Girls' Toys: Then & Now

What message do they send?


Girls' Toys

Just by their unique nature and the way they were created, girls play differently than boys do & with different toys as well. Boys are builders and heroes-LEGOS, blocks, trucks, cars, firemen, dragons & knights, ect. are the toys you'll find them playing with. But more often than not, little girls are found playing house in their play kitchen with their dolls and strollers at their side.

If you would walk into a room with a little girl and a little boy and on the floor is a set of trucks and cars on one side and a baby doll and dress up clothes on the other what would happen? Who would be attracted to what? As Stasi & John Edlredge talk in their book "Captivating", which talks about the nature of a woman's soul, women are nurturers fashioned to be compassionate and loving towards others. This is why it is more natural for the girl to be gravitated toward the baby doll.

But girls' dolls are not what they used to be. Hypersexualizing the market of girls' toys is something on the rise that many are oblivious to. When we walk into the girls' toy aisle we are more than likely flooded with an array of pinks and purples. Most people don't think twice about this reality. "It's always been like that right?" they ask. But this is wrong-this reality is part of the effect of our over sexualized brand of girls toys. Instead of a brown play-brick doll house, a plastic pink mansion is found in its place. Instead of realistic, average looking dolls, dolls with insensible face and body proportions take their place. Theses are just a few examples of the changes seen in girls' toys over the past decade and more.

"Captivating" by John & Stasi Eldredge

Quotes about the Nature of Women

-"To be when you are older that "you can do anything a man can do" isn't helpful, either. I didn't want to be a man. What does is mean to be a woman?" (Eldredge 4)

~We have lost the idea of who a woman is by her nature. Instead most focus on what her physical appearance accomplishes (often men objectifying women) & what can a woman do.

-"[There is] an underlying, gut feeling of failure at [who the woman] is... and the result is Shame."
(Eldredge 7)

-"We, as women, define ourselves based on relationships: mother, sister..." (Eldredge 27)
~why girls play with dolls
~we like to dress up and play "mom" because it is in our nurturing and compassionate nature

~we were made to become moms and care for children

-"Every girl has a unique Beauty to Unveil"
~why it is such a problem that we have begun to distort the image of beauty

Popular Toys Through the Years & How They've Changed

Strawberry Shortcake Cartoons Version 1-2-3




Barbie-1959 to Today


Barbie Evolution-1959 to 2009


Barbie's Figure

Top Picture: How Barbie's Body has changed since the 90s

Bottom Row: Doll on the left is the standard marketed Barbie doll of today, the doll on the right was created based on the average 19 year old American woman's body

Nickolay Lamm created a spin-off of Barbie using an average 19 year old girl's proportions. His doll is shown above next to a marketed Barbie. He said in an interview, "I created normal barbie because I want to show that average is beautiful."
If a woman were to have Barbie's exact body proportions, she would not be able to function. Her waist would be 16 inches. Her wrists would be 3.5 inches thick. Her legs are 50% longer than her arms, where an average woman's legs are 20% longer than her arms. Her ankles would be 6 inches and would not be able to support the weight of her body, so she would have to walk on all fours like an animal.
Barbie's proportions drawn on a real woman.

Barbie Before and After Makeup

The nature of makeup is to enhance one's natural beauty. But does Barbie's image today send a message to a young girl that she isn't pretty without her makeup, that she has to hide every imperfection on her face?

Negativity Taken to the Extreme

Many people have strong negative opinions of Barbie due to her unhealthy and unrealistic body proportions. However, there are many positive aspects of Barbie as she helps kids create and dream up stories of how her and her friends will play together. She has also encouraged girls to work toward whatever career they dream of as well as broken racial stereotypes. Of course, her body proportions are not ones we should be stressing on our young girls, nor the amount of makeup she wears but she is not the only hypersexualized girl toy on the shelf.


Positive Aspects of Barbie

Barbie's Professions

One positive image that Barbie has provided through the years though is the reality of women in the professional working world. She no longer stays at home and takes care of housework all day but instead is shown going after her dreams and becoming the woman in the workforce she wants to be, against all stereotypes. Barbie's line "I can be..." features Barbie as a chef, a doctor, a professional business woman, and many other career figures.

Variety of Races in Dolls

Though not original to Barbie herself, the company has been introducing more lines of other ethnic and racial Barbie dolls such as Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, Indian, Africans, ect. many of which come with traditional and cultural clothing.

Below: In 2012, Barbie launched the "I Can Be...President Doll" in honor of the U.S. Presidential Election. This line, complete with 4 Barbies of different races, was created to inspire young girls to become leaders as these barbie dolls stand on their own, literally. With her new shoe design, President Barbie can now stand on her own two feet (without a doll stand) on her presidential platform as she calls for girls to "B inspired," "B informed" and "B involved."

African American


Final Analysis

In a society where women want to be treated as equals to their male counterparts, this same society pushes for an even greater divide between the genders as girls toys are hypersexualized. This is something that not many people are aware of because it is a process that unfolds overtime. However, this reality that we live in with the hypersexualization of toys is something that we should take notice of. As the toy dolls get skinnier so do young girls' confidence levels. Of course a 7 year old girl may not starve herself so she looks like her doll Barbie but with a constant flooding of skinny supermodel-esque Barbies and as other dolls and toys follow suit, the young girl cannot help feeling fat or ugly when her toys look better than her. This negative influence of how far girls' toys have come over the years is a reality and something that parents need to consider. It is more important than ever for parents to build up a girls confidence at home and instill in her what true beauty is-their daughter can be beautiful just the way she is, despite what her toys' underlying message is.
Angela Kilburg

Mr. Brasko Sociology Presentation #1