What we can all learn from Barbie


Opinions about everything seem polarised these days, otherwise how do you get so many dictators running countries, or Brexit, or Trump, I could go on, but it’s too painful. We tell each other we need to have a debate about stuff, but never actually do because freedom of speech and freedom of expression, while they are enshrined in law and constitution, are everywhere on the run. Even Remainers and Brexiteers don’t really want to get into a proper argument for fear of upsetting each other. Oh dear. I’m a Remainer and all you Brexiteers can shove off.

Barbie is 60!

Even discussion about Barbie, 60 years old this year, is polarised. One camp claims that Barbie’s lifestyle sets unreachable lifestyle targets that no normal girl can ever attain, and therefore that she causes only unhappiness as each unrealistic target is missed. If you want to marry a Prince (though frankly why would you) you need to have got your shit together and made a plan from nursery school onwards.

Contrast that with Smyth Toys which is celebrating Barbie’s anniversary with a campaign to tell young girls that they can be anything. 3000 people showed up at eight stores. Not bad for a doll that is now eligible for a senior rail card.

Get typing!

Now, whatever your own point of view, bear in mind that 60 years ago, most girls were prepared for adulthood by their mothers by being sent off to Pitman College to learn to type, as they prepared for an office job before hopefully getting a marriage proposal before they were 30. If you don’t believe me, I can report from personal experience that my own mother also suggested I learnt to type ‘just in case,’ as she put it.

The only party in all this trench warfare that might actually bring both sides together for a kick about would be Barbie herself. Here is what she would say (apologies to Mattel for literally putting words in her mouth).

Barbie talks sense

  1. We can be anyone we want to be, as long as we realise that we can’t be everyone we want to be. Achieving goals requires a plan, focus and commitment, which requires us to agree on a single destination. If you think you can do everything, you may end up doing nothing.
  2. Not all women want to break through the glass ceiling. We should be recognised for the roles we choose and not for the roles that the glass ceiling brigade say we should want.
  3. Men are not the enemy. Some are, but most of them have their own struggle for recognition, success, identity, health, partnership, love etc. One day soon, it will become clear that all of us, irrespective of sex or gender, are facing similar challenges.
  4. Our only purpose in life is to make life better for the people around us. Focus on that and we will be happy. Well, most of the time.

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