The Barbie I grew up loving, playing with, and being a bit obsessed with is the same Barbie who gave me a whole host of insecurities. I wasn’t thin enough, I wasn’t feminine enough, and I wasn’t pretty enough. Barbie was a doll made up of the social expectations of what women should be.
Luckily, that is changing; in 2016, Mattel released a range of Barbies with diverse hair, face, and body types to promote a healthy body image. A year later they released a hijab-wearing Barbie. They went on to release Barbie with a wheelchair, prosthetic limbs designed with the help of those in the community. Barbie realised her potential as a role model for all women.
Now it appears Barbie is going one step further. For as long as I can remember, Barbie and Ken were an iconic power couple but now it appears as if Barbie has a girlfriend! A picture from 2017 showing Barbie sat with another girl wearing a love wins t-shirt which led to a lot of speculation about Barbie’s sexuality.
Growing up, children are mostly exposed to heteronormative relationships. Anything on the LQBTQ+ spectrum is hidden from them as it is often believed to be too “grown-up”. Unfortunately, this causes a lot of confusion for the children who grow up and begin to question their sexuality. How are you meant to find confidence in your sexuality if heterosexual relationships are the only thing you are exposed to? I have previously written about how I came to terms with being bisexual; there was a feeling of shame when I first began questioning my sexuality. Not only did I feel I was letting my family down, I felt as if I was letting down my own fantasies of a fairy-tale relationship and wedding. It was difficult.
As I grew up, I realised I could have all of that with anyone. It didn’t matter as long as I was happy. Barbie as a member of the LGBTQ+ community does that. She is telling us from a young age that it’s ok to love who you want, it’s ok and normal to be in a relationship with someone of the same gender. You don’t have to hide that crucial part of who you are.
Barbie has transformed from a symbol of archaic ideals for how women should be, to a symbol of the future. I hope that the young girls and boys who are growing up with this version of Barbie, grow up to be more accepting; not only of others but of themselves. It’s time that we follow Barbie’s lead and stop pushing the heteronormative narrative on children, let them grow up knowing that love isn’t just between a man and a woman. Love is for everyone.
Playing with Barbie, I’d dress my doll up in a princess dress and find her the perfect prince. Now I know it might not be the perfect prince for me, it could be a princess. I hope young girls see Barbie with a girlfriend and know that if they feel the same way – it isn’t all about boys.
Image courtesy of The Creative Exchange.