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Barbie’s ‘Shero’ dolls inspired by celeb role models got one thing wrong

Today, in honor of Variety‘s Power of Women luncheon, Barbie launched the “Sheroes” collection. Get it? The collection features six Sheroes who were modeled after the women being honored at the luncheon — Ava DuVernay, Emmy Rossum, Eva Chen, Kristin Chenoweth, Sydney “Mayhem” Keiser and Trisha Yearwood.

Overall, the message Barbie’s going for is pretty great. They’re encouraging little girls to dream big, and they now have a doll that epitomizes a great and realistic goal for when they grow up. By choosing to immortalize these powerhouse women in plastic, the brand is acknowledging it’s no longer enough to just give girls princesses to look up to — they should have creators, directors and presidents to idolize as well.

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Moreover, the women Barbie chose to create likenesses of are fabulous examples of female strength, creativity and diversity. Eva Chen is the youngest editor-in-chief of the fashion magazine Lucky, while Ava DuVernay is the only female director whose film (Selma) was nominated for an Oscar this year. It does irk me that the Sheroes are all mainly known for their contributions to the arts. I think it would have behooved them to round out the group with some humanitarians, athletes and entrepreneurs (seriously, why isn’t Malala Yousafzai represented here?). However, it was a Variety-sponsored luncheon, so the focus makes some sense.

Despite this positive message that Barbie is advocating, there is a glaring problem with the entire campaign that should be addressed. In their press release they claim that, “Barbie is honoring these Sheroes who, like Barbie, have broken boundaries, challenged gender norms and proven girls can be anything they want to be.” While this is a lovely sentiment, the dolls themselves look like pretty stereotypical Barbies, rather than women who are “challenging gender norms” and “breaking boundaries.”

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Yes, these women have all done great things, and yes they are somewhat ethnically diverse, but Barbie chose to make dolls of women who are all pretty by traditional societal standards. That’s not really breaking boundaries in my book — it’s more like politely tapping on boundaries’ doors asking if they can come in. If you’re going to launch a campaign of this nature, it’s my opinion you either have to go big or go home. There should be a transgender woman in this lineup, and an athlete who lost her leg, and a woman who beat the odds against terminal cancer, to name a few. At the very least, they shouldn’t be all have Barbie’s unrealistic body type.

Unfortunately there still appears to be a limit to how progressive Barbie will go to make a point, which is sort of ironic when the Sheroes line is all about breaking through barriers. This group of Sheroes might have been enough 30 years ago, but we have progressed significantly since then, and the dolls we give our children should reflect that.

As Evelyn Mazzocco, general manager of Barbie said in their press release, “this brand has a responsibility to continue to honor and encourage powerful female role models who are leaving a legacy for the next generation of glass ceiling breakers.” I agree, 100 percent, Barbie, but you could take it even further next time.

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