What’s Sex Got to Do with Barbie?

The Barbie Doll was and is one of the most popular and well-known toys of our generation.

I am very confident that if you asked an individual that was alive during the 1990’s, they have played with or at least heard of the Barbie Doll. Now, although the brand expanded later expanded their products to include more and different dolls, it all originated with one specific doll: Barbie. Barbie is the figurehead of the American toy-company Mattel, Inc. Barbie is modeled as a tall, blonde, and blue-eyed girl. Barbie has a flawless complexion and permanent makeup. This doll is almost clearly representative of an “ideal woman” through what I consider the “male gaze.” The features of the doll have been measured in terms of actual human body dimensions and have been proven to be most likely impossible to obtain. Her weight would be 35lbs underweight for her 5’9 height and her waist being at 18 inches would not be able to hold up her body. The “human Barbie” would most likely not be able to menstruate due to lack of fat percentage. These comparisons in dimensions allow us to see the fault in our societal idea of beauty.

Along with portraying an unrealistic and unattainable body image and appearance for kids that are using this doll, this doll is actually very sexualized. She obtains an almost impossibly small waist with very large breasts and has stick thin legs with a plump butt. In this way, I feel that the doll that represents a female has been influenced by the objectification of females. Barbie’s accessories predominantly assist her appearance or luxuries: her shoes, clothes, cars, and house. She also is most often linked to having a job as a flight attendant, which is a more female oriented profession.


Not only does the configuration of this doll relate to the idea of objectification of and idealistic female, it also suggests hetero normativity. The creation of Ken along with Barbie was based on this and Ken is labeled directly as Barbie’s boyfriend. Ken is also created as a white male with a chiseled body and full hair and is another replication of American beauty. Barbie and Ken have a relationship that seems quite consistent with social norms in this country. Barbie provides beauty, a “perfect” body and great clothes and Ken values that from Barbie.

However, what I find to be the most comical of this, is the “news” that was announced in February of 2004 by Mattel, Inc. The company announced that Barbie and Ken had split up and the two “feel it’s time to spend some quality time – apart…Like other celebrity couples, their Hollywood romance has come to an end”. The vice president of the toy company also indicated that the duo would “remain friends” and hinted that the separation might be “partially due to Ken’s reluctance to getting married.” I found this statement entirely comical in how blatantly it aligns with sex and our society. It is stereotypically the woman that wants to “tie the man down” and wants to marry him. Stereotypically, the man does not want to commit and is more interested in sex rather than the relationship. Along with heteronormativity and other stereotypes these dolls address, they address issues with gender. These two “perfect” dolls are heterosexual and in a relationship, and the woman is portrayed is almost inferior to Ken because of how objectified and sexualized she is and also in the terms that she wants Ken to commit to her but he is “not interested” in her either that much or in that way. This reinforces the gender dominance of males over females and once again, continues to exemplify the emphasis on stereotypes within our society and our society’s idealistic views on a man and woman.


One thought on “What’s Sex Got to Do with Barbie?

  1. I think Barbie definitely perpetuates a certain body type to our society. Since so many girls have had Barbie dolls at a young age, it is hard for little girls not to start sexualizing the female body. The heteronormative society dictates what is attractive to men, but Barbie further complicates that. Should girls be skinny or should they be curvy? Like you said it is not very likely that every woman could have that unrealistic body that Barbie does.


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