A new line of Barbie dolls, which were released to encourage girls to choose professions like engineering, research and science, are in the midst of a sexism row. Critics have thrashed the manufacturers for promoting gender stereotypes as the toy set includes a doll dressed in a lab coat with a mini skirt and plastic accessories to build a closet, washing machine, rack for shoes and jewelry, and other domestic appliances.
Critics say the dolls, manufactured by Thames & Kosmos, reinforce stereotypes of women doing household chores rather than promoting them to go into science and technology. "It's not a bad thing to encourage more girls to be interested in science and technology roles," the Strait Times quoted Jo Jowers, spokeswoman for Let Toys be Toys, which campaigns against marketing toys just for girls or boys.
"It's unfortunate there is a perception this encouragement always has to be through the filter of pink toys or things associated with women's traditional roles in the household or society," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Dame Athene Donald, Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge University and president of the British Science Association, told the Daily Telegraph: "This is a schizophrenic solution to getting girls more interested in engineering. In a way, they are addressing the problem, but they are also sending out a message to boys that they don't need to get involved with washing."
"It's damaging as it reinforces stereotypes that women do the chores, despite shared parental leave and work patterns now meaning housework is usually split between men and women. Children should not be restricted as to what they can build – we should just let them play," she added.
A report o Heatst revealed that Thames & Kosmos defended "Barbie Stem Kit", which is targeted at girls aged between four and eight, saying it contained several items children would expect to find in a home.
"The kit contains seven different experiments including a greenhouse with an integral fan to prevent plants from wilting to building a mechanical washing machine from scratch, all of which reinforce a number of key Stem skills," the company said in a statement.
The doll is targeted at girls aged 4 to 8 and retails at £30 ($37).