You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

March 9: Barbie

Lawrence Bush
March 9, 2010

torah-barbieRuth Handler’s Barbie doll was introduced to society at the New York toy fair on this day in 1959. Handler’s creation represented a quantum leap in the understanding of doll play among preadolescent girls, who, judging from the sales figures, were less interested in “mothering” their dolls than in projecting their sexual and social aspirations onto them. Three Barbie dolls are now sold every second somewhere in the world, and the Mattel toy company, founded by Handler and her husband Elliot in their Southern California garage in the late 1940s, sells $5 billion worth of stuff every year. Mattel is even one of the world’s largest apparel manufacturers, thanks to Barbie’s lavish wardrobe. Handler died in 2002 after a long struggle with breast cancer — a struggle that prompted her to design a breast prosthetic, “Nearly Me,” that was apparently a lot closer to natural than her famous doll’s plastic bustline.
“I think they should have a Barbie with a buzz cut.” — Ellen DeGeneres

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.