Sunday, March 18, 2012

Barbie Is Not the Enemy

What is it about Barbies that little girls just love?  I never really could understand the fascination until I watched my own daughter play.  Barbie allows little girls to dip their toes into a fantasy world, a world where your only concern is what to wear or how your hair looks.  Barbie creates a life of glamour most women only dream of.  What's so bad about that?

I remember back to my women's studies classes in college.  We read many articles on the harmful effects of Barbie--promoting unhealthy body images for young girls.  We discussed the lack of career opportunities for women showcased by the career Barbies.  At the time, I remember shaking my head in agreement.  I remember thinking that MY daughter would never play with Barbies.  I didn't want her to develop a negative self-image or limit her career choices based on a doll. Who knew Barbie could be so dangerous?!

Fast forward fifteen years later.  My living room floor is littered with Barbies and their little shoes, the bejeweled dresses, and sparkly necklaces.  Lauren loves Barbie, and I am o.k. with that now.  I agonized buying her first Barbie a year ago, hearing the whispers of my college classmates.  What message would be sending my daughter by buying her a doll with an unattainable body image?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that all of the feminist spewing of hate toward a doll was baloney. Barbie is NOT the enemy.  Who doesn't want to drive a flashy pink Corvette or live in a Malibu beach house?  Who doesn't want a closet full of sequined couture gowns and piles of shoes?  What woman hasn't looked at Barbie's perfectly coiffed hair and wished her own would do the same?  And, what woman hasn't dreamed of a silent man by her side (sorry, Ken)?  And, be honest, who doesn't want those curves that Barbie has made so famous?

All dangers aside, I realized that a doll will not shape my daughter's self-concept.  That is my job as a parent.  I will tell her her body is perfect just the way it is, and I will show her that through my own self-acceptance.  I will expose her to a variety of careers so she knows that she can be anything her heart desires.  It is called parenting, plain and simple.  Any mother who leaves it to Barbie to teach her child about body image and career opportunities is not doing her job.  

My job as a mother is made easier by the village of Barbies in my life. These are the women helping me to shape the young woman my daughter will grow to be just by being themselves.  They are truly beautiful inside and out.  Each one of them shows her the true meaning of beauty and what it truly means to live out your dreams.  My friend, Donna, teaches special education and mothers two boys.  She recently decided to represent our community in the Ohio House of Representatives, winning the primary, and she will take down the incumbent in November.  She sees my friend, Julie, who founded her own organic cupcake business last year and has bravely taken life by the horns after the recent passing of her husband.  Kim is a fiery woman who speaks her mind, and loves her children fiercely.  She has shown my daughter about acceptance, standing up for what you believe in, and the richness of relationships.  Lauren knows Lisa, mother to two of Eli's best friends, who works with victims of sex crimes through her work with the FBI.  My friend, Mary, teaches first grade and is committed to making her classroom a place of joy and discovery, yet her service to our community is amazing.  My daughter watches Patty, a woman committed to fighting for teachers' rights through her tireless work at the local, state, and national level, while raising two kids of her own.  And, she sees Val, a woman of endless optimism, who teaches high school and mothers two kids too. These women are the real life Barbies, the women who will mold my daughter's sense of self.  They let her see the realm of possibilities for her life, yet all of them do it with grace and beauty that a plastic doll just can never possess.

So, play away, little Lauren.  Brush those luscious locks of Barbie, and change her outfits as many times as your heart desires.  You are beautiful, little girl, exactly the way you are, and you have the opportunity to be anything and everything you can dream.   And, maybe someday, if you decide to buy a pink Corvette, don't forget to take your dear ol' mom for a ride.  


  1. I love all the strong Barbies your duaghter has in her life! And happy to say I know some of them and their strength as well.

    BTW, the year we got our girls the Barbie Dream House was MY favorite Christmas. Totally reverted to my own childhood.

    Great post!

  2. "I realized that a doll will not shape my daughter's self-concept. That is my job as a parent. "

    Great point. Perfectly stated

  3. I actually loathe Barbies, but not for the reasons you stated. I was a total tomboy growing up, and the thought of playing with Barbie dolls was just gross. ;) I haven't made up my mind yet about whether or not I'll buy Barbies for my kids, but I guess I'd be OK with it if she really wanted one...maybe.

    I love this line..."Any mother who leaves it to Barbie to teach her child about body image and career opportunities is not doing her job." Agreed.

    Jennifer K.

  4. I love Barbies.My girls have grown out of dolls and I do miss having them laying around on the floor. Neither of my girls were huge Barbie fans, but I was when I was little. For years and years. We spent hours and hours creating possible worlds for our Barbies. I read THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE BARBIE last year and it was a pretty interesting read. Lots of interesting facts on the true story and the controversies, etc. I am especially intrigued by artist Margaux Lange and would love one of her pieces of jewelry someday. Her story is an interesting one too.

  5. You make a good point and state it well. With you as her mother and role models like the ones you mention, Lauren will do just fine.

  6. I love your description of the strong women who are in your daughter's life! You're right, Barbie cannot shape her self-concept if you and those women do a good job of it instead!

  7. I loved this. All the questioning...who doesn't want to drive a pink corvette? I did when I was little. :D