"I think Barbie was a feminist because in 1959 a doll was proposed that is unmarried, that has no children. It's Barbie's car, it's Barbie's plane , everything belongs to Barbie and finally Ken is an accessory in the world of Barbie "Anne Monier, curator of the Barbie exhibition at the Musée des Arts décoratifs, explained on Saturday March 9 on franceinfo. An exhibition that took place from March 10 to September 18, 2016 in Paris.
Barbie doll turns 60 this year. It sells 58 million copies per year. It was created in 1959 by the American Ruth Handler who was spending her holidays in Switzerland with her daughters who came across Lili, a blonde German doll. Ruth Handler is the co-founder of The Mattel Company. One of her daughters is called Barbara and some time later Barbie was born.
franceinfo: If today Barbie is criticized and mocked, when it was created at the dawn of the 60s there was something innovative?
Anne Monier: When Ruth Handler [creator of Barbie] meets Lili, this famous German doll in the window of this Swiss store [which inspired the Barbie doll], she already wants to offer little girls a three-dimensional doll. She has watched her daughter Barbara a lot play with cutout paper dolls on which we glue paper dresses and she wants to offer the same in 3D so that they can project themselves into their lives as active women, working women and not just in their life as a mother. Finally at Mattel nobody wants to follow her because this doll with breasts that worries a lot the male executives of the company which she nevertheless co-founded and she comes back with Lili saying that she would like it to be a toy.
How to explain the silhouette of the Barbie doll?
This silhouette is imperative to stick to the time when Barbie was born at the end of the 50s, when we are still in the imagination of pinups with very thin waists, very conical breasts really forward. . There is also the imperative of the toy. If Barbie has such a long neck it is also to pass clothes on, this very thin waist allows you to catch her, to handle her well. We really have this image of the child clutching Barbie's waist. Barbie works very quickly, from the beginning of the 60s she has trades, nurse, flight attendant, it's stereotypical but in 1965 she is still an astronaut, she is the first to walk on the moon, in 1970 , she is a surgeon, then she will be Olympic downhill champion. But what Barbie represents above all is the consumer society of the Trente glorieuses, the triumphant economy where we can afford all this society of leisure and consumption. Barbie, I imagine her a hundred years old, but I would like her to go further in her ecological awareness, because Barbie is also the use of plastic. Today it's a little embarrassing.
The feminist and sexual revolution of the 70s, does it escape him?
It does not escape him that much, even if it is very little marked. She changes her look. She has a really hippie look. In the 60s, all of Barbie's wardrobe was focused on her social activities, the dress for tea, the dress for a vernissage, etc. But I think Barbie was a feminist because in 1959 we proposed a doll that is not married, that has no children. It's Barbie's car, it's Barbie's plane, everything belongs to Barbie and finally Ken is an accessory in the Barbie universe. He's not a dominant male figure at all, he's there because Barbie needs a mate to go to the ball. I think Barbie was a feminist and today Mattel is trying to find her roots, we see it with careers, with a Barbie game designer. She has four silhouettes available, rounder, taller Barbies that sell out. I've seen tests Mattel does with the kids and they run into the rounder, blue haired Barbie.