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NCFM Mr. Manners, Plastic People – Barbie, Ken, GI-Joe, The Graduate and Who Did Steal Feminism?

September 21, 2023


“Plastic people, oh baby you’re such a drag.” Frank Zappa. “Just one word, Plastics.”  From the movie “The Graduate.”

“Regarding the Barbie movie, it has continually been noted that the Barbie doll is a piece of plastic. What is not mentioned, is the harm plastic is doing to our environment, so I will mention it hear.” Mr. Manners.

Many years ago, there was a proposal for a female companion for the GI Joe toy. Rather than have her live in a mansion like Joe, it was agreed that most boys would put her in a shoebox at night. Jane was designed to be a male fantasy of a female. A beautiful face with a perfectly proportioned body. In some versions she would have a traditional female career of the time. Even a female action figure called “Stripper Jane.”

With the many more role models for young boys about what they should be, compared to the type of female they should become involved with, “Civilian Jane” would have been a much greater influence for boys about females than the G.I Joe figure would be for boys. Needless to say, the action figures were never made. The obvious reason is that it would send messages about impossible standards that males might expect females to meet. As for the lack of controversy regarding Jane, it is not surprising because I made the whole thing up.

Which brings us to Barbie’s main squeeze, Ken. Like Jane, no doubt he is a greater influence for girls regarding what males should be, than Barbie is for females. For the same reasons, “Civilian Jane” would be for boys. In fact, there is an entertaining article about Ken in “Esquire” magazine, inspired by the then upcoming Barbie movie (The Hollow Man: What Do You Mean Just Ken). The writer of the piece Miranda Collinge pointed out that while Barbara slept in her dream house, girls put Ken in a shoebox at night. That is where I got that line. Collinge also observed about Ken: “all the guys had to do was be conventionally handsome, mysteriously rich, and nice to his girlfriend. I will add, he also needed perfect teeth. Making it difficult for lower class males to meet that criterion, as well as every man in England.

Still even in this article in a magazine tailored for men, we do not hear about how Barbie’s literal boy toy effected girl’s perception of what a boyfriend should live up to. This is in contrast with the many words written about the effect of Barbie on girls. So, we know little about expectations for males that girls receive from their interaction with the Ken doll. I wonder, do they fantasize about Ken and Barbie buying a dream house, or expect Ken to pay for the whole thing?

In fact, the possible harms to boys of action figures such as GI Joe also have received short shrift in comparison to Barbie. True, we have heard discussions of how such figures glamorize war. But what about issues about ways male action figures could be harmful to boys. For instance, do boys seek out a real gun to make GI Joe more authentic. Certainly, one would presume that boy’s emulation of toys with a military outfit, could lead to more self-harm than a girl with a wardrobe, but the literature does not reflect it.

The Ken Wikipedia entry mentions two criticisms of the doll. One:” His chest is estimated to be about 27.5% too large for a representative human male.” The other, the lack of “male genitalia.” So, we have two more Ken doll possibilities, “Steroid Ken” and “Anatomically Correct Ken.”

The first job a Ken doll had was that of boxer. Of course, to attract Barbie, Ken would not just be a boxer but a top one. This is backed up by the fact there are five different Olympic Ken’s. However, the reality of a typical boxer is that they often get their brains beat in. So, we can add another Ken doll suggestion, “Brain Damaged Ken.”

Certainly, being a boxer has a lot more damaging aspects to it than the stripper example I provided. In fact, I would argue that the negative aspects of being a boxer outweigh those of the that of the job of prostitute. Yet while so many feminists are adamant about making prostitution illegal, many celebrate that women can now box professionally.

The Sociology of Barbie

I have not seen the Barbie or even Oppenheimer movie, not out of any protest. I need to get out more. But why see both anyway? One is about a toy, the other about the guy behind the atom bomb. Pretty much the same movie. Which brings me to those pundits wondering which summer movie would draw more people the opening week. The story about the second most popular toy of all-time, or a three-hour movie about a man who faded from the media before 1960. Somehow, Barbie won out.

