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Life in Brief — week of March 16

Mrs. Potato Head eyes
Barbie on gender roles

In a psychology lab at Oregon State University, 37 girls ages 4 to 7 have finally demonstrated what feminists have long warned: that playing with Barbie dolls drives home cultural stereotypes about a woman’s place and suppresses a little girl’s career ambitions.

But here’s an unexpected, though preliminary, finding: Playing with Mrs. Potato Head appears to have the opposite effect. After spending just five minutes with Jane Potato-Head, girls believed they could grow up to do pretty much anything a boy could do.

This small but telling experiment, published recently in the journal Sex Roles, probably will do little to stem sales of Mattel’s Barbie dolls, which sell at a rate of about two per second worldwide. But it might spur a bump for Play­skool’s Mrs. Potato Head.

And don’t be fooled by those career girl Barbies dressed up as doctors, astronauts, politicians and ocean explorers. The authors of the latest study report that whether girls played with “Doctor Barbie” — decked out in a white coat and jeans with a sparkly applique — or “Fashion Barbie,” dressed in a form-fitting mini-dress and high heels, they were likely to judge themselves capable of plying, on average, 1.5 fewer occupations than a boy could.

— Melissa Healy

Los Angeles Times

Hints from Heloise:

Flat plastic keeps tabs
on where tape begins

G.B. in California writes: The flat plastic tabs that close bread and bakery-goods bags are great to use to keep the end of tape easy to start again. The tape sticks to the tab and is easy to find. The tape never sticks permanently to the tab and is easy to pop off and then put back after you’ve used the tape. No more roll rotating to try to find the almost-invisible seam.

— King Features

Young people complain
about church alienation

Nearly 25 percent of Americans who were raised religious but are now unaffiliated say that an important factor in the decision to leave the faith was negative teachings about, or treatment of, gays.

The survey released recently by the Public Religion Research Institute shows the numbers are higher among so-called millennials. For those Americans ages 18 to 33, nearly a third say that such teachings were key.

Further, 58 percent of Americans overall believe that churches are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay issues. That compares with 70 percent of millennials and 43 percent of people 68 or older.

“There’s a generational disconnect,” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive officer of the institute. That “is certainly driving a lot of this shift,” he said. Social relationships also are key, with “more and more Americans saying they have a close friend or family member who is gay.”

While 23 percent of Americans said they had a gay friend or family member in 1993, 65 percent do today.

The phone poll of about 4,500 adults, taken Nov. 12 to Dec. 18, shows that 53 percent of Americans support legal same-sex marriage, compared with 32 percent in 1993.

— JoAnne Viviano

Columbus Dispatch


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