I tend to write a lot about baby boomer women, (most likely because I sit squarely in the middle of that demographic) so I was more than a little amused when I ran across this “Baby Boomer Barbie” photo on Pinterest. (Click here to see the Autumn Wind Studio's version of Barbie as a Baby Boomer) I was six when the original premiered in 1959. In March, Barbie will be 58. This commercial icon has evolved over the years- sporting tattoos and fishnet stockings, becoming an entrepreneur, developing a handicapped version of herself; Mattel even added an ethnically diverse line of Barbie dolls. She has obviously undergone many of the same transitions as the rest of us Boomers with a little pop culture thrown in for good measure. I have no illusions, however, that the toy company will launch an aging version of this Baby Boomer icon any time soon.
But in point of fact, we’ve been marketed to all our lives and it does not appear to be slowing down I recently read an article by Jia Tolentino entitled “How Empowerment Became Something for Women to Buy”.
“No matter what, the intent of this empowerment is always to sell.”
Commercial Ad Campaigns Marketed to Boomer WomenTolentino cites women's empowerment pitches by companies such as:
- Aerie, the lingerie brand of American Eagle, who increased its sales by 26% in the last quarter of 2015 on the strength of its #AerieReal campaign which disses photoshop and employs models of a slightly larger size, describing it as “empowering”.
- Dove who increased sales by $1.5 billion with it’s #RealBeauty advertising campaign, recognizing few older women label themselves “beautiful”.
- Brawny’s paper towels- “StrengthHasNoGender”;
Her question, and I guess mine as well, is do we, as baby boomer women, start feeling better about ourselves after watching these ad campaigns? Is women’s empowerment a made up Madison Avenue phrase? I’m interested in your opinions. Please comment.
Note: This author actually thinks the term “empowerment” has become a trivialized phrase. “The deep truth about “empowerment” is that it has never been defined by the people who actually need it. People who talk empowerment are, by definition, already there.'
Back to Barbie- I’ve grown up with Barbie. Probably at 15 I did share her impossibly slender shape. Alas, for obvious reasons, there will never be a Baby Boomer Barbie for sale with her thickened hips and silvery hair. I’m sure Matell realizes there would be a slim market for that version of the doll. But it is still kind of fun looking at the picture. I think our generation is aging pretty well, a fact I find quite empowering.