Mattel is announcing new 2023 Barbie career dolls, representing women's careers in sports.

Editor’s Note: Amy Bass (@bassab1) is professor of sport studies at Manhattanville College and the author of “One Goal: A Coach, a Team, and the Game That Brought a Divided Town Together” and “Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete,” among other titles. The views expressed here are solely hers. Read more opinion on CNN.

CNN  — 

With a global box office that saw $1 billion and kept on going, Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” has dominated just about every space of summer 2023, but like any good money-maker, Barbie isn’t quite done yet. (CNN and the distributors of “Barbie” share a parent company, Warner Brothers Discovery.) Mattel is now sending her into the most male-dominated of spaces: the sports industry, part of the company’s Barbie Career of the Year-themed dolls.

Amy Bass

“This year,” announced Mattel in a release, “knowing that women are severely underrepresented in the sports industry – from positions on the field to leadership in the locker room — Barbie is proud to introduce the Women in Sports lineup as the 2023 Career of the Year.”

Does this new General Manager Barbie, rocking a blue power suit, know exactly what kind of landscape she’s walking into? Does Coach Barbie, pink megaphone in hand, and Referee Barbie, clad in the traditional black and white stripes of a sports official, know how rare women like them are on the field? Will Sports Reporter Barbie use her handy notebook and microphone to document their journeys?

In the stark (hello, “2001: A Space Odyssey”) opening of Gerwig’s film, little girls violently smash their baby dolls in the wake of Stereotypical Barbie’s emergence. This new kind of doll allows them to shed the role of mother in their playtime imaginations and inhabit the beautiful world she occupies, a matriarchal pink fantasy in which each day begins awash in a sea of “Hi Barbie!” greetings and women run everything.

The film’s journey of self-discovery, of course, is one in which Barbie learns the ways in which society — real world society — and its institutions advantage men. Sport, of course, is one of those institutions, and the aftermath of August’s FIFA Women’s World Cup final looms as an example as glaring and garish as Barbie’s own Dreamhouse.

Spain’s World Cup victory celebration, one that came after months of players battling their own federation, especially over the practices of then-manager Jorge Vilda, to scratch their way to the victory dais, was short-lived. Their win was soon supplanted on the world stage by the actions of Luis Rubiales, head of Spain’s football federation, who kissed player Jenni Hermoso during the trophy ceremony without her consent.

The drama in the days that followed should not have been surprising to anyone who follows women’s sports, perhaps especially when Rubiales’ so-called apology included a refusal to resign because of “false feminism,” a proclamation that some of his colleagues cheered.

While FIFA handed Rubiales a 90-day suspension and Spain finally fired Vilda (although with a statement that praised him for success with the program and for his “impeccable personal and sporting conduct”) and appointed Montse Tomé, the first female to head Spain’s national team, in his place, the saga continues, with Rubiales’ future still unclear.

Hermoso, meanwhile, has filed an official complaint against Rubiales in order to shake off the stagnancy and move things along, supported by players who say they will not return to the pitch without a change in leadership, a change that goes beyond appointing a female coach and digs systemically deeper. Yes, Vilda is gone. But instead of celebrating Spain’s first World Cup crown, Hermoso (by any measure the wronged party here) is forced to take further action to demand accountability, while fellow players (who should also still be celebrating) are going on strike until evidence of widespread change is clear.

Do the new sporting Barbies (or the parents who may buy them or the children who may play with them) understand what women have to do even at the most elite levels of sport to make things work?

The examples feel endless right now. Simone Biles made sure her return to the sport she not only dominates but defines went down her way, taking a few years after the Tokyo Olympics to find personal joy and leave the dark legacy of Larry Nassar behind, returning to capture an unprecedented eighth national crown that included a historic Yurchenko Double Pike on vault and a floor routine for the ages (that second tumbling pass with the front layout full step out and double-double landing … come on).

And that vault? She took a deduction for having her coach, Laurent Landi, standing nearby. Why was he there? Because it’s the nuttiest vault ever, her scores are so high she has more than a few points to spare, and — wait for it — it helped her feel safe doing something that no other woman does. On Thursday, Biles, who has remained mostly evasive about future plans, told the Today Show that competing in another Olympics in Paris in 2024 “would be the path I would love to go.”

Maybe referee Barbie could see about changing those rules about spotting before that happens?

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Or maybe tennis star Coco Gauff, currently lighting up the US Open, could use some help from Coach Barbie so that she wouldn’t have to tell the men in her players box, namely Brad Gilbert, to “stop talking” in the midst of her turning things around in her fourth-round match against Caroline Woznacki.  Gauff said later that she liked to “think and figure out matches my own way,” something pathbreaker Naomi Osaka has praised her for, seeing Gauff as “a role model” for her infant daughter because she is someone who speaks out.  And with the ability of coaches to now communicate with their players during matches from the courtside box, and the focus the coverage gives to those conversations, the narrative of women’s tennis has a more distinct male voice, as the overwhelming majority of those coaches don’t look like Coach Barbie.

These moments exemplify how these athletes live in a world of contradictions and mixed messages, negotiating autonomy while trying to win. But if soaring ticket prices for Gauff’s final against soon-to-be world number one Aryna Sabalenka (who clawed her way into the final against both Madison Keys and a very partisan New York crowd) are any indication, women’s sports continue to be something of value, culturally, socially and — oh yes, go get that General Manager Barbie now! — economically. That said, Mattel may well sell more of those dolls than there are women in those respective positions, at least for now.