The Barbie doll has long been the symbol of the all-American woman. She’s known as much for her good looks and her extensive wardrobe as she is for her impressive list of careers.
By having a series of different jobs, from airline stewardess, to doctor, to pilot and astronaut to Olympic athlete and even U.S. presidential candidate. Barbie is providing an alternative to traditional gender roles and throughout the years has encouraged générations of young girls to pursue gender equality by knowing they could work in any fields.
But little do we know that the inspiration behind Barbie came from a German feisty high-end call girl named Lilli. First created as a comic-strip character in the Hamburg newspaper Bild-Zeitung, the Bild Lilli doll became so popular that in 1953, the newspaper decided to market a three-dimensional version which was sold as an adult novelty toy, available to buy from bars, tobacco kiosks and adult toy stores.
Men got Lilli dolls as gifts at bachelor parties, put them on their car dashboard, dangled them from the rearview mirror, or gave them to girlfriends as a suggestive presents.
This Bild Lilli doll was a platinum blonde, blue-eyed bombshell with large breasts. She wore red lipstick and blue eyeliner. Her feet were molded into black stilettos and she had arched eyebrows and sultry side-glancing eyes.
The doll epitomized the pervasive male ideals of feminine beauty and charm, crafted to emulate real-life objects of men’s desires.
In one cartoon, Lilli appears naked except for newspaper to cover her body, telling a friend, “We had a fight and he took back all the presents he gave me.” In another one, Lilli is warned by a policeman for illegally wearing a bikini out on the sidewalk. Lilli responds, “Oh, and in your opinion, what part should I take off?”
In the comics, Lilli was witty, irreverent and sexually uninhibited.