Raising Girls In a Barbie World

(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? 

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8 thoughts on “Raising Girls In a Barbie World

  1. Well Amy,

    To be prudent in what we give our children is EVERYTHING. To permit an item with consul is wise. A child’s heart is to be cherished and loved. Permitting a chocolate ice cream cone or a Barbie must be done with temperament. Chocolate can stain your clothes and Barbie can taint a child’s mind. Consul, love, consul. Water and add sun light. Children need the whole story and experience…just don’t let them drink the poison.

    Too many of us adults believe a lie that has been marketed to us by mega-conglomerates, desiring things that will not bring happiness. Jumping from one thing to the next, trying to fill some void inside of us. The greatest gift we can receive is appreciation for the time we give of ourselves to help other people.

    However, in all situations, it is better to give a Barbie with consul, than to have a child yearn for forbidden fruit to the point of resentment and embitterment. Focus (as I know you do) on the good things, like; reading to your child, baking cookies together, walking with them, instructing them with you…and the POUNDS of love you heap in this manner will outweigh the blemish of one Barbie. It is better to learn the emptiness of Barbie early – loving and sharing the good things you do with your children will set the mold of their heart, and Barbie will end up on the floor in the back of the closet in the dark.

    You are a great mom! I know you love Grace and she loves you. The bond you two share is far greater than any toy.

    Love, dad

  2. Aimes –
    I hear ya. If you’re wierd then we’re wierd together 🙂 For Emma’s first three years we allowed nothing princess. I didn’t want her getting the idea that the point of life is centered on finding a prince and that is only when happiness comes. THEN someone gave her a Princess Sing A Long dvd…and she loved it at first sight. Obviously, that seems like a distant memory and is no longer in effect. Although, the girls dont really watch the Disney princess movies…the play with the dresses and dolls. We do allow Barbies and Barbie movies. And I will say that the last few Barbie movies have somewhat of a lesson to be learned like “be true to who you are” and “forgiveness” much more than “the point of life is to find your prince”. Our take on things like that is they are interested so we want to expose them to it under our guidance and supervision and use it as a discussion point.
    We don’t allow Bratz, Hannah Montana. Not happenin’. And my girls also think Barney is a bad show (lol) but that’s because mom didn’t want to have to watch it. I think it is GOOD to be careful in what our kiddos play with. Love you!

    • Love you too, Lady! I’m cracking up about Barney. 😀 Too funny.

      Very interesting about the Barbie movies – I have never watched one…

      I love that Anna had a Tinker-belle birthday party by the way. Tink is my favorite, feisty little Disney girl.

      Part of the process of parenting, I’m finding, is that there is not ONE right way to do it…. and Barbie or no Barbie, a house full of love is what makes the difference!

  3. I’m not a mom and I have strong disdain for Barbie as well…. what are her actual measurements (in real life size), 38, 20, 38… something like that. Totally unattainable and unhealthy!

    • i just read this on wikianswers:
      If Barbie were a real person, she would be 6′ 0″, weigh 100 lbs., and wear a size 4. Her measurements would be 39″/21″/33″. She would not be able to menstruate or hold up her back and neck.

  4. I can’t get past Ken being bald in the video.
    My mother wouldn’t let me bring my Ken doll to my neighbor’s house because Ken had no self control and would get naked and make Barbie do the same.
    I would have to agree with my mom- keep Ken at home.

    • Hilarious and so true, Ms Simple Life! Barbie tends to get in a lot less mischief without pesky Ken around… And yes: a bald Ken? That’s just nonsense. We all know Ken’s greatest pride is his full head of hair! (Thanks for visiting) 🙂

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