Why I Am Participating in the Barbie Project

The Barbie Project

Mattel invited me to be part of a play experiment.

A few weeks ago I received a unique invitation from Barbie™ to participate in a play experiment with the brand. The idea behind the project is to have a group of moms with young daughters observe and engage with our girls as they play with their Barbie dolls and share on our blogs what we learned about the space the girls create with their play. What stories and characters, creative themes, adventures, and challenges did they imagine while they played?

Our two main objectives with the play experiment are:

  1. W e are to watch and engage with our child during play, challenge our own stereotypes, and get to know our child better by discovering more about the stories they create while at play. In fact, the only real directive we were given about the project: Get down on the floor and play.
  2. We are to focus on the act of “play” in general, the value of it, and think about how little of it we really allow our kids these days and how we can increase that.

Before I go further I want to say this, because I realize my involvement in this project with Barbie™ may come as a surprise, but Mattel and Barbie™ knew exactly who I was and what my brand and message was about when they invited me to join this project. I think that invitation is really important, and here’s why:  It creates conversation.

Through my work with Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, the Brave Girls Alliance, and my book “Redefining Girly” I am committed to two things: honoring childhood through the value of quality play and media, and creating meaningful change.

I feel The Barbie Project gives me this opportunity. This project brings together a diverse group of mom bloggers from the United States and Canada to share what we learn from our daughters. Most importantly, we get to share what we learn in our own words, on our own blogs. Our observations, comments, and photos will then be shared with the Barbie social media community. None of us are sure what we will discover along the way or how this will end, so it feels like an organic journey. I’m really interested to see what I learn from my eight year old daughter Amelia, and I’m particularly interested to read what the other seven mother-daughter teams will share.

We learn from each other by listening to each other. I have a seat at the table. Amelia has her voice represented at the table. What can all of us learn from each other? During the lead in weeks to this project the Barbie Team has been really wonderful to work with, right down to the thoughtful products they sent Amelia to play with. I requested Barbie dolls that focused on doing something and we received a huge box of toys that included Barbie I Can Be….Astronaut, a scuba diver, and dolphin trainer among other things. (They also included a great learning game for Ben so he wouldn’t feel left out!)

As you consider my participation in this project and as you read my posts each month along the way, here’s what I want you to consider:

  1. I am working from within. To be invited inside requires trust and respect. I am making strides and working internally with stakeholders in women’s and girl’s conversations and experiences, especially within the parenting space. This is a unique and difficult position to earn.
  2. Working internally isn’t always splashy, viral, or “press worthy”. A lot of times it is slow, quiet work. It isn’t about making someone right and someone wrong, it is about understanding and educating and the best way I have found to do that is to have a respectful conversation.
  3. I was invited to have a conversation on a platform where I can share my experiences, Amelia’s experiences, and our points of view on girls + empowered play with a new and enormous group of parents. By virtue of showing up for that conversation I am bringing our voice and our POV to a new community.


I am bringing my points of view on girls + empowered play directly into the center of Barbie’s space. I want that to be what you take away from this post.

If nothing changes, nothing changes. Change is a journey. I hope you’ll join me on this one.


Learn more about The Barbie Project and meet the other bloggers on the project.

On twitter, look for hashtag #BarbieProject and join the conversation.

{Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign as part of The Barbie Project. All thoughts and ideas are my own.}








  1. Julianne says:

    Looking forward to following this project. I have about the same experience and opinion of Barbie as you, (everything you write about her has me nodding along). My three year old daughter has two Barbies (given as gifts) dolphin trainer Barbie and Malibu Barbie, so far she doesn’t play with them very much – they live with the bath toys right now, but I think she’s maybe just a bit young. I’m pretty sure I was closer to your daughters age when I enjoyed playing with my Barbie.
    Anyway, I think you are just awesome, as is your Amelia. I totally agree with you about engaging in meaningful dialogue, and I will be very interested to read along as this particular conversation takes place.

    • Thanks so much, Julianne! I’m glad you’ll be along for the journey. I think there is so much we can learn from our girls!

  2. You state “mothers” I hope fathers like I AM will not be excluded; I believe you know me thru my following your existing sites; Hope DAD allowed to educate hisself and participate too?

    • Melissa says:

      Hello –
      Yes, dads are welcome to be involved with The Barbie Project on social media. Learn, participate, share stories and photos….that would be great! For this campaign, the first ever of its kind, Barbie sought out mother-daughter teams. I think it would be fascinating to do a similar project with dads-daughters.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear that you’re participating in this project. I’ve followed Pigtail Pals for some time, but I don’t feel comfortable doing that anymore. There are so many ways for girls to be creative and imaginative, and they don’t have to involve sexualized, impossibly proportioned dolls. Even the outfits they wear as “professionals” are sexualized. Not all girls have moms who help them understand how the image of women in the media can be harmful, and those girls have the image as their main takeaway. You can do the same things WITHOUT *Barbie* dolls, and it feels like you’ve just forgotten about the harm it can do to the other girls who don’t have moms that can help them as you do. So sorry to see this development. All the best to you and yours, but I feel you could have done a better job helping ALL our girls by not participating in this project.

    • Shanon,
      With all due respect to your thoughts and feelings, all I ask you to consider is that your statement about “Not all girls have moms who help them understand how the image of women in the media can be harmful” is exactly why I should be doing this project.

      I haven’t forgotten anything, Shanon, I am taking my voice and my points of view into Barbie’s space. You can follow me or unfollow me, the choice is yours. But you have to understand the value and importance of showing up for the conversation.

  4. You’ve articulated the reasons you’re participating clearly. Thanks for telling us in advance. I look forward to hearing what you think.


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