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.

32 comments:

  1. Love it. I have my fair share of issues with Barbie, but we've got boxes of them in the house. And yes, most of them are naked and buried in closets. LOL

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    1. Thank you...you are one person I really hoped to not offend. :-)

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  2. OH.I.LOVE.YOU!
    I loved barbies when I was little, but was raised with more than enough common sense to know that it was a DOLL, not a role model. And most of my barbies ended up looking like a leper colony, with missing arms, legs, hair and eyes - thanks to our little pirrahna of a dog.

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    1. Mine usually ended up with a terrible hair cut!!

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    2. My Barbies had a few mangled limbs too thanks to the family dog! I got a chuckle out of your comment. Good times!

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  3. I loved my Barbie dolls too. I spent hours making clothes for them. Sometimes my dolls did have romances with my Spider Man action hero doll (we didn't have Paris Hilton or the Kardashian's back then so I had to invent my own dramas). I, like you, did not expect to grow up and look or act like Barbie. It never occured to me that I would live in a pink plastic house, that I would have a bust so big I wouldn't be able to stand up and walk around or that I would ever meet a girl named Skipper. Somewhere along the way we have lost our minds in political correctness and nonsense causes. Yes, Barbie may not be the best role model for young girls, but that's because she is a doll. She isn't a role model. If you want your daughters (I have one myself) to grow up to be strong, independent, healthy women than that is what you have to surround her with: strong, independent and healthy women. Real women are going to affect our daughters in a much more positive (or negative) way than any doll ever will. Great post!

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    1. I loved Barbies too, but the only "sewing" I did (or should I say capable of) was for those hideous TROLL dolls (that I loved). I would use a scrap of fabric, and cut two arm holes for it, and then left the back end open with their ass exposed like we all must endure now while at the OB/GYN office. Yikes!

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  4. GIRL! go on with your bad self. I never liked Barbies myself, but my mom let me make that decision. You are so right, least of our worries. Except that Hello Kitty shiz. that stuff has to go. great post. ANd please don't talk about the "c" word. xoxoxox

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    1. Hehehe...that "C" word was exclusively for you! And even MY kid hates Hello Kitty. xoxoxo

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  5. I spent many, many hours with my Barbie dolls when I was growing up and even though I am a little disappointed that my daughter is more Polly Pockets than Barbie I see nothing wrong with letting kids do what they do best...play.

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  6. OK, house of boys and even we've had a barbie or two. SHOCKING, right? LOL SO I may not agree with all your points, but I also don't believe a toy doll is the root of all evil. Girls and women are much stronger than that. Good post. You should delve into the taboo topics more often ;).

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  7. I grew up with barbies, my daughters had them; they gave them each a different name. Let me tell you at night it was a nightmare when one would bemoan that she couldn't go to sleep without Susan. I asked which one that was she replied well she has blond hair. Both my adult daughters have turned out alright not obbsesed with looking like barbie at all. They also used the barbie doll house for the Jurassic Park dinos so I never worried. Kids should play with what fires their imaginations.

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  8. Brav-a sistah! I never owned a Barbie until I had daughters (twins). We housed 36 Barbies and one Ken by the time we handed them down to younger girls.
    My daughters are strong independent women that I'm incredibly proud of. They were surrounded with strong women throughout their childhood and PLAYED for HOURS at a time with those friggin dolls. And, they each had two American Girls dolls and two Cabbage Patch dolls. They are kind nurturing adults who simply liked playing with dolls as children.

    What's kinda funny to me is I don't know where they got that from. I never really liked playing with dolls.
    but they did - and they're just fine.

