Real Men Play With (Barbie) Dolls

Who said that real men don’t play with dolls? Gone are the days where gender stereotypes were reinforced, especially by the patriarch of the family. In fact, studies have shown that fathers who take the time to play with their daughters helped their girls develop a higher sense of self-worth and confidence. The brand that is really trying to break its own stereotypes is Mattel, specifically for Barbie. Besides its new and updated look, Mattel saw fit to recognise and celebrate all the dads who take the time to play Barbie with their little girls with their new #DadsWhoPlaywithBarbie campaign.

The campaign focuses on showcasing actual fathers and daughters playing together, with the father, in particular, playing with a Barbie of his own. They released the first advertisement during the NFL’s AFC Championship game on 22nd January  (because what better time to grab the attention of fathers everywhere). The ad consisted of a 30-second video called “Doctor” which showcased a father playing Barbie with his daughter, with the father saying lines such as, “I’m a typical man’s man” and “Sundays are always football, and now that gets interrupted with a little Barbie time.”

This is the next step in a series of marketing campaigns that are trying to modernise people’s perception of Barbies and to give girls a new way to imagine themselves and their futures, while also increasing the public’s positive opinion of the doll.

This is fitting too, as Barbie had been gaining a lot of ire over the last few decades due to her lack of diversity and unrealistic body proportions which have been attributed to teaching young girls about negative body image.

Though it does make you wonder, why focus on fathers playing Barbies with their girls? And the answer is quite simple. Mattel has a partnership with Wake Forest University to do research on how girls’ development can be affected for the purpose of new narrative ideas. This study found that girls with fathers who contributed in their childhood (playing with them being amongst that) developed higher levels of self-worth and self-confidence, which affects how they see and conduct themselves during adulthood.

That’s not the only reason, however. Mattel is also trying to change its focus so that it doesn’t just feature toys for girls. They want to make sure to shatter gender norms with their new campaign, amongst that being the famous “men don’t play with dolls” phrase that gets turned around and taught to boys from a very young age. This way both boys and girls can grow up believing that they can be anything they put their mind to.

The campaign has been a success so far. Ever since it’s airing in January, it has become very popular and has increased expectations of the brand by 20 percent; something that only increased even more with the release of subsequent ads.

This is a nice way to move forward in giving children (and even adults) a chance to see that the world is diverse and that fathers too, play a very important part in shaping their children’s lives. Hopefully with this push, more fathers will try to play more with their daughters and be a bigger part of their lives as important role models.


Photo Credits: Mattel

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