops, it all kicked off again. Upon vigorous questioning, I learned that my daughter had insisted on restoring Ken to his previous kindly and unpainted self and, upon my entry into Chantel’s room, he was accompanying Barbie down the aisle – the lectern now doubling as a church altar. Barbie’s lecture notes had been reorganised to form a makeshift wedding dress. Ken was in the buff. Meanwhile, the ‘Red Ranger’ and ‘Eagle Eyes’ Action Man had instigated all-out war in the bleachers with heavy casualties being taken on both sides judging by the howls of battle being emitted from my clearly bored-to-tears son.

Now, I recognise it’s early days and that dolly-inspired academic genius surely lies just around the corner so, in preparation for the future, I checked out the tuition fees at Harvard. Crikey! I’d need my numbers to come up big time if that’s ever going to happen. I was wondering if Mattel Inc. would be prepared to put up £50,000 tuition fees, as a kind of insurance policy, in the unlikely event of my purchasing of a Barbie proving insufficient to guarantee a rich, fulfilling and financially-bountiful career. Thank you – I must go – my daughter informs me from the top of the stairs that ‘The Green Ranger is kicking seven shades out of Ken’ and Fifi needs rescuing from a heavily-armed mountain cave in my son’s bedroom. Yours sincerely, D Jones

Dan Jones is the author of Extracting Goats from Jean-Claude’s Kitchen published by Kellan Publishing.