We're not going to stop playing Barbies

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Barbie has survived a barrage of barbs over her 57 years as the reigning fashion doll. Her unrealistic figure, including feet that are shaped to accommodate high heels, have brought her under fire. Despite attempts to discourage girls from engaging with this affront to the female form, a Barbie doll is purchased every three seconds somewhere in the 150 countries where the doll is sold. 

Girls have been “playing Barbies” for nearly six decades and to secure her longevity, Barbie has been tweaked over her lifespan. Last year Mattel released its traditionally blonde Barbie doll in a variety of skin tones, hairstyles and outfits to appeal to a larger demographic. Most recently, Barbie also morphed into three new body shapes: tall, curvy and petite. 

According to a 2016 report in the New York Times, sales of Barbie dolls, which had fallen in

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2013 and 2014, rose 0.5 per cent to $327.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2015. One of the reasons that there are millions of Barbies in the world is that so many of us remember playing with our Barbies. It’s a tradition we pass on to our kids.

We know that she exhibits an unrealistic body type and that, even though she can be 

dressed in a cute little lab coat and pretend to be a scientist, Barbie looks more like another kind of “career girl”. Still, there is much else in society to blame for the sexualization of women and gender inequality.

We can’t help the feeling of nostalgia that Barbie stirs. Although I don’t have daughters, if I did, it’s likely that they would have Barbie dolls. They would also likely be allowed to borrow a couple of the outfits, sewn by my grandmother that I have squirreled away. My maternal grandmother gave me my first Barbie doll and a case filled with outfits she’d created. 

Those clothes are beautiful and beautifully made but would not quite measure up to the hundreds of outfits on display at Montreal’s Barbie Expo. This free exhibit the prestigious Les Cours Mont-Royal mall in the heart of downtown Montreal, features more than 1,000 Barbie dolls, each modelling a different outfit created by some of the world’s finest fashion designers. Presented in row upon row of glass cases, the themed displays represent movies, celebrities, fashion trends and more. There is even a “Barbie box” photo opportunity. 

The Expo was one of the highlights of a recent trip to the city that is celebrating its 375th anniversary this year. Find out what to see and do in Montreal this year in the “Tween” section this month and at cityparent.com. Also see who is in the Barbie box.


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