Among the things to hate about Barbie is that she's styled such that no woman could ever have her proportions and remain bipedal. Many say she's too thin, too made-up, and too passive-looking to be a role model for the modern girl. (Barbie's response, of course, is #unapologetic.)
There's already evidence that Barbie affects girls' body image. But through her many iterations, Barbie has now been a paleontologist, a pilot, and a Marine. With options like those, surely she doesn't cause any lasting damage to girls' career aspirations? ... Right? Right?
A duo of researchers at Oregon State University hypothesized that playing with sexualized dolls not only hurts self-esteem, it influences the way young girls think about their adult lives.
Past research in the U.K. has shown that nearly a third of female teenagers want to be models, while only 4 percent wanted to be engineers. Adolescent girls, it seems, are drawn to careers based on appearance, not knowledge.
Is Barbie the one steering young girls away from the Python code and toward the catwalk?
For the study, published in the journal Sex Roles, 37 girls between the ages of 4 and 7 were randomly assigned to play with one of three dolls: a typical Barbie doll wearing a fancy party dress; a "career" Barbie, decked in her career-ready lab coat, stethoscope, and "low-heeled shoes" (look out world!); or a Mrs. Potato Head doll, who comes adorned with chunky high heels and hot-pink purse, but otherwise has the countenance of a tuber, like her husband.
On average, the girls had 3.89 Barbie dolls at home. Because, you know, sometimes you cut their hair, or you accidentally amputate their toes in tragic accidents involving the "can-opener-is-a-pony" game.
Aurora Sherman, an associate professor in the School of Psychological Science at OSU, told me that Mrs. Potato Head was selected because "I wanted to have a control group that would keep the femaleness in tact," but wasn't as sexy. And "In terms of finding a doll that's remotely the same size as Barbie and is not sexualized, you would be hard-pressed to do that." Indeed, though she is similarly tawny, female, and supple, not even the most confused child could mistake Mrs. Head with the teetering, quixotically statured Barbie. Not even if they were both wearing lab coats. Not even in Lena Dunham's America.
The children played with their respective toys for five minutes. Then they were presented with photos of 11 male- and female-dominated professions, so appointed according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
The female dominated occupations were teacher, librarian, day care worker, flight attendant, and nurse. The male dominated occupations included construction worker, firefighter, pilot, doctor, and police officer. The neutral occupation was a server in a restaurant.
The girls were then asked, “Could you do this job when you grow up?” and "Could a boy do this job when he grows up?"