Dear Working Woman Barbie


Dear Working Woman Barbie

Image credit: Shutterstock

It’s time to unleash your power . . . or at least aim for adjustable ankles

Dear Working Woman Barbie,

First, congrats on your promotion to collectible!

Second, I’m writing to ask if you’ll lend your leadership to our new “Billion Women March” in support of working women everywhere. I just know you’d be the perfect face for our cause, and not because you are poreless! Since 1999, you’ve served as the figurehead of a corps of working women representing more than 150 careers, including Astronaut Barbie, Executive Barbie, and Solo Violinist Barbie! And in 2016, President Barbie! (Oh what a step up that would be!) I know, the ambition of our march is unprecedented, but we have a shot at reaching our goal—if we mobilize all the Barbies worldwide, which would automatically swell our ranks to more than one billion. (Yes, I’ve researched the numbers. Are you aware that every three seconds a Barbie is sold somewhere in the world?!)

Who better than you, Working Woman Barbie, to rally your Barbie brethren to give the “pink slip” to the misogyny and systemic sexism still rampant in today’s workplace, from Silicon Valley to the media and entertainment industry, and from corporate America to Capitol Hill. Argh!

In anticipation of your involvement, I’m proposing our campaign slogan borrowed from the quote on your original packaging: “I REALLY TALK!” (Just imagine how great that will look on T-shirts!)

Please, please, please say yes!

Sincerely,

Joni


Dear Joni,

I’m flattered by your invitation, truly, but I must decline. Granted, my job title, in combination with my bullet breasts, make me seem like I’m one of those “at-the peek-of-my-beauty-and-top-of-my-game” female leads in a Shonda Rhimes television series, but I come with a computer CD-ROM that belies my age. Plus, my cell phone isn’t even a smartphone. I know my business card reads “Working Woman Barbie,” and that title should mean something, but really, who will take me, with my faux pearl button earrings and necklace, seriously? I’m just another pretty face. With a shelf life. Literally.

Have you tried contacting Hillary? Malala? Grammar Girl?

Sincerely,

Working Woman Barbie


Dear Working Woman Barbie,

“Just another pretty face?” Don’t drink the Kool-Aid, Working Woman Barbie! Your prettiness doesn’t equate to vapidity any more than fatness equates to laziness or having a tramp stamp equates to a lack of gravitas. (Who’s to say Ruth Bader Ginsburg doesn’t have a “Crack kills” lower-back tattoo under her robe?) And your fear of a shelf life? Maybe in Howard Stern’s fantasy world women have a trade-in date, but eeeew, let’s quickly picture something else, say the image of you and all the other Barbies of the world breaking free of your plastic molds and working together to fight (and win!!!) the war on women. Let’s start, just for kicks, by eradicating the gender earnings gap!

Sincerely,

Joni

P.S.: Regarding your suggestions for alternative spokeswomen—each one is an amazing individual. But Hillary won’t respond to e-mails for reasons too infuriating to rehash; Malala has her hands full with the Taliban; and, frankly, Grammar Girl intimidates me. (Plus, I don’t like the all-too-common use of the diminutive “Girl” as a descriptor for powerful women. To my ear, it only softens their authority.)

Dear Joni,

I’ll admit, I was tempted to accept your invitation. It does get tiresome spending day after day with little to occupy my mind beyond turning my reversible skirt inside out, inside out. And you can imagine my frustration given that neither my coffee mug nor my “magazine” comes with any contents. But I already have a full-time job. As I posted on Facebook a few years ago on Valentine’s Day, “My heart only beats for Ken.” My man likes me at home. (And just cleaning up after him feels like never-ending work.) Plus, you should have heard him after I mentioned I was thinking of joining your cause.

“Babsie (Babsie is Ken’s pet name for me), why would a pretty thing like you wanna lead a parade of unf**kables?” (Pardon Ken’s French.) Plus, he reminded me that most Barbies can’t even count to 10, let alone a billion. Remember how Teen Talk Barbie admitted “Math class is tough!” and then the American Association of University Women were so mad at her she had to have her computer chip adjusted? I wouldn’t wish that on anyone!

Sincerely,

Working Woman Barbie

P.S.: Gender earnings gap? Is that like thigh gap? Isn’t that a good thing? (I certainly hope so, given my legs!)


Dear Working Woman Barbie,

Here’s a quickie explanation of the gender earnings gap: white women typically earn about 78 cents for every dollar a man makes in almost every profession, and the wage gap is even worse for women of color. Put another way, your boyfriend Ken could really use a gender-sensitivity and sexual-harassment workshop. Perhaps you should ask him why he feels so threatened by feminists?

My offer remains on the table.

Sincerely,

Joni

P.S.: Take heart that your math skills are better than, say, the head of Fox News, who recently gave Bill O’Reilly a golden payout of about $25 million. Now that was a colossal miscalculation.


Dear Joni,

Ken would never admit that he feels threatened by feminists, but I will. Feminists hate me! They hate me! They make fun of my proportions (32-16-29) and my scrawny nine-inch neck (measurements that presume I can just transform myself into a five-foot-seven, 110-pound woman any time I want—as if).

Way back when, I was conceived as an alternative to all those cutesy baby dolls on the market that corral little girls into playing traditional domestic roles. Way back when, I was a symbol of female empowerment. But now feminists accuse me of perpetuating the idea of women as fantasy sex objects. They say I cause little girls to have self-esteem issues. Well I say body shaming is a two-way street! I’d like to see those feminists try walking a mile in my heels. And when I say heels, I mean my actual heels that are anatomically incapable of allowing me to walk flat-footed, which make loafers not just a poor fashion choice with pencil skirts but an actual impossibility!

Excuse me (not) if my body just happens to be modeled after a French whore doll!

