Over the top, overstated, cliched, and on the money

The smash hit Barbie has been criticised in conservative media as feminist propaganda. But we have to face facts: the Barbie doll has been an agent of mass destruction -- an accessory to the crime of objectifying two generations of girls and young women.

In the film, Stereotypical Barbie’s former owner, Sasha, tells her: “You represent everything wrong with our culture. Sexualized capitalism, unrealistic physical ideals … You set the feminism movement back fifty years. You destroy girls’ innate sense of worth, and you are killing the planet with your glorification of rampant consumerism.”

Over the top, overstated, cliched, and, yeah, correct.

No better confirmation of Sasha’s rant can be found than the 26-year-old Simpson twins, Dolly and Daisy, from the English town of from Stockton-on-Tees.

They are living, breathing Stereotypical Barbies. If you are searching for confirmation of the feminist critique, search no longer.

The Misses Simpson have spent about £160,000 (US$200,000) on just about every procedure in the catalogue of cosmetic surgery. They have had matching nose jobs and breast augmentation, labiaplasty, butt lifts, lip, chin, cheek, jaw, nose and bum fillers, Botox and dental veneers.

They confess that they were obsessed with Barbie as children. Dolly told the Daily Mail: “Before we started having our procedures and surgeries, we were quite insecure about our looks. We’d always loved the look of bright blonde girls, with amazing tans and big boobs, that looked like dolls, and ever since then we have aspired to look like that.

“However, obviously when we were really young we weren’t sure how we’d achieve that because we weren’t aware of surgery, but ever since we were old enough to know about these things, we couldn’t wait to start the process. We loved playing with Barbies and Bratz dolls as kids, and then we looked up to Playboy bunnies in the 2000s as we got older.”

“We’re so happy with how we have managed to achieve our looks, but we aren’t finished yet. Before we had anything done, we just looked basic. We didn’t feel as feminine, and it didn’t feel like our looks matched our personalities or styles. We much prefer to look like Barbie dolls.”



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And why? What motivates this yearning for hypersexualisation? Just as in the movie, Dolly and Daisy are driven by a need to be ogled by the Kens of this world. And it has landed them in a very dark place.

The twins have made a careers for themselves on OnlyFans, a social media platform that allows amateur pornographers to earn money from titillating subscribers. Daisy told the Daily Star that during Covid in 2021 they each earned up to £10,000 a month by selling photos of themselves.

“I know people have had horrible times during Covid but it has been positive for us because everything has changed. We made enough money for the surgeries in the UK and now we don’t ever want to work for anyone again and we have the financial freedom to go anywhere we want.” 

"You've been making women feel bad about themselves since you were invented," Sasha tells Stereotypical Barbie. True enough, but Barbie is far from being the only guilty party.

A whole industry has sprung up to pornogrify women. It’s called cosmetic medicine, but as American bioethicist Alice Dreger once commented, it “looks a lot more like hairdressing than health care”. The cosmetic surgery industry took in about US$69 billion in the US in 2022. While cosmetic surgery is important for some women – ask Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani woman shot in the face by the Taliban – in many cases, it contributes to the objectification of women.

As the feminist scholar Sheila Jeffries suggested in her book Beauty and Misogyny, Western beauty practices such as breast augmentation and labiaplasty ought to be regarded as “harmful cultural/traditional practices” – just like female genital mutilation.

It’s unlikely that the scathing mockery of Barbie dolls in the film will make a dent in the market for cosmetic surgery and procedures. Industry experts predict that it will be worth US$146 billion in the US in 2030. But hopefully it will prompt some women to think twice before going under the knife. 


Michael Cook is editor of Mercator 

Image credit: Dolly and Daisy Simpson / NewsRme screenshot

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