Almost all dolls represented newborns until the late 1950s. Barbara, who often played with paper dolls, fantasized and attributed adult roles. Ruth, her mother, seeing this propensity in her daughter proposed to her husband, Elliot Handler, to design a line of adult-looking toys. To Elliot, who was the co-founder of Mattel, an American company that still produces lines of games, the idea did not excite, but Ruth, stubborn as only a woman and mother can be, working with the company’s engineers, she arrived to create the first Barbie. With the name that recalls that of her daughter, Barbie made her first appearance in stores on March 9th, 1959: she had a zebra-striped costume, light skin and tied black hair.
After 59 years of career, the Barbie has ground miles on kilometers. Considering the times, this pop object (so much pop that Andy Warhol made her a portrait) was the first toy to have a massive television marketing strategy. Today, we are talking about over a billion sold with productions that still remain on high standards. She later became blonde with blue eyes, representing an icon (or in some cases a stereotype of a pretty, but stupid girl) of reference in the mass culture that would orient the growth of girls.
In fact was coined the expression “Paradox of the Barbie” to explain the considerable price variations of the popular doll based on the job of the various models. With over 130 different professions (she did also the astronaut also) while being structurally identical and differentiating only from the uniform or from the supplied accessories, the price differs from Barbie to Barbie. According to Matthew Notowidigdo, an economist at the University of Chicago, the variation exploits the propensity of parents who also genuinely wish to give their daughters the same job as the doll they have chosen. In particular, the most expensive dolls do the jobs that the richest parents, and therefore willing to pay more, would like their daughters to do as well.
And aware of the social role of the Barbie, on the occasion of the 59th anniversary of the birth and March 8th, International Women’s Day, Mattel presented an exclusive line paying tribute to 17 female personalities, women who come from contexts and sectors different and break the patterns becoming a source of inspiration for the next generation of girls. Through the hashtags #MoreRoleModels and #Shero, and with the idea of encouraging girls to believe in their dreams and do what they no longer feel without patterns or labels, 14 female models of our days have been presented: Sara Gama, captain of the Juventus women and captain of the Italian women’s national team; the American director Patty Jenkins; US snowboarder Chloe Kim; the Australian environmentalist Bindi Irwin; Nicola Adams, English box champion; Çağla Kubat, windsurfers of Turkish origins; Hélène Darroze, world-famous French chef; Hui Ruoqi, of Chinese descent, volleyball champion; Leyla Piedayesh, designer and entrepreneur in Germany; Lorena Ochoa, professional golfer in Mexico; Martyna Wojciechowska, Polish journalist; Xiaotong Guan, actress and philanthropist in China; Yuan Yuan Tan, first Ballerina in China; Vicky Martin Berrocal, entrepreneur and fashion designer in Spain.
But it’s not enough: there are three women of the past who, in their respective fields, have marked the story. There is the Mexican painter pioneer of women’s rights, Frida Kahlo; the first female pilot who crossed the Atlantic in solitary, Amelia Earhart; there is the influential Afro-American mathematics of NASA which, among other things, has calculated the trajectory of Apollo 11, Katherine Johnson.
The playwright Eve Ensler said: «Barbie is not what you believe. She’s a lot smarter than how they let her be. He has enormous powers and is a kind of genius. There are more than a billion Barbie in the world. Think if we would release them. Think about if they took life in every village, city, bedroom, landfill and dream house. Think about if they were to make up the world instead of making up their makeup. Think about if they started saying what they really feel. Let’s talk to her»