Be anything. Do everything.
As long as it’s pink.
If Barbie and Girl Scouts don’t strike you as a logical pairing, you aren’t alone. Especially given the news that playing with Barbie dolls actively discouraged a group of girls in a Oregon State University study from feeling that women could handle a variety of career paths.* Just five minutes with Barbie, the study suggested, and — wham, there go your hopes and dreams, compared to girls who play with Mrs. Potato Head. Ten minutes, and I assume you’ll start spontaneously falling over and develop shrinking feet.
In theory, Barbie’s message is empowering. Be Anything. Do Everything.
But what about in practice?
Well, take the Barbie Career Quiz on the Girl Scouts Barbie tie-in page and you begin to understand why some people are already pressing the Scouts to sever their Barbie ties. I took it. It was a disaster. Here is how it went.
I didn’t start taking screen shots until I was part of the way in, but the general goal of the quiz is for you to match the Barbie to the Career-Related Implement she needs.
This is way, way more difficult than it looks.
Consider this one:
Here is what I know. Barbie is wearing a nice skirt and blouse. This seems like something she could wear as a NASA engineer or painter or –book-reader? Student? Big black bow-tier?
Was there something I was missing? Did something about this outfit scream “DEFINITELY NOT AN ENGINEER?”
I went with the easel. I was wrong.
It turns out that this is not what artists wear.
Barbie was a teacher.
I was able to guess successfully that this Barbie was a fashion designer, because I could see her measuring tape. Although I am not a skilled chef, I was fairly sure that measuring tape was not something you used in the kitchen.
I did not know what the flag was for. I still am not entirely sure.
This was the point in the quiz when I realized that if I just enlarged the window, I would be able to see what Barbie’s profession was. But, just out of curiosity, I decided to leave it as it was and see how far I could get. After all, how hard could it be? The range of professions was wide and varied. Doctor, pediatrician, skier — they would surely be easy to tell apart! Each had its own utilitarian clothing requirements.
Here, for instance, is Barbie’s idea of what a computer geek looks like. Note the pink glasses.
Only a true geek would mix pink and green like that!
But then my troubles began.
This is a veterinarian, it turns out, not a pediatrician — or, as was my first guess, the teacher from earlier on her way to some kind of Impractical Sexy Doctors-Themed party.
Nothing about this outfit said anything to me, but it seemed a little impractical for a skier and a little pink for a president. Maybe she was a Sexy Astronaut? There were definitely stars on her shirt. But no. Even a sexy astronaut would have to have appropriate leg coverage.
Was she… a census taker of some kind?
Oh, pediatrician! Okay. Would not have guessed that.
Next up: Candidate Barbie. No doubts there. All that was missing was the caribou. She could always be a proudly partisan airplane pilot, but it seemed pretty clear what they were going for with this one.
After Candidate Barbie came Astronaut Barbie, who was, at least, appropriately covered. (I like, though, that before she could accessorize with it, the Mars Rover had to acquire pink accents.)
Ballerina was another easy one.
I thought that this Barbie was an Olympian. Based on this logic, she would need a flag to wave as she marched in to the accompanying strains of John Williams music. I picked the flag. I still do not feel that I am entirely wrong. What would she need a loose propeller for, even if she were a pilot? Shouldn’t that be attached to the plane?
Apparently she was a pilot, though, and that propeller went on her plane to help her fly.
Based on the outfit alone, this was a total mystery. We know she’s not a pediatrician, but why would this person not need a diploma? A computer is useful no matter what profession you’re in, and given the glasses, this could be Barbie’s idea of a geek, if we hadn’t seen one earlier.
I went with the architectural-looking wood frame. It turned out to be correct.
I knew this person was an artist because she was carrying paints in her pocket. I think that pink thing she’s wearing is supposed to be a smock? AS LONG AS IT’S PINK!
This is a race-car driver. Her helmet was pink, naturally.
And here’s a paleontologist. Note her sensible boots with pink laces and her sensible tool with its pink handle. Even her cargo shorts have pink trim.
At the end, Barbie seemed pleased with my overall performance and added several hundred bonus points to my score, which I did not screencap because I felt that I had done nothing to deserve them.
It’s not that I have a giant anti-pink chip on my shoulder. Pink used to be my favorite color. It’s just the idea that unless something is pink, girls can’t touch it, that makes me yelp a little. How does this fit with the Girl Scouts message? Especially given that, when you hand a Barbie — even a sharp-elbowed careerist Doctor Barbie — to a small girl, she actually sheds an aspiration or two, if the Oregon State study is to be believed.
I guess Be Whatever You Want To Be As Long As It’s Pink! It Had Better Be Pink! And You Had Better Be Skinny And Your Hair Had Better Look Terrifyingly Excellent While You’re Doing It! is too long to fit on a badge.
But that’s not what the Girl Scouts should want at all.
On the one hand, it is nice to have a Generous Gift from Mattel. On the other hand, if the Girl Scouts really need money that badly, I wish they would just ask me to buy more cookies. I would gladly do it. And the cookies don’t have to be pink.
*Admittedly, it’s a small study.