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Beyond the Dolls House? Barbie entrepreneur dolls and the commodification, fetishisation and consumption of idealized, gendered and entrepreneurial identity

Smith, Robert and Nadin, Sara and Jones, Sally (2019) Beyond the Dolls House? Barbie entrepreneur dolls and the commodification, fetishisation and consumption of idealized, gendered and entrepreneurial identity. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 22 (5). pp. 745-765. ISSN 1352-2752 (In Press)

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Abstract

This article examines the concepts of gendered, entrepreneurial identity and fetishism through an analysis of images of Barbie entrepreneur. It draws on the literatures of entrepreneurial identity and fetishism to examine how such identity is socially constructed from childhood and how exposure to such dolls can shape and influence perceptions of entrepreneurial identity. Using semiotic analysis we conduct a visual analysis of the Barbie to make observations and inferences on gendered entrepreneurial identity and fetishism from the dolls and artefacts. The gendered images of Barbie dolls were influenced by societal perceptions of what an entrepreneur should look like, reflecting the fetishisation of entrepreneurship, especially for women. Mirroring and exaggerating gendered perceptions, the dolls express hyper-femininity reflected in both the physical embodiment of the doll as well as their adornments / accessories. This includes handbags, high-heeled shoes, short skirts, haute-couture and designer clothes. Such items and the dolls themselves become fetishised objects, making context and culture of vital importance. There are positive and negative implications in relation to how we might, as a society, present unrealistic gendered images and role models of entrepreneurship to children. The obvious limitation is that the methodology limits what can be said or understood, albeit the imagery mirrors socially constructed reality for the context examined. This is original research in that no previous published studies have tackled gendered entrepreneurial identity in relation to fetishism. The value of the work lies in discussing the concepts and embeds them in the expanding conversation surrounding gendered entrepreneurial identities.

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