(You have to admit that video is disturbing.)
There’s nothing wrong with a Barbie doll in and of itself. Many of my friends’ daughters have Barbie’s. I am aware that I have a strangely strong reaction to something most people consider normal. After all, Barbie is just a relatively harmless piece of plastic. To me though, Barbie’s (and much more so the Bratz dolls) represent consumerism, materialism, unattainable perfection, and shallow ideals. I’m disgusted by Barbie’s in immodest clothing that are marketed to our young girls through glitz and glamour. The feminist deep inside me recoils when I think of my daughter owning one of those pieces of plastic.
Since Grace was a baby, when we would walk down toy aisles, I steered her toward baby dolls, and away from Barbie. If she inquired about Barbie I was always ready with a reply. Depending on the Barbie, it was either that I didn’t care for how short Barbie’s skirt was, or I thought Barbie seemed to need too many outfits to be happy, or wouldn’t Barbie be much prettier if she came without so much make-up on?
Yes, I know there have been waves of Barbie’s with purpose – career Barbie, for instance. But when it’s playtime, it always comes back to how cute is Barbie in her little veterinarian outfit, and what beautiful dress should she wear when she leaves the office to go out on a date with Ken? Little girls in play are simply practicing for real life – their play with Barbie is shaping their ideas of what it is like to be a woman. I am adamant that I want Grace to value herself not because she wears the right clothing or goes to the right parties, or has the perfect Barbie measurements.
Most normal mothers don’t think such absurd thoughts about Barbie. I know. I’m just not the norm, I suppose. But those are my thoughts, and I would love nothing more than to give Grace activities and toys that encourage creativity, learning and even fun, and just leave Barbie out of the picture altogether. Which has been easy enough . . . until her last birthday.
One fine November day, I was standing in front of the kids’ school, waiting for the bell to ring. “What does your daughter want for her birthday?” asked the dad next to me, looking for gift ideas. My reply? “Anything but a Barbie. She’s a crafty girl, so art supplies are a big hit with her. She also loves getting new books, and she loves Legos and Webkins . . . but just no Barbie’s.”
He totally must have heard me wrong, because lo and behold, this man’s little girl brought a beautifully wrapped Barbie doll for Grace on her birthday. You should have seen my daughter’s face when she opened it. Priceless. She was looked up at me, her eyes asking me how to respond to such a gift. I smiled and thanked the girl on my daughter’s behalf, remarking how that would be Grace’s very first Barbie doll. Later that night, as we unpacked the gifts, we came across Barbie and decided it would be best to put her up in a closet until we had time to think about it further. We talked about donating it at Christmas time. But we kept forgetting. We talked about re-gifting it…but to whom? There she sat in the closet for months, staring my daughter in the face.
Finally, Grace could resist the temptation no longer. She wanted to know what the fuss was all about. She came to me and asked if I could please get the Barbie down so she could play with it. Andrew and I talked about it and decided to give it to Grace. As we unwrapped the Barbie, untangling her from oodles of plastic and wire twisty’s, I continued with my explanations that Grace has heard since she was a baby, about how Barbie doesn’t look like a real woman. About how attempting to be glamorous and perfect like Barbie can seem harmless enough at first, but can eventually make it hard for you to love yourself just the way you are… etc.
Finally loosed from her wrappings, Barbie came out of the box. Grace was so happy. She played with Barbie, put Barbie’s little pink helmet on, and drove Barbie around on her little pick Barbie bicycle. And all of twenty minutes later, Barbie was left on the floor, eventually to be shoved to the back of her toy drawer.
And I can take a deep breath and hope that I am not raising a Barbie girl in this Barbie world.
~Can you relate to my strange but passionate dislike for a toy?
~Have you ever reluctantly let your child do/have something?