Monday, October 04, 2010

Barbie: America's most over-achieving doll

She has run for president as many times as Ralph Nader, and in 2000 she may even have won the office, but then some say so did Al Gore.

Unfortunately for Barbie, there was not a Supreme Court Justice Ken.

Presidential candidate (1992, 2000, 2004 and 2008), business executive, doctor and ballerina are among the many of Barbie's careers.

Computer Engineer Barbie, who is based in part on the advice of Erin Fitzgerald, a Carnegie Mellon University trained electrical and computer engineer, is just the newest incarnation of a doll that started in 1959 as a way for little girls to pretend they were adults.

"As I was going along, I remember the frivolous side of Barbie, but then I saw the work outfits and thought they were pretty cool," said Rebecca E. Harris, director of the Center for Women's Entrepreneurship at Chatham University

Barbie doesn't just sit around Malibu, you know. She has goals, dreams (other than the house) and even a dark side (Cat Burglar Barbie -- limited edition, 2010).

Ms. Harris was born the same year that Barbie hit the scene as a teen fashion model and she grew up playing with Barbie and Ken. She had the clothes, the accessories and the body image problems from comparing herself to an anatomically impossible little idol. A better role model, Ms. Harris said, was Gloria Steinem, who will be speaking Downtown Friday.

But, back to Barbie, Ms. Harris said she loved the stewardess outfits: "I always thought that was a great career for women and then I thought, 'Why can't I be flying the plane?' and then she did." Airline Pilot Barbie debuted in 1999.

Barbie's career as a politician was built on her public service as a UNICEF summit diplomat (1990); her military career (she was a Naval Petty Officer in 1991 and Marine Corps Sergeant in 1992, an Air Force jet pilot in 1990 who moved over to lead a squadron of the elite Thunderbirds in 1994 and, while running for president, she was a paratrooper in 2000 -- Mission Accomplished); and her business background as fashion designer in 1960 and business executive in 1963, 1985 and 1999.

Clearly, however, her defeat in the presidential election in 2004 hurt.

She moved to Canada where she was a Canadian Mountie in 2005 (sold only in Canada).

That was the same year that, as a former Miss America (oddly in both 1974 and 1979), she took the nation by storm as a winner on "American Idol."

Her flying career has soared. She started her career as a stewardess for American Airlines in 1961, took a year off to be an astronaut (1965) and went back to the beverage cart for Pan Am in 1966.

She took a job as the more gender neutral flight attendant (the title, not the doll) in 1973 for United Airlines.

In 1985 she returned to outer space and, for Apollo's 25th Anniversary, she donned her space suit again in 1994.

She is an athlete who has been to the Olympics three times, in 1973 in no specific sport, but she won; as a gymnast 1996 for the games in summer games in Atlanta; and again in 1998 as a figure skater in Nagano, Japan.

The Nagano games were the same year she went into professional basketball, playing in the WNBA. The next year she added playing in the Women's World Cup Soccer tournament and became a NASCAR driver and Major League Baseball player.

Despite her many accomplishments, Barbie is not too proud to help young people.

She started as a student teacher in 1965 after working as a candy striper in 1964 (although that was a volunteer job). And her teaching career has included art, aerobics, ballet, swimming and sign language.

She was a police officer in 1993, a firefighter in 1995 and a "Baywatch" Lifeguard -- Pamela Anderson had nothing plastic on her -- in 1994.

She was a registered nurse in 1961, a surgeon in 1973 and has worked in medicine general practice, pediatrics and OB/GYN.

She has also been a dentist and, to round off her medical experience, she was a veterinarian in 2008 and 2009.

Through the years she kept the country entertained as a singer, an actress, a concert pianist, a ballerina and enchanted as a princess.

"Has she inspired young women to think outside the box?" Ms. Harris asked. "I sure hope so."

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10266/1089665-28.stm#ixzz10YiqdtHj

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