Barbie's Role in Shaping American Society

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In 2006, American women have many career and lifestyle choices available to them, but it wasn't always that way. For four generations now, young American girls have learned what society expects from them through the eyes of a 12-inch molded plastic doll. Since her introduction in 1959, Mattel's Barbie doll has epitomized, and in many cases, led the way in the changing roles of women in contemporary American society. With her stunning good looks, expensive sports cars, flashy designer wardrobe, handsome boyfriend, and varied careers, Barbie has served, for better or worse, as the ultimate role model for young girls for over 40 years; and has become a cultural icon that has consistently represented contemporary American society.

When she first emerged on the scene in the male-dominated 1950's, women's roles in society were mostly confined to being housewives and mothers. Barbie, with her skimpy zebra-stripped bathing suit, fashionable accessories, and career as a teenage fashion model presented American girls with their first look at an alternative lifestyle that did not depend on men to achieve personal happiness and fulfillment. As this generation of girls grew up, they became the founders of the Women's Liberation Movement and worked toward achieving the personal freedoms and choices that Barbie first introduced to them as girls. Achievements that today all society has benefited from.

In the 1960's, Barbie continued to lead the way towards social change as she quit her career as a model and became a college graduate. No longer confined to working as a nurse, Barbie was now a doctor, lawyer, or rock star – breaking ground in traditional male dominated professions, and young women successfully followed her into those fields in the years to come. Barbie also paved the way for the Civil Rights Movement in the sixties, as Francie, the first Black Barbie, hit the shelves and in the years that followed, Hispanic, Asian, and even handicapped Barbie dolls became...
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