By Silvia Blemker for USA Today
The new astrophysicist Barbie, announced by Mattel last month, seems well-intentioned enough: Its goal is to encourage young girls to enter science and engineering fields by wedding Barbie's glamour and intellectual gusto. In reality, it’s just another cultural message of unattainable perfection, and our messages of perfection for girls are already keeping them out of STEM work at the highest academic levels.
Like every woman I know, I could rattle off all my imperfections to you with great ease. Since I was young girl, I’ve angsted about my body and my mind. I’ve never thought of myself as pretty. And while I had an inclination for math and science, I was always insecure about my abilities as a mathematician and scientist as compared to my peers because I wasn’t a “standout” student. I am now a 44-year-old woman. I am even more aware of how my body and mind are aging, making me seem even more imperfect.
Women expect unachievable, unreasonable Barbie-perfection of ourselves, leading us to fixate on our imperfections. And, if we are not careful, this fixation can prevent us from taking risks, recognizing our achievements, finding our passions, and opening our minds to discover the gifts that we have been given and seeking our purpose in life.