Imagine yourself in a kindergarten classroom. It’s time for show and tell, and a five-year-old girl is excited to show off her favorite Barbie doll to the entire class. She bounces up, full of confidence and barely able to contain her enthusiasm, then proceeds to hold up to the class a little doll with a similar skin and hair color to herself like a beacon of light for all to behold, and then, rather than explain her doll’s fairytale story full of dashing princes and knights, this five year old begins to recite the preamble to the United States Constitution, albeit haphazardly, and poses her little Barbie doll with a tiny gavel raised powerfully in the air, as if she’s some sort of superhero ready to fly up and shatter any glass ceiling in her way.
That’s right, the girl’s favorite doll is a judge.
There have been only four female justices in the history of the United States Supreme Court, but Barbie and her powerful girl squad just added four more. The latest dolls in the career barbie series don the black robes seen before on the likes of the notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg and trailblazer Sandra Day O’Connor, but this time, the robes are on four cute Barbie dolls of apparently different ethnicities, each one complete with her own tiny gavel.
Now, I understand that as a young woman who plans to attend law school and begin a legal career in the near future, I may be way more excited by Judge Barbie than most people. I also understand that there are people who are generally annoyed by Barbie dolls, people who may believe dolls give little girls an unhealthy idea of feminine physical perfection and unrealistic standards by which to eventually judge themselves as young women, and others who may see Barbie as nothing but evil patriarchal propaganda that propagates oppressive beauty standards for profit. I get it, I really do — but I think everyone needs to chill out for a minute, realize that it’s not that deep, accept that kids are allowed to enjoy things even if they seem silly or unrealistic or otherwise flawed to adults and simply enjoy how cool these new dolls are.
If unrealistic dolls are going to put crazy ideas in little girls’ heads about who they want to be as adults, it’s absolutely fabulous for little girls to get the crazy idea to become civically valuable and highly educated citizens capable of influencing society when they grow up. We live in a constitutional democracy after all, not a monarchy, so there should be more judge dolls, politician dolls, first lady dolls and madame president dolls than princess dolls. Those are more realistic life paths, however far-fetched they may seem.
Personally, I can’t express how much I love Judge Barbie. I can easily think back to the simple joy I experienced from playing with dolls as a kid and inventing worlds for them to inhabit. I can vaguely remember the wild storylines I used to invent and the adventures I’d make my Barbies go on, so imagining that little girls will get the same joy from playing with a doll wearing the black robes is surreal.
It’s amazing to think that some future lawyer, future judge or future Supreme Court justice might first begin to imagine herself in such an esteemed position at such a young age because of a little piece of plastic molded and colored to look somewhat like her, dressed up like something that, before, seemed so far out of reach. It’s amazing to think a fictional court case complete with complicated moral queries might work its way into some little girl’s game, that she might write up a fake Constitution or list of laws for her little plastic judge to interpret, and that maybe after some time playing with Judge Barbie, she’ll grow interested in becoming the real thing. Little kids are so much smarter and more thoughtful than adults give them credit for, and even the earliest moments of someone’s childhood can have a profound influence on their future academic direction and eventual career choices.
I’m convinced that at least one little girl will unknowingly start her path toward a successful legal career with a Judge Barbie in her hand. On her law school graduation, her mother might giggle and cry and pull out an old photograph of that same girl from when her age was only a single-digit number, smiling at the camera with a Judge Barbie in one hand, a cheap plastic gavel in the other, her mother’s high-heeled shoes on her feet to make her feel taller and a crazy feather boa around her neck, which she imagines to be the lacy collar of her black robes. Her mother may look up at her grown daughter, now donning very real graduation robes as she receives her juris doctorate, and she’ll be so struck by how things can change so drastically and so quickly, yet also stay exactly the same.
If you ask me, any silly little thing that can plant big dreams in a child’s mind is exactly what we need more of in the world. A small dose of realism may force them to adjust their goals later, but I pray most children keep their childish enthusiasm as long as humanly possible. So, to every little girl clutching a Judge Barbie doll, I say: onwards and upwards. Keep your crazy dreams. Keep them close to your heart, and pursue them without remorse. The world needs all you can give.
Sophia Cabana is a senior history and independent scholars double major. You can contact Sophia at firstname.lastname@example.org.