Mattel is commemorating the 60th anniversary of Barbie’s ascension in the toy-box world with an enormous amount of fanfare and philanthropy. Mattel, the playtime powerhouse, is aware that their doll is a symbol of young girlhood and the many hours spent playing. Mattel has always believed that “dreaming” goes hand-in-hand with pretending. After all, little girls use their dolls to act out the futures that they often wish for themselves. However, like Langston Hughes poetically warned, dreams sometimes do get deferred. Sadly, little girls often have to navigate a Dream Gap.
According to social researchers, many girls begin to doubt their potential as early as age 5. That is a horrifying thought, if the Princeton, New York University, and University of Illinois combined data is completely true. My only notion is that at age 5, many girls are just beginning to attend school. Newly enrolled in kindergarten, they suddenly have to compete with other students for a grown-up’s attention. Perhaps going from being a single child, or a child comfortable with siblings, into a classroom environment can be daunting and challenging. It’s bad when anyone’s self-esteem is eroded. It’s truly heartbreaking if girls begin this self-doubt at such a tender age.
Pundits have labeled this squashing of self-direction as the Dream Gap, and Mattel is pledging to donate funds to fight this confidence crisis. “The Barbie brand believes girls should never know a world, job, or dream women haven’t conquered. Through our global platform, we are igniting a movement to help close the Dream Gap and further establish Barbie as the ultimate girl empowerment brand,” Lisa McKnight, general manager and senior vice president, Barbie, Mattel, told the Doll Chronicles.
Looking at Barbie’s 60th anniversary, McKnight clearly points to the many careers that the versatile vinyl go-getter has pursued and conquered: “For 60 years, Barbie has championed girls, inspired generations to believe through make-believe and showed them that they have choices. With more than 200 careers, six runs for president and a trip to the moon before Neil Armstrong, Barbie continues to evolve to be a modern, relevant role model for all ages.” True to form, Barbie is now a rock climber, of sorts, lifting herself and other girls across this Dream Gap that threatens to paralyze people with shyness and timidity.
To help eliminate this distressing loss of self-belief, Mattel is kicking off the Barbie Dream Gap Project Fund. Barbie will donate $1 from every doll sold in the United States, up to $250,000, to help level the playing field for girls. Mattel’s Children’s Foundation will manage the resources. They will dedicate the funds to similarly drive organizations that are equally committed to erasing the Dream Gap. Additionally, the Mattel partnership with National Geographic spells out a bold new world of playtime make-believe. The 2019 offerings go beyond the confines of a more “traditional” female career. Barbie is showing that she’s not just a heavenly body herself. Instead, she has the smarts to study and to map the celestial heavens above.
Last year, when Barbie was a spry 59 years old, Mattel announced their intention to work toward eradicating the pitfalls that often entrap young girls. Collectors can track Mattel’s success and continuing global initiative by following @barbie during this 60th anniversary celebration. Mattel and Barbie want collectors to become actively engaged in the conversation. They urge people to join in on the topic by using hashtags #Barbie60 and #YouCanBeAnything.
In fact, the “Be Anything” mantra, which is a vocal way to silence the Dream Gap doubts, is coming to a town near you. The “Be Anything” Tour will run from March 9 through October 2019. It will stop at 36 Walmarts across the nation. At the “Be Anything” events, the Dream Gap will be discussed. Attendees will hear the personal stories and journeys of role models. While there, they can register for the chance to win up to $20,000. Potentially receiving that cash prize will make many girls’ dreams come true.
Amazon, one of the world’s largest cyber businesses, will be honoring Barbie as well. Through April 2, pop-up stores will feature an immersive Barbie experience. The “Barbie Presented by Amazon” event, in conjunction with Mattel, will occur in five major U.S. markets.