Sincerely,

Working Woman Barbie


Dear Working Woman Barbie,

You do REALLY TALK! And what a powerful voice you have! The very fact that you have felt discounted and vilified for your own looks only serves to infuse your power with passion. You understand the damage done when women themselves are complicit in this pattern of valuing or devaluing one another based on their bodies. Such behavior mimics our true opposition, those people who try to divide and conquer us by perpetuating dissent over our shapes, our appearance, and who wore it best. Who cares who wore it best!

One of the issues the Billion Women March does care about is shifting a workplace culture in which professional women are evaluated on their clothes rather than their job performance. Consider this recent incident: a female TV anchor in Australia was called out by a major newspaper for wearing the same blouse she’d worn four months, or 125 outfits, earlier; meanwhile, her male coanchor wore the same suit every day for a year and never received a word of criticism.

How do you respond to a story like that?

Sincerely,

Joni


Dear Joni,

What color was the blouse? Because if the anchorwoman has a “summer” skin tone and the blouse made her complexion look washed out . . . (Ha ha. JK.)

Truly, my sympathies lie with your cause. But I am scared—and for good reason. You may recall just a few years ago how Hello Barbie got herself in real hot water when she didn’t just repeat preprogrammed phrases but actually participated in two-way conversations with her six- to eight-year-old demographic. Thanks to speech-recognition software, she was able to not only chat but also listen and empathize in response. Well, the next thing you know, social media is burning up with a “Hell No Barbie” campaign, with people accusing her of surveillance of little girls and being a pawn for cyberattackers.

What if I talk, I mean really talk about issues such as male privilege in the workforce or victim blaming or intersectional feminism or strategies to overturn the androcratic order? (Yes, I’ve been doing a little reading while Ken’s been out with his poker buddies.) You and I both know the backlash Hello Barbie had to endure is a tickle party compared to what happens when a woman speaks out against sexual harassment at work or dares to challenge gender-based discrimination. I can just imagine what the trolls on Twitter would have to say about me: “WORKING WOMAN BARBIE in bed with a billion other bitches. HOT but SAD!”

I could lose my status as a collectible. I could be price slashed! I’m sorry, but I can’t take the risk.

Sincerely,

Working Woman Barbie


Dear Working Woman Barbie,

Honey, I know you’re scared. We’re all scared, and with good reason. But there’s scared and then there’s scared scared. I’m scared I’ll be accused of being oversensitive or humorless when I point out that jokes about rape aren’t funny in the break room; indeed, they’re not funny anywhere, anytime. But I’m scared scared that efforts are under way in Congress to weaken the Violence Against Women Act.

I’m scared when confronted with the kind of ignorance apparent in this comment from a guy friend about my last book: “Gee, there’s a lot of references to science; did your [male] editor help with those chapters?” But I’m scared scared when a religious zealot a heartbeat away from the presidency of the United States believes mothers shouldn’t work outside the home. (Solution: cut funding for after-school programs.)

I’m scared when I read how a sheriff’s deputy in Georgia recently told a mom she couldn’t breastfeed her baby at the Piggly Wiggly because someone might find it “offensive.” But I’m scared scared when I think of my young adult daughters navigating a world where punitive and regressive measures are being taken to repeal laws allowing women to bring lawsuits against pay discrimination, and where a GOP Congressman can seriously ask why men should have to pay for prenatal care.

Which are you, Working Woman Barbie—scared or scared scared? Because the time has come for all of us to stick our necks out against these kinds of assaults (even if our neck only has a nine-inch circumference).

Sincerely,

Joni


Dear Joni,

Last night I told Ken I was going to lead the Billion Women March! Alas, he was not happy at all with my decision or that you and I have continued to exchange e-mails. (You might want to keep your cat inside for a few weeks.) Still, I persisted.

“But what about all those little girls out there who want to grow up to be working women?” I said. “How can I be a role model for them if I don’t live up to the promise on my packaging—‘I REALLY TALK!’”

“Do you ever,” Ken manterrupted me. And then he went on and on about how I’m just a dumb fashion doll and how we come from Wisconsin, a red state, and if our neighbors got wind of the fact that we’re actually named for a brother and sister, how that would go over. “Listen, Babsie,” he said [God, how I hate that nickname!], “you might be Working Woman Barbie and a collectible and all, but you’re no Totally Hair Barbie, man. That Totally Hair chick is like totally wow!”

Those were Ken’s exact words—“That Totally Hair chick is like totally wow.” So I gave up. I just gave up and laid down on my hot pink couch and kicked off my shoes because my feet hurt. My feet always hurt. In fact, they’re killing me right now.

Sincerely,

Working Woman Barbie


Dear Working Woman Barbie,

I feel your pain. I really do, every time I wear my favorite pair of five-inch heels. But our e-mail exchanges further convince me that you would make a remarkable leader and that if our Billion Women March is to succeed, no Barbies must be left behind. That said, I will leave you in peace (for now) and with an open invitation to join our cause whenever you see fit. Your voice will always be needed and appreciated.

Sincerely,

Joni

P.S.: Just one more thing. Did you know that now the Barbie Fashionista line features adjustable ankles so she can rock comfy shoes? I bet you could request the same.


Dear Joni,

Seriously?! Why didn’t you say so in the first place? I’m in—right after I buy some flats and update my relationship status on Facebook.

Sincerely,

Working Woman Barbie


Have you ever had an e-mail exchange with Barbie or something equally as absurd? Submit to Laughs and spread the fun!


Joni B. Cole is the author of the new release Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better & Be Happier. For more information, visit www.jonibcole.com.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.


Send to friend

Help us improve ESME by answering this survey.

Download our ESME app for a smoother experience.

Get the app Get the app