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This Research Guide offers some ideas of keywords and concepts to research the cultural and social significance of Barbie, as a symbol of gender, identity, and consumerism.

Select Reference Materials and Scholarship on Barbie

Researching Barbie

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Studying Barbie can provide a lens through which to explore complex topics such as representation, identity, consumer culture, historical shifts, and social norms. Click on these keywords to get an idea of the scholarship on Barbie:

  • Barbie AND Culture: Barbie is not just a toy; she is a powerful representation of how societal ideals of femininity have been constructed, maintained, and challenged over time.
  • Barbie AND Gender: Studying Barbie can help unpack the ways in which representations perpetuate or challenge gender stereotypes and norms, leading to discussions about body image, beauty standards, and the construction of femininity.
  • Barbie AND History: Barbie was introduced in the 1950s, a period characterized by particular gender roles and expectations. Analyzing Barbie's evolution over time can shed light on changing attitudes toward women's roles, empowerment, and sexuality.
  • Barbie AND Consumer CultureBarbie AND Capitalism: Examining the marketing strategies and advertising campaigns related to Barbie can provide insights into how gender and sexuality are commodified and sold to consumers, contributing to a deeper understanding of the intersections between gender, capitalism, and consumption.
  • Barbie AND Criticism, Barbie AND Backlash: Barbie has faced substantial criticism over the years for promoting unrealistic body standards, materialism, and reinforcing traditional gender roles. Studying these critiques and the ways in which they have prompted changes in Barbie's image and branding can offer insights into changing cultural ideas.
  • Barbie and Global OR International: Barbie's popularity extends internationally, leading to variations in how she is perceived and marketed in different cultural contexts. For example, including regions or countries, like Barbie AND Europe or Barbie AND Asia, could find interesting comparative studies.
  • Barbie AND Play: Studying the ways in which children interact with and interpret Barbie dolls can provide insights into how early notions of gender and sexuality are internalized and expressed.
  • Barbie AND Intersectionality OR Diversity: Barbie's representation intersects with race, class, and other aspects of identity. Exploring how different versions of Barbie have addressed or ignored these intersections can deepen the analysis of how multiple forms of oppression and privilege operate within society.