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The bustling business of Barbie

Dr. Emily January Peterson will be teaching the Barbie studies class starting in the Spring 2024 semester.

A new class is aiming to take a deeper dive into the issues surrounding women’s and gender studies through the playful lens of Barbie, giving students a new view of this icon.

Emily January Petersen, assistant professor and director of professional & technical writing, is bringing a new perspective to the world of women’s and gender studies by using Barbie to unpack topics surrounding motherhood, womanhood, body image, identity, race and class.

“It’s just gonna be fun, and it’s gonna be nostalgic, and we’re gonna learn a lot!” Petersen said.

Petersen has a graduate certificate in women’s studies and said she has done a lot of research on women’s experience in writing in professional settings. She hopes to guide students through applying the ideas of girlhood, toys and identity to larger contexts to help them understand culture through a feminist perspective.

One assignment Petersen is thinking about incorporating is having students do an analysis of an artifact from the Barbie franchise, such as a specific doll, playhouse, movie, or song, and examine not only its history, but how it relates to issues such as PR, capitalism and eating disorders.

“I think looking at an actual artifact and writing about it rather than just writing a research paper is going to be more fun,” Petersen said.

Another class Petersen is excited to teach in the spring is Taylor Swift studies, in which she and her students will explore the meanings and symbols behind Swift’s songwriting and issues surrounding her life as a woman in the spotlight.

Students interested in taking Barbie studies or Taylor Swift studies should plan to register soon as spots are limited, there is, however, a waitlist for any students that didn’t have a chance to register earlier.

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