A lesson in representation from Barbie

Toy companies used to believe that a mature doll would fail. They believed that the popularity of dolls was due to the maternal instinct of young girls. However, Barbie proved this was not the case. 

Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, had a simple philosophy, “Through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be.” The same concept can be applied to modern day, too. Take social media influencers, for example. In her fascinating TED Talk, Talaya Wallerargues that you should consider each influencer a ‘digital’ Barbie. 

Waller argues that the reason both Barbie, and more recently, influencers, are successful, is because they allow us to see ourselves within them. 

Barbie has continued to follow this mantra through the release of its ‘Shero’ campaign – celebrating female heroes. This has included releasing dolls modelled on current and former female athletes such as US Soccer superstar Alex Morgan and Para-athlete wheelchair racer, Madison De Rozario

Representation is vitally important. The more brands and rights holders that recognise this – the better. This is why, in my opinion, the commercial power of women’s sport is going to grow so quickly over the next decade – to a point where it is able to match men’s sport stride for stride. 

We are already starting to see it happen. The new deal with the RFU will see O2 equally fund the men’s and women’s game from the start of the new contract in September 2021. Further developments are inevitable. 

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