Public Relations Barbie

      7 Comments on Public Relations Barbie

A note from Jeff Morosoff: Hofstra Honors College students in my PR fundamentals class are required to submit guest blog posts throughout the semester. The following was written by Areanna Rufrano:  

Areanna Rufrano

Areanna Rufrano

Not many feminists would say that Barbie dolls are the image of female empowerment, especially after a popular Mattel Barbie book series created some controversy regarding sexism in the workplace. In a society that is fully aware of the growing feminist movement, it is evident that the Mattel company would face a major PR crisis for this recent outrage.

The source of this offense is found in the story line of the “I Can Be” Barbie book series. Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer features the iconic doll struggling to fix her computer after it becomes corrupt with a virus. Instead of being the female empowered individual she strives to be, she has to resort to the help of two male computer engineers. One of those male characters even states, “It will go faster if Brain and I help,” which many people thought insinuated males are more skillful than women.

Even though the book was published in 2010, author Pamela Ribon recently denounced the book on her website which started the heated concerns across the Internet. As a result, Mattel pulled the book from Amazon and issued an apology, saying, “The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the Brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for.”

This is not the first time Mattel and other doll manufacturing companies have encountered this type of issue. While pulling the condemned product from stores and giving an apology are good ways to manage a PR crisis, it shouldn’t stop there. The Mattel company should take more public relations action to effectively advocate feminism and to illustrate their sincere support. Your thoughts?

7 thoughts on “Public Relations Barbie

  1. Danielle

    As a kid I played with Barbies and never really found them to be a cause for low self-esteem or as anti-feminist. To be honest, this story didn’t really strike any chords in me now as a young woman. However, if Martel does want to fix their current issue, they should be doing more than a recall. They should make a doll or use other resources that promote women empowerment in the workforce. This shows more empathy toward the situation.

  2. elizah9

    Yes, Barbies do sometimes have successful jobs and tell young girls that they can be anything they want to be; however, in most cases the dolls are wearing mini skirts, heels, tight jeans, and so on. I have indeed recognized the efforts that the Mattel company has made to embrace female empowerment, but if you ask me there is more that they can do.

  3. Jennifer Im

    When the products you produce portray females with ridiculous proportions and frilly pink everything, it’s difficult to counter feminist extremists that often nitpick at these very details.

  4. bharran

    I just did a whole pop culture project on Barbie and how females are represented and effected by her. Recently, Barbie came up with the Unapologetic campaign which is intended to be the post-feminism Barbie. Barbie was on the cover of Sports Illustrated embracing the body she was created with. This was Mattel’s way of attacking critics of Barbie. Overall, I don’t think this campaign was very beneficial. Barbie and Mattel need to devise some new strategies.

  5. kwalker222

    People can twist anything they find these days to be negative and I believe this is what they did with the Barbie book. The book was not meant to be detrimental, people are just being too picky.

    I think this is going to be a very difficult challenge for Mattel. The fantasy and ideal image is what made Barbie so popular and is now being shunned for being “too perfect” or anti-feminist. There are new dolls being made to represent the average woman but I look forward to seeing if these raise in popularity or if children still choose the unrealistic Barbie.

  6. meghanazralon

    I believe that people are too sensitive lately when it comes to this issue. I really do not believe that was the intention of the writer. I was reading a blog recently and someone wrote that nobody ever discusses how the creators of Barbie always had her pushing boundaries by releasing Barbies that had all different jobs. Doctor Barbie, Astronaut Barbie, and there are so many more. I just think people always look for one little hiccup and jump on it.

    1. meghanazralon

      I apologize, I did not mean to write she was pushing boundaries. She really was telling young girls that you can be anything you want to be. She didn’t just come with pretty outfits and a kitchen set, they do make successful Barbies with successful jobs.


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