Thursday, April 12, 2012

Don't hate my doll because she's beautiful

 As a general rule, I tend to keep my nose out of controversial topics here on the interwebs. In this ruthless Mom-Eat-Mom world of blogging, if you have a contrary opinion to the majority (or just a mind of your own), prepare to have your virtual eyes clawed out by (ahem) well-meaning mothers with only good intentions of protecting their cause. That’s fine. I have laundry to do, and I don’t really enjoy confrontations with caffeine-fueled strangers. There is an unspoken list of topics that should only be broached if you are wearing your full body armor. They include but are not limited to:
  1. Religion
  2. Breastfeeding
  3. Co-Sleeping
  4. The Bachelor”
  5. Kids throwing tantrums at Target
  6. Politics
  7. Stay at Home Moms vs. Working Moms
  8. Crocs
  9. Merging improperly in construction zones
  10. Vampires vs. Wizards
However, for as much as I try to keep my opinions to myself (cough, cough), there is one subject that has been eating at my brain for a while now, a topic that burns me each time a read about it, and today I’m speaking my mind. I am climbing up on my pink, glittery soapbox and screaming, “Malibu Barbie didn’t turn me into a self-loathing stripper with a raging STD and a penchant for boob jobs and Botox!” Whew, that felt good.

I allow my daughter to play with Barbie dolls. (Insert gasp here.) Why would I subject her to such horror and persecution? The main reason is that I grew up loving my Barbie dolls. I begged my mom and Santa Claus to bring me every new model that hit the toy store shelf. Even though they all basically looked the same, they were different to me. I named them and gave them personalities. These dolls had all of the trappings that a piece of molded plastic could ever desire: a dune buggy, a camper, a swinging bachelorette pad, a yacht, a sauna/bubble bath, and the piece de resistance: a three story luxury townhouse complete with an elevator. Ah, yes…my dolls lived the glamorous life.

I spent many hours engrossed in the lives of Barbie and her girlfriends. Those dolls brought so much joy to a childhood that was far less than idyllic. There is one thing that Barbie never did give me, though – a distorted sense of what my body should look like. Not once did I ever look at that weirdly angled doll nose or the perpetually tangled hair and think, “YES! That’s what I want to be.” I understood that Barbie was a fantasy, and just as I was never fooled by the makers of “Monopoly” into thinking that you could actually be given a “Get out of Jail Free” card, I knew that REAL women had curves. REAL women sometimes had dark, curly hair (like my mom). REAL women had arms that would bend to hold crying babies and eyes that weren’t out of proportion with their head.

I’m confident that my daughter has the same skills to discern the difference between a plastic doll and real life. In fact, she has already shown me that she isn’t buying into the idea that girls who play with Barbie dolls will be warped somehow. When I peek into her room while she’s playing, she has her dolls performing gymnastic routines (like she does) or kicking around a soccer ball (like she does) or doing a spaz dance (like she does). She has yet to erect a homemade stripper pole so that Barbie and the Disney Princesses can put on a show complete with lap dances and tipping. Those ideas aren’t in her head. Those ideas are in the heads of adults who think a piece of plastic in a ski outfit will somehow cause her to forget how to do math. I simply don’t agree.

How do I know that my second grader hasn’t been tarnished by Barbie? I allowed my daughter to pick an American Girl doll for Christmas this past year. (If you aren’t familiar with AG dolls, they are over-priced dolls with over-priced accessories that lure you in because most of them come with an historical back story and book to go along with them.) She has always loved Julie, a beautiful doll with long, blonde hair whose back story puts her in San Francisco circa 1974. She has a groovy wardrobe and perfect skin. When I asked my daughter if Julie was the toy she wanted, she declined. Instead, she wanted one of the dolls that you customize to look like yourself. She ended up with a doll sporting shoulder-length, mousy-brown hair, dark eyes, freckles and braces – a doll that looked like HER, not a Barbie. (Okay, so my daughter doesn’t have braces, but she’s totally obsessed with them. What gives??) In her eyes, THAT was the most beautiful doll.

I am my daughter’s role model right now. She wants to look like me, dress like me, act like me and talk like me. (Do you see why I avoid the potty mouth?) When I head out the door for a run, she sees a strong woman taking care of herself. When I stand up for what I believe in, she sees that a woman’s opinion MATTERS. Barbie dolls don’t scare me at all.

I UNDERSTAND that too many young girls don’t have a positive role model in their lives, and for that, I’m broken hearted. However, to say that the Barbie doll is at the root of what’s wrong with girls in this country is a tad over the top to me. Have you turned on the television lately? Dolls are the LEAST of my worries, and isn’t child’s play supposed to be about fantasy?

I never expected to be Tinker Bell when I grew up, and hello, don’t even try to tell me that her outfit isn’t sexy. Where is the outrage over the fairies in Pixie Hollow? What about “My Little Pony”? Should we boycott them because kids might think real horses are pink and purple? Should we start a Facebook page against “Hello Kitty” because real cats don’t wear pink jumpsuits and have sparkly adventures? I think it’s safe to say that my brother never got duped into thinking that he would be “G.I. Joe” or “Stretch Armstrong” as an adult because he played with those toys as a kid. Should I be worried that my son will be a serial killer because he played with Nerf guns?

My friends who played with Barbie dolls turned out just fine. We are doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, stay at home moms, artists, and athletes, just to name a few. I don’t have a single girlfriend who is obsessed with looking like a doll we played with as children.

I say cut ol’ Barbie some slack. If your daughter is anything like mine, that doll is probably crammed in the back of a closet somewhere lying half-naked under a ratty Teddy Bear, some used up coloring books, and last year’s bathing suit. If you really want to make a difference in your daughter’s life, then YOU become the person you want her to be and you won’t have to worry that Mattel is doing that for you.