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  9. Excellent article and for my daughter now 19, it was Brat Dolls. Even into teenager years she had them, and she grew into a well adjusted A/B college student that I have never had to bail out of jail. :)

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    1. That never going to jail thing is VERY important!! :-)

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  10. I learned to sew because my mom let me near the sewing machine at 8 when I wanted to make Barbie some clothes. I played with them for years and I don't really remember doing anything but figuring out how to make more outfits out of what I had and what I could cadge from my mom's sewing scraps! Now I'm nearly 60 and I still play! Probably more now--trying to make outfits over in different ways--I have my 3 favorite girls and we go out on the town or help out the earth on Clean the Beach Day! I dress them up in scenarios and just enjoy doing it (Cause I have more shoes and stuff now!) I had a son or maybe I would've gotten over it--but I don't think it does any little girl any harm--the wackadoos who get innumerable plastic surgeries trying to make themselves look like Barbie and other crazies, they would have found something else to occupy themselves if there were no Barbies! Also, check out Susan Sterns documentary 'Barbie Nation'--it has great stuff from Ruth Handler, and a lot of interesting 'alternative' Barbie stuff--a really great movie and I'm not saying that because I know her!! I'll see if I can find a link...

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  11. Let's hear it for women who were once girls with freckles, mousy brown hair and braces!

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  12. My girls like Liv dolls, but its the same thing. It matters more what kind of woman you are than what kind of "woman" that Barbie pretends to be. Great Blog!

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    1. She has Liv dolls, too. The funny thing is that she takes off their hair and has them all bald, all the time. :-)

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  13. We have Barbies in every room of the house. I don't have a problem with Barbie (other than that tangled hair you mentioned). I have a problem with grown real women on TV looking like plastic. Give my daughters a damn break---and me, too---TV ladies.

    I will say Bratz creep me the hell out. Why are their heads so big? Nevermind that, why the BJ lips?

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  14. Playing make believe whether with a barbie or an action figure is what a child is suppose to do. A child's job in life is suppose to play plus go to school and learn. I'm too old to have played with barbie but I certainly played with enough babydolls and little girl dolls. Now I'm not saying it made me want to be a mother but certainly nurtured that side of me. My daughter played endlessly with barbie and ken (who was only a prop). I have tons of barbies, clothes etc in the attic. She has 2 boys and now my only hope of a granddaughter is my son. I say "get to it". Barbie is waiting for someone to play with her. Maybe if I ever get to clean the attic, I'll give Barbie and Ken a run for their money.

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  15. Linked to your blog from "I Want a Dumpster Baby" LOVE this post!!!

    Signed in as Anonymous because I'm too lazy to sign in with any account.

    Gwen

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  16. I adored my Barbies! I played out book plots with them. I loved playing dress up with them. My grandma amazingly made my Barbies a wardrobe that Coco Chanel would have been envious of from all sorts of scraps of fabric. I had boas, glitter dresses, you name it! I cherish those memories and those dolls. I have every piece of clothing grandma ever made for my dolls saved...because i"m going to pass that heritage down to my own daughter some day...well, that entails that I actually have one. Right now I've been blessed with two rough and tumble boys.

    And yeah...I never wanted to BE Barbie...unless I could have all the fancy clothes grandma made her. And the shoes. There were NEVER enough pairs of Barbie shoes!

    The land of make believe is what childhood is all about...and sadly most of today's children don't live there. They are too busy playing hand held video games or zoning out on TV or just scheduled to heavy with all the sports and activities their PARENTS want them to do. Just let them be kids. Let their imagination grow. Let them play Barbie---or GI Joes.

    Great article!

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  17. Ha, I just love this post, love your blog, love your Facebook posts... I especially love the list of topics at the top that one should not cover in her blog if she wishes to remain popular and loved, haha. I just hit two of the biggies -- politics and religion -- in one fell swoop today. Ah, well... popularity and love are overrated... ;)

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  18. I want to follow you on FB. I used to follow you on FB but now you're not there anymore. Are you? Have I been blocked? What did I do wrong? I swear I have never applied myself.

    Janine Dunmyre

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    1. Janine! You certainly are NOT blocked. :-) I'm just taking a little bit of the summer off to have some non-Facebook fun. THANK YOU so much for reading!!! I'll be back!!!!

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  19. And I've been waiting patiently for you to return to your website as I absolutely refuse to participate in FB. Any hope for that or am I just going to be out of luck forever? ;( I REALLY miss your witty stories. Harry

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    1. Harry...I'm making a comeback soon...I miss you all, too. :-)

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