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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Essay: Barbie made me feel confident pursuing my dreams, showcasing my femininity

Director Greta Gerwig’s new “Barbie” movie comes out this July, and social media is buzzing with excitement about the promotional posters and trailer released this month. But beyond my enthusiasm surrounding Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling’s casting, the film’s unapologetic pink hues, glitter and “She’s everything” tagline brought back many childhood memories of growing up with Barbie. I realized the prominent positive influence Barbie had on me as a child followed me all the way into adulthood.

“You can be anything” is the slogan for Mattel’s Barbie dolls – the words I saw splattered on every Barbie commercial and toy box throughout my childhood. I remember looking in awe at Barbie’s wide-ranging occupations – a veterinarian, doctor, flight attendant, chef and astronaut – and asking my mom in disbelief if those were all actually Barbie’s careers because I had no idea those dreams were possible for young girls like me. Barbie taught me that no dream is too small or too big, and young girls’ aspirations are unlimited.

When I played with my dozens of Barbie dolls, they could do anything – they were everything I could not wait to be when I grew up. They each had a specific path laid out for them, from a Hollywood actress to a doctor to a stay-at-home mom and everything in between. My Barbies represented the various aspects of my personality, tastes and dreams. I always had one favorite Barbie that got to live all of my dreams, but as I grew older, a new Barbie would become the next representation of who I wanted to be. My earliest favorites were princesses, others were dancers or fashion designers and the most recent ones were writers or lawyers. But I never discarded any of my dolls – by the time it was time to close the box, they were not just dolls, but my own evolution as a person. And because of Barbie, I became unapologetic about who I was.

But each time adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, they gave me a look of disbelief or a comment about how difficult it would be. “I want to be president of the United States” was often followed by “It’s just a phase, you’ll grow out of it.”

And these rude comments were not just limited to my aspirations – they often disparaged anything considered “girly” or feminine. When I mentioned that my favorite color was pink or that I liked poofy dresses and bows, adults condescendingly told me I’d grow out of liking the color. My interests and tastes were belittled, and while it bothered me that I wasn’t taken seriously, it never occurred to me to change who I was. And that’s thanks to Barbie.

I never once felt embarrassed about what I wanted to do with my life or the things I liked. How could I, when Barbie herself is a doctor with a pink stethoscope? I did not see anything wrong with wanting to be a writer, ballerina or president of the United States – they were big dreams, but that did not mean they were impossible.

As I got older, I realized it wasn’t just the adults in my life tearing down my aspirations – it was my peers, too. My classmates went through the typical “I hate pink” phase, making fun of me for wearing pink and bows. They would even scoff at what I wanted to be when I grew up, whether it was becoming the president or a movie director. I didn’t understand – what was so wrong with pink and liking “girly” things while having big dreams?

I remember sitting down in the kitchen with my mom when I was in sixth grade to ask her if she thought I could ever be president or a writer while liking pink. She repeated the sentiment I heard my whole life from Barbie – “I think you can be anything you want to be. And I can’t wait to see you in a full pink suit when you become president.”

My mom reassured me with her kind words, but they were easier to believe because I looked up to Barbie my entire life while watching her movies, commercials and shows. As a little girl, having this iconic figure made me feel confident in my tastes, aspirations and femininity. My goals were not something to be embarrassed about, but something I should be proud of. Barbie is a testament to the fact that no dream is too small or too big, but it’s also OK to outgrow your dreams or find new ones. And seeing Barbie being successful while being feminine was reassuring. My love for pink was part of who I was, and it did not make me less intelligent or serious. To this day, I love pink, dressing up and wearing bows in my hair.

Although Barbie has been under scrutiny before for promoting unrealistic beauty standards – a problem that is being addressed with dolls of more sizes and ethnicities – we seem to forget everything else that Barbie represents. Barbie teaches young girls that they should follow their dreams and be comfortable in their own skin. Especially in a society where femininity is often belittled, Barbie reminds women to be our most unapologetic selves and to never be embarrassed for who we are or what we want.

We can be anything.

Andrea Mendoza-Melchor, a freshman majoring in journalism and mass communication, is an opinions writer.

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