I have much to write about without even seeing the film, so have chosen not to watch it until completing this article. I believe I have learned enough that I can write creditably about it. If I do eventually watch Barbie, I expect it watch it with gritted teeth. That is because I tend to grit my teeth when I sit in the same place for any period. However, the more I learn and think about the film, the more I understand people’s anger regarding it.

Until recently, the “Washington Post” had a weekly humor contest called “Style Invitational. One weeklong ago, the contest was taken from a college professor’s lecture of things that wouldn’t have happened. One of his examples was, trying to quote verbatim: “Barbie always had a job.”

My belief at the time was that in fact, Babs did always have a job. After all, her job would mean accessories which make the company money. I quickly found through the internet that in fact Barbie did always have a job. One being Astronaut, in 1965. A time that there were no female astronauts in the real world. So, the stereotype about women’s roles back in 1959, the year of the first Barbie, were so well accepted that a college professor, his class, “The Washington Post” and the invitational readers just assumed it was true, so they didn’t even check it out.

In the present, because Barbie had jobs starting a year after the toy was introduced, Barbie is now viewed as something close to being revolutionary, by a lot of the media. This idea, as far as I can discern, is a theme in the movie itself.

As for the media, the publication “Bright Side observed” “Barbie launched in 1959, in a time when it was taboo for women to work, and even more so for girls to want to work. Yet, Barbie had a job — she was a fashion model (The Bright Side, How Barbie Helped to Change the World). If in fact, Barbie working was the anomaly it is portrayed to be, find me the article written at the time saying so.

To be sure, the socialization and career opportunities regarding work for women have changed greatly since the 1950’s. However, I think the doll being considered pioneering is based on generalizations about the past. This same reasoning is used regarding people’s comments about movies. For instance, some years ago I viewed the 1955 movie “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” on the “The Movie Channel” (TCM). The film was based on a true story about an Asian female doctor falling in love with a white journalist. The movie was a major success. It received eight Oscar nominations, winning three.

I checked out comments on the internet, where a women raved about the movie and guessed it was a rare occurrence for a film about a female, Asian doctor. I think she was right about the Asian part but not the female. In fact, professional women in the 1950’s and earlier in movies is not uncommon. Another 1950’s movie with a female doctor that I know of was “Women in White”. There are lot more movies than there are Barbie careers. Still, it is worth noting that “Doctor Barbie” did not come out until 1973. *

Not to say that this film about an interracial relationship did not receive criticism. In fact, the film was controversial enough that it: “was edited in Ireland and Quebec Canada.” The reason, the male character was divorced. To rectify this situation, the motion picture was: “cut to look like (William) Holden. was single (Love is a Many Splendored Thing Wikipedia).” As we know, even today divorce is illegal all over Canada.

The year the Barbie doll came out 1959, there was also a phenomenally successful movies with the then “America’s sweetheart” Doris Day. She had a major hit called “Pillow Talk.” It was a romantic comedy where Doris Day played a successful interior decorator. It received five academy award nominations, winning for best screenplay. Similarly, Babs first job was also a traditional female one, that of fashion designer, in 1960.

What about Helen Mirren’s well-publicized narration in the movie about the pre-Barbie history of dolls? I quote here: “The problem with these dolls is that girls “could only ever play at being mothers, which can be fun” — Mirren pauses meaningfully — “for a while.” Then, she adds, her tone turning cynical, “Ask your mother. (The “Barbie” Movie Reveals the Messy Contradictions of ).”

So based on this and I would guess other aspects of the film, we are supposed to observe that the pre-Barbie dolls were designed for women’s only role wife and mother. But why would we assume that girls playing with such dolls are pretending to be mothers? Certainly, they could also think of the doll as a sibling, as being the doll’s baby sitter, or none of the above.

