Flat White

What are we to make of the Julie Bishop Barbie?

17 June 2021

6:15 PM

17 June 2021

6:15 PM

In a week where various state premiers are competing to steal your takeaway coffee cups in a ‘war against plastic’, ex-Deputy Leader of the Liberals and Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop has been sexualised in plastic. I mean – immortalised – in plastic. 

Mattel has officially turned Julie Bishop into a Barbie Doll. 

In the age of post-parody, this is one of those headlines that you have to check twice. Scout’s Honour, Julie Bishop is the Official Barbie Role Model for 2021 with a doll to match. This bizarre twist of reality is part of Barbie maker Mattel’s campaign to inspire little girls to ‘dream big’. 

Let’s not forget that it was only a short time ago that Barbie was on the chopping block with Grid Girls and runway models for ‘sexualising women’ and encouraging damaging, unachievable body stereotypes for little girls. Or worse, as a parent you could be accused of reinforcing gender norms. How dare you give little girls a Barbie doll – you’re supposed to give them a Biden action figure!

It’s another one of those, ‘one rule for us, another rule for you’ where if girls want to play with pretty Barbies and dream of wearing lots of nice clothes and looking great – well that’s bad. But, if you want to play with a Bishop Barbie and dream of doing absolutely nothing in politics except wearing red high heels – that’s woke. (Don’t worry, the Barbie comes with the infamous heels.) 

Mattel acknowledged that it was Bishop’s love of fashion that inspired them to turn her into a Barbie. Sometimes called ‘Minister for Fashion’, Bishop deliberately promoted the fashion industry during the course of her diplomatic work. One wonders if a woman who excelled at her job but dressed reservedly and professionally would be afforded the same offer… Far from progressive, this is a repeat of the same stereotypes for girls. Be pretty. Wear clothes most people can’t afford. Resemble a stick insect. 

This is fine, but don’t pretend this is anything other than a marketing ploy for both Barbie and Bishop. It is not activism or some kind of moral victory for women within the gender wars. 

Bishop used the Barbie announcement to remind people that she is now a member of the brand new United Nations G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council. To quote their promotional material: 

It will produce an independent report and set out recommendations on how the G7 should work together to ensure that women across the globe are at the forefront of our pandemic recovery as we build back better.

Keen-eyed readers will notice the dreaded ‘build back better’ line made famous by the World Economic Forum, who are busy using the Covid pandemic to justify the complete destruction of life as we know it. Instead of asking what Bishop is doing parading around as a Barbie, she should be grilled over her association with a movement whose primary aim is the destruction of sovereignty, individual rights, and democracy. 

As for how the UN feels about one of their ambassadors contributing to the plastic pollution problem – no one asked. Why wasn’t Bishop a paper Barbie or a renewable Barbie made from bits of old wind turbine? I guess Mattel found a way to keep selling billions of plastic dolls in a world where everyone else is being told they can’t. 

The Bishop Barbie isn’t actually for sale, so if the aim is to inspire little girls to take on the role of Foreign Minister, they probably need to actually make it available for children. 

Alexandra Marshall is an independent writer. If you would like to support her work, shout her a coffee over at Ko-Fi.

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