Forget “Bossy”: the real key to women’s leadership is body peace.

This week, Sheryl Sandberg and LeanIn began their “Ban Bossy” campaign. I like the idea  of being more sensitive about how seemingly innocuous words we use primarily to describe young girls can affect their confidence to lead and contribute in the future (although I hate the word “ban”), but something else came out this week that made me more concerned about women leaders..

This week, The Atlantic published an article about how young girls who played with a Barbie as opposed to a Mrs. Potato Head were less likely to believe that they could do jobs in the future as well as boys could:

barbieThe children played with their respective toys for five minutes. Then they were presented with photos of 11 male- and female-dominated professions, so appointed according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.


Depressingly, all of the girls thought a boy would more likely be able to do more of both the male- and female jobs:

But the girls who played with the Mrs. Potato Head doll thought they could do more of both kinds of jobs than the girls who played with either kind of Barbie. And the “Doctor Barbie,” they found, did not yield better results than “Standard Barbie.”

(Via The Atlantic)
Sure, Barbie has a nice doctor’s jacket and a stethoscope, but what good is that when girls don’t see it as a path to doing the same? Add this together with the fact that women in swimsuits perform worse on math tests than women in sweaters, and the message seems pretty clear to me: when women have looks at the forefront of their mind, they doubt and underestimate themselves. 
40-60% of elementary school girls are worried about their weight, and 20 million American women suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. That’s a lot of women feeling that their natural bodies and selves are inadequate – from a very young age.
If we teach girls that what’s more important is what’s inside their head instead of what their body looks like, maybe they won’t beat themselves up about their bodies, or feel held back by standards of beauty. Here’s hoping that the Lammily doll takes off, promotes realistic beauty standards, starts all sorts of careers (including quite a few in STEM fields), and gives Barbie at least a brisk walk (if not a run) for her money.

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About beckawall

AU Alumni, feminist, master of peanut butter brownies. Lover of Teddy Roosevelt, politics, analyzing popular culture, and general nerdery.

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