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My pitch for a First Amendment Barbie

Posted 10/16/19

I found a Barbie shoe under the bookcase last week. Revealed by the swish of the broom, it is a souvenir of some long-forgotten afternoon when my daughter played with her dolls on the living room …

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My pitch for a First Amendment Barbie


I found a Barbie shoe under the bookcase last week. Revealed by the swish of the broom, it is a souvenir of some long-forgotten afternoon when my daughter played with her dolls on the living room floor.

It is an old-style Barbie shoe, classic Pepto pink with high heels from the time when Barbie feet were on permanent tiptoe. These days, Barbie has articulated ankles that have finally permitted her to wear flats.
In an effort to present a more inclusive and wider range of beauty, Mattel, Inc. introduced three new Barbie body types in 2016. There are now tall, petite and curvy dolls meant to reflect more realistic body image and address longtime criticism of the traditional doll’s stick-thin looks. The new doll line also features seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles.

Debuted in 1959, Barbie was originally a swimsuit-wearing, teen fashion model. But she has had many incarnations through the years. She has been re-made as a veterinarian, rap musician, surgeon and presidential candidate. She has driven a dune buggy, a pop-up camper and, of course, a whole fleet of convertibles. The first Latin and African American Barbie dolls were officially launched in 1980. The Twiggy doll, introduced in 1967, was the first in a line of celebrity dolls.

This past August, Mattel released two new dolls honoring civil rights activist Rosa Parks and astronaut Sally Ride. Rosa Parks wears a hat and gloves and appears to be on her way home from work. The Sally Ride doll wears a flight suit. The dolls are part of the “Inspiring Women Series” of Barbie dolls launched in 2018, which honors historic woman role models such as Amelia Earhart, Katherine Johnson and Frida Kahlo. (Incidentally, according to a BBC report, Kahlo’s family has criticized the doll’s appearance, disparaging its lack of skin color and Kahlo’s distinctive unibrow. Sales of the doll have been banned in Mexico due to a court ruling that says the family owns the sole rights to her image.)

Last week, Mattel rolled out its 2019 “Career Doll of the Year.” The company chose a judge after finding out that only 32 percent of sitting U.S. state judges are women, according to CNN. The doll comes with a gavel and is dressed in robes. Mattel also introduced a line of gender-inclusive doll kits which lets kids customize a doll that isn’t determined by gender rules.

Barbie has come a long way. What will be next?

I propose a new line of dolls dedicated to woman journalists. We could call them “The First Amendment League,” and include a copy of the Bill of Rights. (To its credit, Mattel already has a Martyna Wojciechowska doll, celebrating the Polish journalist.)

But how about a Nellie Bly doll? Or Ida B. Wells? Maybe a few famous woman war correspondents such as Christiana Amanpour or Martha Gelhorn? Perhaps a Cokie Roberts doll is in order, memorializing the beloved NPR and ABC reporter who died in September.

In our era of so called “fake news,” perhaps the best choice by far would be Katherine Graham, the brave and principled Washington Post publisher who released the Pentagon Papers.

Who though, could we enlist as “Ken”? Maybe a Bob Woodward doll is in order. What do you think?


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