STEM Barbie, Not So Empowering

Yesterday I went to Target. I went under the guise that I needed to get face wash and maybe a few grocery items. Of course, I could do this in a much less time, and money, consuming store. But I love Target–I love walking around looking at all the things I don’t need and purchasing things some of them.

I did the same thing when I was a child. Whenever my mother needed to go to Target, I would sneak off to the toy section and peruse. I would decide if I was going to buy a toy with this weeks allowance or save up for a cooler toy. I would buy toys that I didn’t necessarily want just because I wanted to have something that was my own. I would try to define myself with my toys the way that I try to define myself with clothes today. I bought a Batman action figure that could change into a car. It cost me ten dollars, and I was proud. They would know there was more to me than the Polly Pockets. The boys would see me as an equal and want to be my friend, and the girls would respect me.

Toys were an important part of my life; they are an influential component of every child’s life. Like my younger self, children use toys to figure out how to formulate their personalities. Thus, the options they are provided with are critical. That’s why when I took a trip down memory lane last night I was disappointed to find an extremely gendered STEM Barbie.

At first, I was extremely excited. STEM Barbie? How great is that? Girls, like I did (in private far from a boy’s view) will play with their Barbie, pretending they were her and plan out their future life. I figured that with STEM Barbie, girls would ponder their potential as scientists, engineers, or mathematicians. They would start thinking about the bridges they could build, or realize that they could fight cancer, etc.

However, upon closer inspection, I was soon disappointed. STEM Barbie was not created to inspire women to build bridges (or if it was it is certainly hidden), it was set up to inspire girls to learn to build jewelry holders that are compatible with Barbie’s Dream House. It teaches them how to build washing machines, which is pretty cool, but the implications that go with that don’t need explaining.

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It was created to teach girls how to create science themed dresses. We all know that people go through years of science classes to make dresses.

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This toy is gendering the field of science. It is letting girls know that they have a different place then men and it is in the home. After years of hard work getting a degree, they can use their knowledge to create a more fabulous home and dresses. Do I even have to mention the only STEM Barbie that I could find at my local Target was white?

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This could have been done so much better.

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