MicroTeaching: Gender & Barbie

For this object-based, Microteaching session of 10 minutes, I decided to use Barbie (produced by Mattel) as a case study, through which to discuss and problematise concepts of gender.

My intentions were to:

  1. Introduce the idea that gender is socially constructed (through the theories of de Beauvoir and Butler).
  2. Demonstrate through Barbie the problem with gender binaries (but that this is also intersectional – Barbie is traditionally white, able-bodied and blonde)
  3. Provoke questions based on whether Drag truly plays with gender or perpetuates stereotypes and, similarly, trans individuals that confirm to pre-(2nd wave)feminist ideals, such as Catlyn Jenner.
  4. Demonstrate that Feminism and Queer theories tend to be essentialist concepts relying on stable notions of sex. As such, to make a call for new, more nuanced ideas of gender that might support the trans community.


To do this, the 10 minutes included:

  1. Brief participatory workshop – write down 3 words Barbie brings to mind
  2. A lecture summarising theories and provoking questions
  3. A short, anonymous, survey on individuals’ reaction toward Barbie before and after (while playing Aqua’s Barbie Girl track).

The mini lecture included all the material I felt necessary to demonstrate that gender is discursive and constructed. I felt this was relatively clear and I managed to complete all tasks in the 10 minutes. I feel it was a little rushed, however, and I would have preferred to spend more time on the tensions between feminist and transgender theories to better elicit a 21st century problem. I would have also liked to make clearer the point that Barbie, and LOTS of other gendered visual and material culture is not just problematic from a male-female stereotyping perspective, but that this is also intersectional: race and body are heavily implied. I could have done this in my introduction explaining that it is one in a series of lectures building on critical theory toward an intersectional problematising of a chosen case study. It was mentioned that more discussion would have been helpful. I used the majority of micro-teaching as a lecture format, and I agree that it is always important to dissect these ideas. In my own job, each lecture is accompanied by a seminar to do just that. I had preemtively decided not to include this, but for a longer session I certainly would. Based on class responses, the multi-media used was helpful and engaging. I hope it also gave people an opportunity to share responses (collectively and visibly at first) then individually and anonymously (via the survey). the results were shown, but not names. This is always important to me in teaching, so everyone can contribute, but no one is pin-pointed.

Collated Group (‘student’) Feedback:


  • Contemporary
  • Engaging
  • Provided an overview
  • Knowledgable
  • Good use of tech and visuals
  • Kept lecture ‘open’
  • Good ‘flow’ or structure

Suggestions for improvement:

  • More discussion / room for questions
  • Bit fast
  • Busy slides
  • Use the object more / explain more impact of Barbie
  • Information overload
  • Double-check dyslexia preferred colours
  • Ask students to use the paper/pens for notes – ‘active learning’
  • Consider that the imagery is white/European