‘Barbie all the rage for irate girls’
By Nick Foley
December 20, 2005
GIRLS hate Barbie so much that many admit torturing, maiming and even decapitating the doll, according to British research.
The all-American toy has become a “hate figure” among seven to 11-year-old girls, who regard Barbie as a “babyish” symbol of their earlier childhood.
Researchers from the University of Bath questioned 100 children about their attitudes to a range of branded products and found the doll provoked the strongest reaction.
“When we asked the groups of junior school children about Barbie, the doll provoked rejection, hatred and violence,” said Agnes Nairn, who headed the study.
“The meaning of ‘Barbie’ went beyond an expressed antipathy. Actual physical violence towards the doll was repeatedly reported, quite gleefully, across age, school and gender.
“The girls we spoke to see Barbie torture as a legitimate play activity, and see the torture as a ‘cool’ activity in contrast to other forms of play with the doll.
“The types of mutilation are varied and creative, and range from removing the hair to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving.” Academics found the girls’ violent hatred of Barbie was linked to the doll’s “rich symbolism”. Children said they disliked the toy because they regarded it as a feminine icon, “plastic”, and an unwelcome reminder of their childhood. “It’s as though disavowing Barbie is a rite of passage and a rejection of their past,” Dr Nairn said.
The study also found that while boys expressed feelings of nostalgia and affection towards Action Man, girls’ attitude to Barbie remained hostile. The doll was regarded as an inanimate object by girls rather than a treasured toy and friend.
“On a deeper level, Barbie has become inanimate,” Dr Nairn said. “She has lost any individual warmth that she might have possessed if she were perceived as a singular person.
“This may go some way towards explaining the violence and torture.”