Not Everyone's A Barbie Girl

Aniya Linder


A Band

“Why don't I have long straight hair, blue eyes, B-cup sized breasts and long legs? What is wrong with me?” On March 9, 1965, Barbie was introduced to the world. From that day forward, she was flying off the shelves. Many Americans think of Barbie as the quintessential plaything for young girls. However, the doll has a big problem.  That was the start of young black girls being brainwashed into thinking that having blue eyes, long silky hair, sunkissed skin, thin lips and a skinny nose was the only way a girl or woman could be considered beautiful as well as the only way to be accepted by society. For many years, European beauty standards are being taught and reinforced to all young girls, and specifically black girls, through Barbie dolls.

In 1939 the  “Clark Baby Doll Experiment” was conducted by Dr. Kenneth Clark, an African-American psychologist and his wife, Mamie Clark. The two  were both active in the Civil Rights Movement. The experiment was centered around the opinions of children. This experiment was to persuade the American Supreme Court during “Brown v. Board of Education” in 1954. The experiment tried to prove that separate but equal schools for blacks and whites were not equal in practice  which was against the law.  Dr. Clark conducted an experiment that involved them showing  black children a black doll and a white doll. He then asked a series of questions to see how they reacted to the different skin tones of the dolls. During the doll test, they are also asked which doll is the “bad doll” and most of the children said the black doll without being told a name, age, occupation, and or talent of the doll character. During the time of this test, white predominance was extremely active and the effect of it was extrusive.  White people gave African Americans a variety of names, such as monkey and banjo lips. Behind those names were a lot of animosities. African American men, women, and children were socially conditioned into thinking that they were monstrous and terrible people. It is easy for children to pick up the behavior that they see and hear so just imagine how easy it would be for a child to think that the men, women, and children around them are monsters along with the doll that laid lifelessly in front of them. Those children in that experiment were put through verbal abuse by another race , being constantly told that they're nothing  better than the ground they step on because of their skin,their nose, and their lips.

Mattel has made multiple attempts to make its dolls more diverse however they failed.  In 2014,  many department stores such as Walmart, Target, K-Mart, and others began to sell the African American Barbie doll collection. Most of the dolls of color were on sale and at extremely cheap prices, while the white dolls in some cases were 2-3 times the price.  There is a lot of controversy about this on the ABC news website. There is a photo of an African American doll placed next to a White American doll. Both are on sale but the African American doll is priced at $3.00 and the White American doll is priced at $5.93, the White American doll is practically doubled the price. Melissa O'brien a spokeswoman at a Walmart in Louisiana  says "... Both are great dolls. The red price sticker indicates that this particular doll was on clearance when the photo was taken, and though both dolls were priced the same to start, one was marked down due to its lower sales to hopefully increase purchase from customers... " Melissa O'brien a spokeswoman at a Walmart in Louisiana. To many customers, the implication of the lowering of the price is that's devaluing the black doll. Most African American parents would like to see the African American collection on shelves so that their daughter and or son doesn't have to automatically choose the white American Barbie doll. However, the lowered price reveals that  there are still little girls that don't want the African American Barbie. The parents of these young African American girls aren't the ones choosing which doll they'd rather play with- it's the young girls that are still drawn to what's been presented to them for years even though what's new is what resembles them the most.

This attraction to a white appearance goes way beyond dolls. On social media apps and sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and many other sites African American male and female celebrities  are changing themselves to fit in with society's beauty standards. Well, known celebrity Lil Kim took a picture to show her clearly bleached skin, beach blonde hair, and a nose job. This photo has been spotted on lots of social media sites so it's obvious that she isn't ashamed of the decision that she has made. There are thousands of African American women and even men who do this to have lighter skin because they feel as though it will fix their self-esteem issues. Female celebrities were children at one point as well, and they were and most likely still are affected by  European beauty standards that this society has created. To fit in, these women want to change themselves as much as they can to stay on top and be that woman that every little girl wants to be. A local musician in Cape Town South Africa Nomasonto "Mshoza” says "I've been black and dark-skinned for many years, I wanted to see the other side. I wanted to see what it would be like to be white and I'm happy, part of it was a self-esteem issue."  However, when these celebrities alter themselves to be a better role model they aren't understanding that they are doing the exact opposite. So when little girls see their celebrity role model change themselves it's definitely possible that they'll think that it's okay to change yourself according to everyone else's standards and that it's normal to not accept the way that you look.

Although the European beauty standards being taught and reinforced young African-American girls  through Barbie dolls  it may only seem important  to African-Americans , it should in fact concern anyone who cares about their child knowing embracing who they are  and that you shouldn't let European  beauty standards influence extremely low self-esteem. Young African-American girls need to know  that the racial background that they come from doesn’t make them flawed or less than their white counterparts. . The upcoming generations of African-American young women  need to know how to stay true to their roots so that it's reinforced to the other corrupted brains of other African-American young girls. When young African-Americans girls are offered little to no options to own dolls that look like themselves, it negatively influences their self-esteem and sense of identity.

Work Cited

"Barbie (doll)." Barbie Doll. Yona Zeldis McDonough, n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.News about Barbie (Doll), including commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times.

The Clark Doll Experiment. Abagond, 9 May 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

Black Barbie Sold for Less Than White Barbie at Walmart Store. N.p., 9 Mar. 2010. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

"Africa: Where Black Is Not Really Beautiful." Pumza Fihlani, n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

Comments (2)

Siani Davis (Student 2018)
Siani Davis

I like that you wrote about something so personal to many girls in our society today. It is really important to bring these sort of topics up because this really makes people think. You did a good job of siting your sources throughout your essay too.

Sydnye Misero (Student 2018)
Sydnye Misero

This expanded my thinking because it is a completely different way of thinking than what would generally go through my mind. A lot of times I see white people trying to appropriate black culture, but then I can see that beauty standards may be causing African Americans to appear more white.