Thursday, October 3, 2013

Anti-Barbie Is Anti-Possible

In my feminist-fueled 20's I thought that if I ever had girls, I'd dissuade them from Barbies. By doing so, I'd protect them from feelings of low self-esteem and bad body image. In their place, I'd find ugly, wooden doll-like figures who have no interest in today's fashions or dramatic accessories.

I see now that keeping my girls away from Barbie is about as possible as keeping them away from a playground on a sunny day. 

Our Barbie Bin
In retrospect, the logistics of banning Barbie would have been a nightmare. It would have meant telling all my relatives and friends not to buy Barbie products at every birthday and gift-giving holidays (repeatedly). I'd have to write "no Barbies" on all their birthday party invitations from age 4 - 14. Potential playdates would need to be screened and warned of our preferences for non-Barbie play. We'd have to guide our girls to change conversational topics away from Barbie movies and new dolls on the playground and in school. 

Seriously, I would have to be THAT mom. 

The one who takes away just-opened Barbie dolls on birthdays and explains the negative impact of a physically impossible doll. 

It's just a doll, Mom. 

So, through no initiation of mine, Barbies were given as gifts or passed down to us by older friends. And here we are, a house full of Barbie. (Barbie movies are particular favorites on Friday Movie Nights.) And my 25-year-old self is rolling her eyes at me, condescendingly. (Come on, Jess!) While the present Jessica is holding up her hands in resignation. They're girls! 

And I am learning, at this age at least, the Barbies fuel imaginative play like none of their other toys. The Barbies are students in school, and parts of a large extended families. They travel to the bottom of the ocean and live in luxurious mansions -- which is actually my sofa. They are joined by the neighbor's Barbies (and one Ken doll!), get their hair done and their clothes changed. They sometimes sleep in shoe boxes. They have their own convertible car. 

In closing, I likely would not have personally invited the Barbie universe into my home. Atheistically, she's too pink, has too much hair and too many little parts. But the effects of playing with a tiny-waisted, big-busted doll doesn't seem to have any profound effect on how the girls see themselves, yet. However, if the girls start developing body issues, I'll trash them all.  

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