Representations of the Sporting Female: Queering Paralympic Barbie

In Louise Mansfield, Jayne Caudwell, Belinda Wheaton & Beccy Watson (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Feminism and Sport, Leisure and Physical Education. Palgrave Macmillan Uk. pp. 667-680 (2017)
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Abstract

This chapter takes as a central focus Barbie Becky Paralympic Champion. Becky is one of the many Barbie dolls produced by the toy manufacturer Mattel and is a wheelchair user. For many young people these dolls can hold significant currency that contributes towards defining the ways in which they embody femininity. We draw on critical disability studies and queer theory to better understand how Becky disrupts and reproduces unified representations of the sporting female. The existence of Becky could be interpreted as a forward-thinking attempt by Mattel to diversify the range of identities available to young people. A more critical engagement with Becky demonstrates that she is nonetheless a product of a neo-liberal industry that reproduces patterns of inequality.

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