Barbie girl

Predictably, my request for a Barbie free Christmas was met with protest and indignation, though well meaning.

It seems my political agenda is preventing my daughter from having the well-rounded girl’s childhood marketer’s intended. It’s only a doll, after all. And yes, I do let my daughter have other “girly” things, so why  not Barbie Millicent Roberts?

When Barbie hit the scene in 1959, she was an independent lady. She bought her own cars and homes. She had boyfriends, but was not married, and she had several interesting careers. When I look at today’s store shelves I see a lot of princess themed Barbie dolls, but nothing else. Barbie’s official site offers other careers.

Screenshot of Barbie's past and present career options from Barbie.com
Screenshot of Barbie’s past and present careers from Barbie.com

What really scares me is how media already controls so much of our culture, and is promoting specific and unattainable beauty standards everywhere. Buy more, more, more to look like this altered image of a female! My daughter, four years old, has already complained about having a “big belly,” that’s “not like doll bellies.” Now this issue can’t simply be about toys. In our case, I make doubly sure not to voice my own body insecurities, and I try to talk about eating healthy and exercise more. It’s interesting teaching a daughter at the same time as re-teaching yourself.

When looking up Barbie’s body proportions I read some comments after this BBC article. Why are we so focused on Barbie’s proportions? Not all toy proportions are realistic. See a former anorexic’s project with her built “real-life” Barbie here. Barbie’s contributing factor to eating disorders can be debated. Truth is triggers are so personal and change case by case.

Image from Galia Slayen's article about her project.
Image from Galia Slayen’s article about her project.

I’m not anti-pink, far from. Peggy Orenstein wrote in Cinderella Ate My Daughter, “Just because little girls wear the tulle does not mean they’ve drunk the Kool-Aid.” No, eliminating Barbie from my household (I don’t interfere with her dad allowing them at his) will not guarantee a confident child, but it’s a small step. The girl has a sea of toys, the lack of Barbie will not prevent her from being a kid with an imagination. Maybe if Barbie was more interesting I wouldn’t mind so much. I tried giving her a shot and watched a Barbie movie with my buddy, his niece and P. It was about a young woman giving up her job to go to charm school and bag a prince. I’d rather my money go elsewhere.

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6 thoughts on “Barbie girl”

  1. I agree with you Momma Misfit! Im planning on keeping Barbie and the Princess Theme as far away from Banen as I can. Dont get me wrong I want her to wear pink and learn to be a lady, but I dont want her to start believing that the world outside is gonna treat her like a princess and that everything is gonna be handed to her just because shes a princess. I want my daughter to understand that hard work and having realistic dreams are gonna get her farther ahead then waiting for some “prince” to come along and save her from having a job or getting an education. and as for barbie, now a days i find that she resembles a hooker rather then a hard working independent woman. I dont think exposing my daughter to mini skirts, 6 inch heels and low cut tops is setting a good example, maybe if she was wearing a parka and snow shoes i’d be a little more easy about it. but really when is the last time barbie was a doctor or a vet? I think maybe back in 94′, but then again it was around the same time barbie started to get pregnant too! do you remember the baby makin barbie?

  2. I played with them too and I don’t know exactly how they influenced me personally. Certainly a subject worth looking at from all angles, I’ll certainly update people the more I learn. Thanks for reading!

  3. Great article! Touched on some interesting points! Let us know if you manage to find out anything about the gender specific toys in demand today. Over the last few years I have noticed a lot of initiatives out there trying to discourage it – but it would be interesting to know if highlighting the problem has actually made it more of an issue as I certainly have not noticed a decrease myself.

    Frankly, I don’t see a problem in the social roles that Barbie teaches young girls. I remember playing with my own Barbies (and I did so until I was 11!) and playing with them only made me want my own career and to be independent when I grew up. I never owned a Ken – sometimes I would ask my little brother if I could borrow his Action Man but it was a rarity as he was never much fun! – and never wanted one.

  4. I am curious about the motives behind gender specific toys. Baby dolls made a come back back in the day when the US was concerned about low white anglo baby birth rates. Why now though? I’ll do some investigating …

  5. You touched on something that has always left me conflicted with the Barbie thing. I’m the first to complain about gendered toys and get annoyed with all the princess crap, but I find myself defending Barbie, for the reasons you mentioned. She’s independent, a career girl, at least she was. And they’ve been bringing her proportions more in line with reality in the past few years (well, an idealized reality, anyhow). But it seems the more realistic her bust line gets the less career oriented she is. She’s rarely a doctor or teacher or lawyer (one of my favourites from childhood was a Barbie whose office-appropriate suit transformed into evening wear) and is almost always a princess or a pop star. My question is why toys are heading this direction, seemingly across the board? Is it really supply and demand? Or are companies toying on something more sinister? Why do toy manufacturers have no responsibility to the public to offer toys with stronger social value? It’s getting hard to defend Barbie, and has been increasingly so over the past 15 years.

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