Yes, Barbie’s blankness, and her huge stockpile of accessories, reflects back consumer culture to the girls who play with her. And yes, her improbable figure mirrors our cultural obsession with the shape of women’s bodies. But that very lack of specific personality also leaves her open to interpretation, for the immeasurable power of girls to imagine many different ways of being.

Barbie, the original “influencer,” was also a proxy for girls’ imaginations and aspirations. Whether she dons a ballgown or a power suit, whether she drives a scooter or a food truck, she is the most democratic of dolls. When she was introduced in 1959 she cost $3, or about $26 today. Modern Barbies are less expensive—most start at around $15, and you can get chicken farmer Barbie with a playset for $17, or a two-pack of a reporter and camerawoman $19, for your budding investigative journalist. For comparison, the aggressively wholesome American Girl doll is vastly more expensive, running well over $100 each.

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The one thing that Barbie has never been is a mom (though there was that one disastrous and creepy pregnant Midge doll, which Mattel discontinued after critics claimed that it promoted teen pregnancy). This is likely because of Barbie’s strange agelessness—she can always be viewed as a teenager, though many of her iterations suggest that she is a fully grown woman who has been to college and has a career (see: paleontologist Barbie, robotics engineer Barbie, and Mars Explorer Barbie).

This may seem like a small detail, but in retrospect I appreciate it. As a young girl I was surrounded by toys that were a proxy for motherhood. I remember laying in bed at about age seven, feeling guilty that I hadn’t spent enough time with my Cabbage Patch doll that week. I never felt guilty about Barbie—she could take care of herself. My sisters and our friends spent hours creating narratives around our Barbies, where they worked, where they lived. We made them into everything from rock stars to Little House on the Prairie-style pioneers.

So yes, I understand my mother’s reticence about bringing Barbie into a house full of girls. But Barbie didn’t do the damage she feared. She may have strode in, in her mauve bathing suit, as a hated symbol of the limitations of being a girl—but she ended up being a tool for imagining the infinite possibilities of the adult lives ahead of us.

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