If the doll was considered preparation for motherhood, it was quite an inadequate one. It involved only the first year or so of the child. Using the same logic, there being no wedding doll, wouldn’t that mean girls were supposed to be single mothers? Since there were no high school graduation dolls, did it mean back then girls were not supposed to graduate high school? If taking care of a child was a mother’s role, should we assume that parents who let their boy child play with Barbie, also expect them to become mothers?

The GI Joe action figure came out in 1963, so apparently such girl’s toys preceded those for boys. Since this was the first of such toys, did that mean that all men’s role was to be in the military? There is a germ of truth in that since all men were subjected to the military draft. Of course, most parents had other aspirations for their sons.

With Oppenheimer and Barbie coming out the same day, movie critics and pundits saw both in the same time. Did they not notice as Robert Brockaway observed that two women in the movie whom Oppenheimer was involved with romantically, “were professional trained” (“A Voice for Men. Oppenheimer).”

Of course, Oppenheimer was a movie not real life. Checking Mr. Oppenheimer’s Wikipedia entry, two female romantic partners were mentioned. One Jean Tatlock wrote for a communist newspaper and later became a psychiatrist, The other was the women Oppenheimer eventually married, Katherine Puening. She was described in her Wikipedia entry as being a “biologist and a botanist.”

Ruth Handler herself, the women credited with inventing Barbie, was a careerist from the start. Her husband and her started out with him making furniture and her selling it. (Ruth Handler, Wikipedia). As far as a toy for girls, this is an instance where diversity worked. A women had an idea what girls might like. Although, it is difficult to believe that something did not have a similar idea before Handler. Besides her idea though, it took other people willing to take a risk and as well as marketing skills.

Or so I planned to write, until I stumbled onto an article that had a different take on Barbie. Jack Ryan, who along with Handler designed the doll, claimed that Barbie was in fact his idea. A reference was made in the movie about Handler’s and an IRS issue. Handler was in fact indicted for fraud and false reporting to The Security and Exchange Commission, which she pleaded no contest to. In any event, Handler and her husband were fired from the company in 1975, long before the career Barbie’s proliferated. (The truth behind Barbie inventor Ruth Handler’s … – Daily Mail). What we can say for sure is that Ruth Handler was a major force behind the second highest selling toy of all-time.

To conclude this section, my contentions are these. Barbie having a career early on was not out of the mainstream. While it influenced some job choices, the doll had little to no effect in influencing women regarding workplace participation. Lastly, while in the present there is much greater socialization for women to work and job opportunities have increased, the past regarding such issues is consistently overgeneralized about.


Greta Gerwig, the co-writer, and director of the Barbie movie, noted regarding the film, that she believed she was influenced by a feminist book about self-esteem. The book was Peggy Orenstein’s “School Girl’s”. Orenstein’s book was inspired by a report from “The American Association of University Women.” Coincidentally, this study happens to be one of the few examples of feminist distorted data, stated as facts by the media, which was later debunked. Christina Hoff Sommers book, “Who Stole Feminism” took the topic up in some detail. Regardless, this is the type of information from the media that soaked the culture Gerwig grew up with. It is quite understandable that such ideas shaped her viewpoints, which helped shape the script. So it is not surprising that the idea of patriarchy plays such a strong role in the film.

Early in the film, we learn that Ken is what might be called a beach bum. In fact, his job is called “Beach.” While this has been portrayed as demeaning to Ken, it is clearly a male dream job. Adult Ken can have a beautiful girlfriend and all he does is hang around the beach. It is even better than that for Ken. Barbie seems unconcerned about what kind of job Ken has. Meaning he could spend years as a low paid person in the arts for instance and still have Barbies love. Plus, he can do all this without even having a penis. Contrary to the motion picture, the actual Ken doll does not reflect this laissez-faire attitude towards work. Did I mention the five Olympic Ken’s?

