For Women, A Cultural Awakening Thanks To Barbie, Playboy, and Trump

By Marilou Johanek
The Blade, Toledo, Ohio.

Maybe in half a century, historians will look at 2015 as the year the tide turned for those who were born female in America.

Maybe in hindsight, perspective will suggest that a small, but real, gender awakening occurred that confounded a culture rife with sexist attitudes and commercialism.

Maybe our daughters’ daughters will note 2015 as the year that launched a serious behavioral correction to the objectification of half of the American population.

Maybe in a year that records two accomplished women running for president of the United States, it is no coincidence that Mattel’s Barbie dolls aren’t flying off the shelves as they once did.

Maybe in 2015, Playboy magazine really thought it would make a difference if it nixed fully nude centerfolds. Maybe the Miss America pageant really thought emphasizing scholarship money would mitigate its parading of beauties in swimsuits and sky-high heels for entertainment.

Maybe Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate and beauty pageant owner, really thought 21st century women wouldn’t be offended by his sexist barbs and putdowns. But maybe, as Bob Dylan foretold more than 50 years ago: “The times they are a-changin’.”

Perhaps it is Pollyannaish to see progress for the sisterhood in slumping Barbie sales and a storied magazine deciding to become less pornographic. We live in a world bombarded with Victoria’s Secret-like images of idealized, airbrushed, unrealistic models of feminine perfection.

Yet perfect Barbie, with her perfect hair, clothes, shoes, physical dimensions, boyfriend, and accessories, isn’t resonating with young girls in 2015. Sales of Mattel’s largest brand of toys are on track to slip for a fourth consecutive year.

Even a high-tech talking Barbie can’t pull youngsters away from the popular Elsa doll. The empowered Disney princess from Frozen and her younger sister, Anna, are models of brains and beauty who don’t need to be rescued by Prince Charming — or validated by dating a gorgeous Ken doll.

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