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“Pet Vet” Barbie: Your Daughter is Better Than This

A few years ago I made a point to call out Mattel’s Barbie “I Can Be” series (the Barbie doll series that supposedly encourages girls to envision what they can accomplish professionally) for this depiction of a veterinarian:

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Almost four years later it really hasn’t gotten much better. Then very recently I discovered through friends a reality show called The Incredible Dr. Pol which airs on the Nat Geo channel. Pol and his colleagues, one of whom is a young female veterinarian, are featured treating domestic and farm animals in Central Michigan.

Not being a veterinarian or anyone with experience in animal husbandry or farming, I can’t comment on the genuineness of what’s portrayed or how truly “incredible” Dr. Pol or his staff are. But I can say that the depiction of the women on Pol’s show, one a staff vet who is depicted training other young women who appear to be veterinary students or interns, is far more realistic and less offensive than anything Barbie suggests about how a veterinarian will dress and what her work environment will be like. The female vet on Dr. Pol’s show was identified as “Dr. Brenda.” Like most veterinarians, she appears to eschew four-inch heels and a dangerously high hemline. Instead she is seen literally wrestling distressed farm animals and stitching up injured ones in often sweat-soaked medical scrubs.

If you have a daughter who might be drawn to veterinary medicine, I’d ask you to consider introducing her to these kinds of depictions of the life of a highly educated, skilled, compassionate and tough woman who is also a doctor of veterinary medicine.

I’m not a parent myself, but this seems to me to be a better idea than encouraging your girl child to strive to be someone’s fetishized and insultingly sexist depiction of a professional. She’s better than that. Period.

2 comments

  1. John Ribar says:

    Excellent points Roger. Has anyone at Mattel actually gone to a veterinary clinic or met a veterinarian or vet tech? There are clinics all over the place so it can’t be that hard to find one. Animal husbandry aside, even pets who go to urban or suburban clinics are often 1) leaking some sort of bodily fluid from a wound or orifice, and/or 2) biting or snapping because they are in pain, confused, and afraid. For this reason alone, the notion that a veterinarian or vet tech would wear a miniskirt cut more 16 inches above the knee is absurd. Mattel’s vision of a veterinarian is essentially a slutty Halloween costume.

    For a lot of people, our pets are our children and the people who work at vet clinics (many of them women) are an incredible source of expertise, comfort, and compassion when our pets are sick or dying. Few things make you feel worse than when your pet is suffering and the people who relieve that suffering are a godsend. I have no idea why Mattel thought this laudable, essential profession needed to be tarted up.

  2. Thanks, John, for your comment. My guess is that Mattel has tarted up Pet Vet Barbie for the same reason Mattel tarts up all kinds of female characters in various marketing campaigns: They do it for fun and profit, but mostly profit.

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