In Barbie though, Ken has a girlfriend who is not only beautiful, but a nimble conversationalist. “Talking Barbie” produced such gems as “let us have a pizza party “meet me at the mall.” As one might remember, she did stray from such verbal acuity, observing that math was hard. Feminists harshly maligned these heretic words. In contrast “Cat Burglar Barbie” received no such criticism. But then burglary is merely a felony, not an academic subject that many of both sexes find challenging.

We come to the famous speech from the film quoted all over the place, about how tough it is to be a woman. (Read the powerful “Barbie” Monologue About Being …). Of course, life is difficult, but clearly the oratory of the speech is about how hard life is for women but not men. This is despite the theme of the movie of how bad it used to be for women pre-feminism, pre-Barbie. (With the influence of the Barbie doll, maybe we should call this year 64 AB, meaning 64 years after Barbie’s invention).

For those who think that most women just naturally take to the notion that they are victims of men, there is information to the contrary. Nineteen seventy was the year feminism really made it in the media. For instance, “Time” magazine put Kate Millet on the cover for her book “Sexual Politics.”  As for what feminist thought of Barbie, the article mentioned that a feminist group: “incinerated a Barbie doll, a book by Norman Mailer… birth-control pills, the Bible, and Good Housekeeping’s list of the Ten Most Admired women ( because they were identified by their husband’s names only)  only TIME Magazine Cover: Kate Millett – Aug. 31, 1970 – Sex).”

The same year of the “Time” feature, there was a Gallup poll asking which sex had it harder (the survey question back then apparently came out every thirty years). The poll found that: “by a ratio of three to two, women believe they have it easier than men (John Gordon, “The Myth of the Monstrous Male,” Playboy Press 1982, p 217).” This data concurs with the 1940 poll, in which women also said life was harder for men. That poll preceded the Pearl Harbor attack by a year, which America’s reaction to made things a lot harder for many men.

In today’s world, a public statement by a man saying women have it easier are cancelling words. The main reason for the change of attitude is no doubt feminism. A once promising movement, which has for many years focused on promoting female victimhood. Doing so, by slanting arguments and data with close to full compliance from the mainstream press. This has been going on for about a half of century.

The lead characters in the film are single. So, what ever happened to the feminist idea that single women were happier than men and it was marriage that brought women’s quality of life down and men’s up? I have heard Gloria Steinem state such a thing multiple times. In her words: “the two happiest groups are married men and unmarried women. (Gloria Steinem quotes). (I should note that the information I have come across shows that happily married people of both sexes have the highest quality of life).

In addition, data shows that even though women are choosier in selection of mates, they are also more likely to seek divorce. Meaning women are more selective regarding the most life changing decision between the sexes. How does this square with the idea that society is created by men for men’s advantage?

In some ways women’s lives have gotten harder, and the Barbie speech illustrates this point. The speech includes the statement, “you have to be a career woman.” Meaning rather than a pragmatic view of the workforce, many women, have taken on the neurotic view regarding employment of so many men. Why is this true? The reason is quite clear. To simplify, it is due to the mutating of an anthropological term known as patriarchy. Men we are supposed to believe, want to control women’s lives partly by controlling the workplace. The media taking this as true, promotes women in the workforce non-stop.

In Stephen Bond’s recent article in this publication (The Patriarchy Aug 8) he cited a number of examples dispelling the nonsense that the world was designed for the benefit of men. However, it is worse than he says. Not only do males have serious problems that need to be addressed, but they are also ignored by the media, films and academia.


In my version of the film, Barbie and Ken see that in the real world there are other partners not just each other. They meet the board of directors of their creator, “Mattel.” In the movie, the board of directors was all male. In the real world, Mattel’s board of directors is made up of six men and five women. Which begs the question, if the things are worse for women, why do they need to depict something that is not even true? This inaccurate depiction could also be demoralizing to girls. In a child’s eyes what seems better than working for a toy company?

Ken realizes that with his job, none of the single female board of directors have any romantic interest in him. He offers to introduce one of the women to “Astronaut Ken.” Barbie has no such issues with male board members and hangs around Mattel. Ken decides to forget other women because Barbie is the women for him anyway. He goes with a guide to tour the real world.

