Here’s the brief: to create a doll that “inspires the limitless potential in every girl and reminds them that they can be anything.” That’s a big ask.
Girls know very well that gender inequality is alive and well. How to begin to symbolize the aspiration of young women when the social landscape is so dark? There is the threat to girls’ public safety, in the form of continued street harassment and the normalization of sexual abuse.
There is surveillance and stigmatization of girls’ bodies on social media and beyond. And that’s before we even get to the gender pay gap and the glass ceiling strong enough to give most young women a concussion at some point in their future careers.
For a doll to symbolize the “unlimited potential of every girl”, it must reflect the many obstacles that stand in the way of girls. Like our family background – after all, it’s the socio-economic background we’re born into that’s more likely to determine our potential than the dolls in Mattel’s latest range.
I know! Let’s make a Barbie Queen doll! Yes! She’s the perfect woman to remind girls that they can be anything. Oh wait. What?
Mattel went beyond even its own tone-deaf gender stereotypes by releasing a Barbie version of the queen. The limited edition doll commemorates the platinum jubilee and also celebrates our monarch’s 96th birthday by giving her a perfectly smooth, line-free face. Seriously. You couldn’t invent.
You might wonder what’s so terrible about a Barbie doll version of Queen Elizabeth II. She is, after all, a national treasure to so many. So many people claim to love the queen, even love her. Isn’t the Barbie Platinum Jubilee a fitting, albeit ironic, tribute to Britain’s longest reigning monarch?
The problem is to suggest that the Queen symbolizes “every girl’s limitless potential.” It’s a tasteless joke at the expense of the vast majority of girls in this country.
While we are still reeling from chilling examples of mistreatment by authorities of young working-class women, such as how the grooming scandals that ravaged cities across the country were initially handled, it It is all too clear that hatred of working class women and girls remains rooted in our culture. So much so that any attempt to symbolize the limitless potential of every girl should acknowledge the millions of girls and women left behind by our class system.
While Mattel seems to think our Barbie Queen is some sort of swipe in the service of feminism—a white silk-gloved fist in the air for women’s liberation—in reality, it’s the opposite. The doll is a symbol of our limits, not of our potential.
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Queen – and by extension monarchy and aristocracy – signifies the British class system, something that still has a grip on millions of people in this country, despite political talk of meritocracy and equality. social. Where you were born and who you were born with still dictates your chances in life, how you will be treated, and even your life expectancy.
The queen may be a cute girl. I’ve no idea. Like everyone else, apart from her closest family circle, I don’t know her. What I do know is that as long as the monarchy exists as a signifier that some deserve better treatment than others simply by accident of birth, then the class system that harms so many people in this country will continue to prosper.
Think about how we officially refer to the Queen. His Majesty. His Royal Highness. These are terms designed to express superiority over other citizens. To use these addresses is to imply that some people are born better than others – is that really an idea we want to perpetuate? Obviously, for many, the idea of superior breeding is appealing, but it is also very dangerous.
Make no mistake, Mattel’s Barbie Queen doll may be a tribute to HRM, but it’s an insult to the millions of girls belittled and oppressed by the country’s class system.