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Because Every Little Chinese Girl Dreams of Being a Blond Haired, Blue-Eyed Shopaholic


According to this story on NPR, Mattel recently opened a six-story Barbie flagship store in Shanghai, China, called “House of Barbie”. In addition to building custom-made Barbie dolls, customers can also get beauty treatments like facials, and indulge in Barbie-inspired cocktail drinks with clever names such as Barbietini, Glamourpolitan, and Pink-Me-Up. (Older customers, one hopes).

Barbie is known for being yellow-haired and blue-eyed, and thus, unless you have severe myopia, she looks antithetical to every woman born in the world’s highest populated country (1.3 billion strong). So Mattel wisely created a special Barbie for the occasion, with “pan-Asian likeness.” (Never mind that 99% of the dolls and artwork in the store show the classic blonde Barbie look). We don’t care. We wanna shooooop!

shanghai1Now, I truly hope there has been a mistake and this is not the close-up of the so-called “Pan Asian Barbie”:


Because her eyes don’t look the least bit Chinese. Well, unless Mattel was sneakily suggesting that Chinese women should get eyelid surgery to “open up” their eyes and look more like Caucasian women. But nooooooooo. That couldn’t be! You can just imagine Barbie saying, “Little Chinese girl: you look nothing like me! How come?”

At any rate, NPR reports:

The lure of the China market was one reason that Mattel chose Shanghai for its first House of Barbie. It’s aggressively pursuing developing markets, such as Eastern Europe, Russia and India, which aren’t already Barbie-saturated. But when deciding where to place the House of Barbie, Shanghai beat other contenders — including London, Paris, Milan, New York and Los Angeles — because of its strong cross-generation reaction to the doll and the brand.

“There was an amazing connection to Barbie’s values,”

What? Shopping? The love for the color pink? The pursuit of a size 00 with D cup breasts?

Dickson said. “Barbie in this culture represented a world of possibilities for girls and for women. She’s had amazing careers, she has the cars, she has the plane, she has the boyfriend — and she looks fantastic doing it.”

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Ok, ok. I understand. You need to work your butt off trying to become a president, an astronaut or a doctor, but you better look perfect doing it! Otherwise something’s missing.

As it is illustrated in this old Barbie ad:

Perfectionism (looks, career, personal life) = most potent weapon used against girls & women, as it sets them up for a life of dissatisfaction and craving.

Chinese girls – now, you can do it too! BDD and all! Yay!

Now, for the mommies out there, I highly recommend reading this report by Girls Inc., called the “Supergirl Dilemma.”

Girls say they are under a great deal of stress today. Three-quarters (74%) of girls in grades 9-12, over half of girls (56%) in grades 6-8, and just under half of girls (46%) in grades 3-5 say they often feel stressed (describes them “somewhat” or “a lot”).

There is an interesting article by the amazing Claire Mysko on the subject: “How to Help Girls Resist the Pressure to be “Supergirls

When girls get caught up in the quest to be “supergirls,” they are less likely to feel confident in themselves and celebrate what truly makes them amazing. As adults who care about girls, it’s up to us to help girls confront the pressure they feel to be perfect.

Take that, Mattel.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • jlndrr says:

    “for the mommies out there”

    well… dads too have to read that. Because (a) it’s their girls (b) they tend to push their girls to be cute, uber-cute, oh so cute, and (c) they know how to act “like boys” and should teach some of that to their girls — for them to have a wider choice of role model and behaviors at disposal.

  • elena says:

    Yes, you’re absolutely right. My bad! Fathers, as well as grandmothers and grandfathers need to be acutely aware of the message they send to children. You can have extremely mindful parents, teaching their girl about positive self-image and empowerement, but the rest of the family needs to be on the same page, too! Especially when it comes to presents, like toys and clothing. There is nothing more harmful than a strong gender separation – makeup kits or hyper-sexualized dolls for girls, and toy guns for boys…

  • Isabel says:

    I don’t mind that Shanghai Barbie has non-small eyes. Wouldn’t that be a stereotype if she did?? I’m Chinese (all my grandparents being from Shanghai) and my whole family has big eyes. I’d be offended if my special “Barbie that looks like me” had small eyes because that’s “what Chinese people look like”