As they go outside, Ken says he wants to marry Barbie. The guide says you need to get a diamond ring. He explains: “A bunch of men do tough, dangerous work, while doing damage to the environment. You pay two month’s salary, and you get to buy a piece of the rock, which Barbie wears on her finger.” Ken replies: “My job is beach, us beaches make a lot of money. Why do I have to pay so much”? The guide answers: “Because of the patriarchy.”

Outside he comes across a group of homeless people. He asks the guide, why is it that so many of these people are the ones with a penis? More important, what is a penis?

Ken asks: “Most of us Barbie’s and Ken are single, childless, college educated pieces of plastic. What kind money can we expect to make in this world” The guide replies: “For humans in that category, women make $1.00 for every 85 cents men make (Warren Farrell: “Why Men Earn More”, 2005 p xxii).” “But why does no one tell people this,” asks Ken. The reply: “The patriarchy of course.”

Ken goes to people’s homes. He asks why it is the male children are the ones that “can’t launch” and yet we hear that is women who do not make enough money. The guide answers “The patriarchy.”

He visits a prison and asks why many more men are so than women are there. He learns about the discriminatory laws cited in Stephen Bond’s article, plus that many men have trouble reading and must commit crimes to have the money to attract women.

He goes to the hospital and sees the overwhelming majority of those injured on the job are male, yet nothing is written about it. He asks why. He is told: “The patriarchy of course.”

Ken goes to a military cemetery and sees graves for a bunch of men. He asks: “where is the cemetery for the women who lost their lives in war. He is told: “this is it.” He asks: “where are the women who were killed.” The guide points to a grave in the middle: “she’s over there.”

He goes to a domestic violence center. He asks about the one for men. He is told male partner are more likely to be victims of severe violence, yet all the domestic violence centers are for women. Ken asks why. He is told: “The patriarchy.”

Ken goes to a cemetery for civilians. Looking at the birth and death information on the graves, he notices that women tend to live longer than men and the gap increased significantly over the 20th century. He discovers that women’s health was already getting more money than men’s and despite that, it was money towards women’s health that went way up. He is told about the lies that distorted the actual facts (The Sex-Bias Myth in Medicine, The Atlantic, August 1994).

He learns that men are much more likely to commit suicide than women. He starts to ask why. Then he says: “never mind, this one I can figure out for myself.”

Ken gets depressed and wants to end the tour. Actually, it is me, Ken’s writer, who is tiring of this. So, I make Barbie appear. She is overly excited. She tells him: “There really is something called a mall, and it has all sorts of stuff for women and maybe something for you too.” She continues: “We all know why the mall is like that, it is the patriarchy. Let us go” Ken replies: “No thank you. I think I will go back to Barbie Land and back to my shoebox.”

*For whatever reason, the 1973 Barbie doctor job is not listed in some Barbie career lists. Maybe it is merely a mistake, or for instance, few such dolls were made.

national coalition for men

NCFM Mr. Manners, Plastic People – Barbie, Ken, GI-Joe, The Graduate and Who Did Steal Feminism?

One Response to NCFM Mr. Manners, Plastic People – Barbie, Ken, GI-Joe, The Graduate and Who Did Steal Feminism?

  1. Mr. Manners on November 19, 2023 at 9:33 AM

    Correction* Apparently the book that influenced Gerwig was not Peggy Orenstein’s as mentioned in this article. Rather it was “Reviving Ophelia” by Mary Pipher. Sommers was also highly critical of this book for good reason. For instance, she quoted Pipher as saying: “The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta reports that the suicide rate among children age ten to fourteen rose 75% between 1979 and 1988. Something dramatic is happening to adolescent girls in America.” Sommers noted that in fact that for those ages in that time period, the CDC found, suicide rate increased 71% for boys and 27% for girls (From “The War Against Boys pages 19-20, Simon and Schuster, 2000.

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