Thursday, March 6th, 2014
Girls who play with Barbie dolls–as opposed to Mrs. Potato Head doll–may see fewer career options for themselves in the future, according to an experiment that has been published in the journal Sex Roles.
Thirty-seven girls from the US Pacific Northwest, aged between four to seven years old, were randomly assigned to play for five minutes with either a sexualized Doctor Barbie or Fashion Barbie doll, or with more a more neutral Mrs. Potato Head doll, according to a statement describing the study. The girls were then shown photographs of ten occupations and asked how many they themselves or boys could do in the future.
The girls who played with a Barbie doll – irrespective of whether it was dressed as a fashion model or a doctor – saw themselves in fewer occupations than are possible for boys. Those girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head reported nearly as many career options available for themselves as for boys.
“Perhaps Barbie can ‘Be Anything’ as the advertising for this doll suggests, but girls who play with her may not apply these possibilities to themselves,” said researcher Aurora Sherman of Oregon State University, who suggests that Barbie and similar dolls are part of the burden of early and inappropriate sexuality placed on girls. “Something about the type of doll, not characteristics of the participants, causes the difference in career aspirations.”
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