Barbie home invasion

Vintage Barbie

Image via Wikipedia

It was inevitable that Barbie would wind up in our house at some point. After all we have a daughter born in America. I had hoped my little gal would at least have been able to hold up her end of a body image conversation before that happened. However, our three-year-old opened her first Barbie this Christmas and that blonde bimbo cruised right into her life atop a powder blue convertible.

The anti-feminist and anti-healthy body image accusations hurled in Barbie’s direction have always felt right to me, so I’ve been wary of shrugging off claims that Babs is “just a doll.” When my girl opened the Barbie my body tensed while I tried to ignore the voice shouting “eating disorder ahead!” thinking that if I didn’t make it a big deal, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Then I relaxed.

Perhaps I’m just justifying my disinclination to toss out a perfectly good toy that my daughter can spend hours dressing and undressing, but role models promoting anorexia aren’t only made from plastic and I do have high hopes that my girl will also notice that Barbie’s legs don’t bend and realize that this is not an accurate representation of a healthy woman and therefore she should not try to mold herself into her vinyl image.

(It should be noted that I didn’t even have a Barbie and still had angst over my not-very-Barbie figure. My own mother decided Darci was a better role model. Darci, the Amazonian brunette who might have been statuesque and not as busty, yet still managed to give me a complex because Darci could not fit into Barbie’s clothes when my friends would gather our sex symbols for an afternoon of tea drinking and/or awkward water sliding.)

So Barbie is here, packing her suitcase and strapping it to the back of her car for an afternoon in the country. And I think I’m going to let her stay for a while. At least long enough to encourage my daughter to give her a Mohawk.

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2 Responses to Barbie home invasion

  1. savio says:

    What has always struck me as odd is that Barbie came into being at a time when pop-culture body types for women were realistic–Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, etc. That is, in the sense that such bodies corresponded to real life, not in the sense of either woman being average. This continued into the ’60s with Annette Funicello, Patty Duke, and other beauties who looked way more like real teen girls than not.

    At the same time, stick models were making their way into clothing ads, etc. And had been since the 1920s. And wasn’t the 1920s the start of the big 20th-century strides for women?

    Wow. Almost as if a popular institution was formed as a counter to female progress….

  2. Astri Von Arbin Ahlander says:

    I had a conversation with a very liberal and outspoken feminist mother of two young daughters recently. She had vehemently banned Barbie from her household since she, like you, was terrified that the vinyl image would shatter her five year-old’s fragile ego. Then the grandmothers stepped in (as they often do) and gave their granddaughter Barbies after all. My friend fumed for a while, but since her daughter doesn’t seem to be in Barbie-induced anguish yet, she’s calmed down. She had another very good point, however. When her daughter asked for boy dolls, they easily found Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and Barack Obama. But girl dolls racks were massively dominated by princess or Barbie types whose only ambition is to look pretty and please. What an infuriating contrast!

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