Last week Mattel announced an addition to their iconic Barbie line: new doll bodies, including tall, petite and curvy. The new dolls caused quite a stir in the news and on social media, both because the iconic doll changing its iconic – and oft protested – body shape was big cultural news, and because the move was big business news. Mattel is, of course, losing market share quarter by quarter, sinking, say some analysts like a barge that’s sprung a big leak. I said last week that it’s not just Barbie that’s iconic but also career Barbie: the doll’s been a dominant cultural figure in North American girlhood for decades and the jobs she’s worked over the years reflect our changing expectations for young girls and working women. Her careers (and also her “careers”) have run the gamut from NASA astronaut to dog trainer, and her move from secretary to CEO has been a slow change, often lagging the real world, non-doll progress of women at work.
Barbie jobs are a topic of real fascination for me – what does it mean that current day Barbie careers include both princess and computer engineer? thanks Disney! – but I’m particularly interested in the bad jobs. The ones we wouldn’t consider a career and the ones that don’t really make sense alongside aspirational President Barbies.
So here today, are five of the worst bad Barbie jobs.
Coca-Cola Waitress Barbie
Waitressing isn’t necessarily a bad job. Sure it’s an often casual customer service occupation, which means strange hours and strange people, but if the tips are good you can make a living, and if the customers are polite, you can have a nice time at it. It’s a decent enough job for a people person. But this Barbie isn’t just a waitress, she’s a waitress in a theme restaurant. A Coca-Cola soda fountain theme restaurant, to be specific. This is an adult woman making her living dressing up in branded sock hop and gingham, and forced to schlep piping hot meat on rollerskates.
Sounds like a health and safety disaster to me.
Does service continue during inclement weather? Does she get to wear a branded Coca-Cola rain jacket? Do those rollerskates have sufficient arch support? Does she get a dry-cleaning allowance for that uniform? I have so many questions.
Not only does Barbie work at McDonald’s full time, she’s bringing her kid to work with her? #fightfor15, guys, this Barbie can’t afford a babysitter.
Ok, I get it. This was a tie in Barbie. It’s a relatable Barbie. It’s definitely not your usual aspirational, having-it-all Barbie. But there’s something a bit gruesome about the same old model-esque Barbie grinning her way though a double shift at McDonalds while her kid begs to go home and sleep.
What happened to you, Barbie? Are you playing tourist, learning how the other side lives, before going back to your dream home and dream doll man? Is this research for your latest movie star Barbie movie roll? Or you another victim of the economic downturn? Underemployed, permanent part time single mother Barbie, desperately hoping that the recovery will reach you soon. This is getting dark.
This is no modern day administrative assistant. Look closely, this is a Mad Men era secretary, complete with cute outfit and murder in her heart. Does secretary Barbie look happy to you? Sure she’s elegant and her workspace is sweet, but does she look like she enjoys her work? Does she seem fulfilled?
No. No she does not.
This, my friends, is a Barbie weighed down by constant sexual harassment and insults to her intelligence. A Barbie who pulls overtime to put her boss’s account in order and then grinds her teeth while he takes all the credit. Her boss grins and tells his colleagues, “oh, Barbie gave me a little help of course. All kinds of help.” Surpressing the urge to kill, Barbie just says, “Math is hard. Can I get you another coffee, sir?”
I was a babysitter and a paper delivery girl throughout my tween years. I made great tips and learned the value of hard work.
Babysitting is a great job for a kid or for a mom who’s at home with her kids and wants to make some income on the side. But this doll is part of the career line. This Barbie is a professional babysitter. Not a professional ECE or daycare owner. A professional babysitter with a plethora of pink childcare accessories.
How do we condescend to a go-getting young woman who went to school for several years studying child development, created a business plan and secured a loan, and finally opened a small business of her very own? We just call her… a babysitter.
Barbie just can’t catch a break, can she?
Like many of us, this Barbie wanted to be a marine biologist when she grew up.
SeaWorld Trainer is sort of like being a marine biologist, right? She gets to hang out with marine animals all day – once again bringing her kid to work? throw some work to babysitter Barbie, jeez! – and wear a cute pink and black wetsuit. What’s not to love?
The look of quiet, suicidal desperation in the eyes of every marine mammal kept it too small tanks and forced to do tricks for its fish. Maybe Barbie starts out happy. Maybe she starts out with high hopes and joy. But then she sees Blackfish. She sees the statistics on dolphin mothers in captivity who drown their young. She has doubts and stops sleeping at night. But Barbie has a kid and a mortgage. She needs the benefits and a regular paycheck.
She needs this job. She needs… to keep the dolphins doing tricks.
“Jump, Wanda” she says to her favourite super-intelligent, culturally sophisticated marine mammal, holding out a fish. “Jump,” she says, dying a little inside.
Whoa, this just got dark. Time for a career change, Barbie.