I’m a Barbie Girl

contentWhen I was a little girl I had a variety of dolls. I played with “Baby” dolls, Cabbage Patch Kids, Barbie Dolls, Star Wars dolls and action figures, and even my grandmothers porcelain dolls. All of these dolls (including my Grandmother’s) are still in cardboard boxes somewhere in my mom’s garage. I loved dolls when I was a child and I love them today. I played with all sorts of dolls and none of them (with the exception of my Princess Leia action figure) influenced my self-confidence or self-worth. Princess Leia just made me want to fight bad guys and rid the universe of evil. I still want to do that.

Playing with Barbie dolls as a young girl in the 80’s didn’t give me an eating disorder, and it didn’t make me feel ugly. I never thought of Barbie as a “role model”. I looked at my Barbie dolls as a hanger for clothing. 90% of my time playing Barbies was used to change her clothes. And Barbie wasn’t the easiest doll to do a costume change for. My Barbies didn’t have slick legs (except for “My First Barbie”) and the pants and sleeves of the glamorous clothes always stuck to her body. I literally had to tug and pull to get her dressed. Cher makes it look so easy.  Anyway, I played with Barbie as she was intended to be played with: As a fashion doll.

I get irritated when I hear people complain about Barbie and her “impossible” proportions. Of course she’s impossible. She’s a doll. Barbie was introduced in 1959 when the only doll a girl had to play with was a “baby doll”. I don’t have anything against “baby dolls” but not every little girl wants to play mommy, or even be a mommy. Mattel tapped into a market that no one else in America was interested in: girls. She was one of the first toys to use TV advertising to her advantage, and she’s still around today. Sure, she’s changed a lot but the idea is still the same. Barbie is a fashion doll. You can change her outfits. She goes to parties and to work.

Y7496_BARBIE-FASHIONISTAS-Gown-Doll-(Pink-Mermaid-With-Ruffles)_XXXBut not all women have the same view of Barbie. Some women seem to find the doll threatening. They call her “unrealistic” and “over exaggerated”. I couldn’t agree more. She totally is. But so are Transformers and GI Joe. And My Little Pony. Barbie is no more of a threat to a young girls self-esteem than Batman is to a young boys. But some people have to find fault with everything and those people’s kids get to play with this new doll called “Lammily”. No, that’s not a typo, that is the doll’s actual name. And as if that wasn’t enough to turn off any young girl, the doll also looks like your mom.

Meet “Lammily” the lame doll with the lame name. She’s more “realistic” than Barbie and bound to be absolutely no fun to play with. The doll (designed by a man) is supposed to be the representation of a “normal” body. How fun. Lammily looks like she shops at Old Navy and drives carpool on Tuesdays. If I am a young girl who wants to see what a “normal” woman looks like, I need look no further than my own family, or perhaps to one of the dozens of female teachers in my life. I get normal. I am normal. Who wants to play normal? How does that encourage my imagination? It doesn’t. It probably makes mom feel like she’s awesome, but it leaves daughter bored. And with a doll that doesn’t fit any other doll clothes.

Leia 6Like I said, I had a wide variety of dolls in my entourage, one of which was a “Barbie-type” Princess Leia doll. She came in her white dress, hair in two buns, and her gun. She even looked a lot like Carrie Fisher. I loved her. I loved her until she had to integrate into my pre-existing Barbie society. My new doll had huge, flat feet. There was no way she was going to fit those canoes into Barbie’s dainty little slippers. She was also twice the size of Barbie which meant that she couldn’t share clothes. Princess Leia was stuck in that white, turtle neck gown. Indefinitely. She became the doll that stayed home when the others went out. She was the Cinderella of my group, but unlike the fairy tale, Ms. Leia never got to go to a ball. None of the gowns fit.

And that’s how I see these “Lammily” dolls. They are guaranteed to make your daughter the outcast. I remember being invited over to a friend’s house to play Barbies, and feeling like the biggest dork in the world when I showed up with a doll that didn’t fit in. Literally. Leia didn’t fit in the dream house. If the idea behind these so-called “Normal” dolls is to help girls with their self-esteem, then I see it backfiring big time. If you want your daughter to have good self-esteem, then talk to her about it and be her role model. Don’t leave it up to a doll.

The “Lammily” doll is still being funded (via Crowdfunding campaign) and they hope to produce 5,000 boring dolls that look like the neighbor lady getting ready to go to the gym. The tagline is “Average is Beautiful”. Seriously? I mean, sure there is nothing wrong with average. I got a couple of C’s on a report card or two, but shouldn’t we strive for more? Average isn’t beautiful. It’s average. I understand that some people are offended by Barbie and the hyper-sexualized “Bratz” dolls, but I don’t think making a doll that looks like a soccer-mom is the solution. There isn’t a lot of fun places you can pretend to go with your Lammily doll.

The real solution here is to talk to our young ladies and give them credit for being able to choose their own role models. Barbie doesn’t have to be anything more than a fun toy. If we talk to our kids (boys and girls) and help them to understand that toys are toys, and people are people, then it should be alright in the end. I never once thought I could grow up to be Barbie, the thought never crossed my mind. Leading your kids to believe “they can be anything” and that they are “perfect” the way they are is fine I guess, but I’d rather have a healthy dose of reality. No, you will never look like Barbie. 

And that’s a good thing. Because she is a plastic doll, and you, YOU are flesh and blood.

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6 thoughts on “I’m a Barbie Girl

  1. Here here. This reminds me of when, in the 80s, Mattel introduced the “Heart Family Dolls” which consisted of what appeared to be a normal, midwest, seemingly suburban family-oriented alternatives to Barbie. My childhood friends were given them as present, and they wound up lost forever in their basement because no one gave a shit about toys that were so like their real lives. Also, I have struggled with eating/confidence issues throughout my life and not once would I ever trace said problems to Barbie, and judging from acquaintances/others I know with similar conflicts, they would agree. Kids are not that simple, nor are they stupid, but for some reason, the majority of adults like to thing so.

  2. If I were to reply with every thing I loved about this article, then I’d be here all day, and this comment would take an age to read. So instead: “bravo”. These are the things that parents (and children) need to hear for their own sakes.

    I grew up playing with Barbie dolls, Power Rangers, and Transformers side-by-side. They were toys, and with the Wonderful Power of Imagination I could turn them into anything that I wanted. They were the tools–the friends–that I used to act out my mental adventures. I knew that I could never be Barbie, just as much as I could never be the Pink Ranger, or fight side-by-side against the Decepticons with Optimus Prime and Wheeljack, but I was alright with that, because even though reality was boring and drab at times, I always had my toys and imagination to break it up–and I knew the difference between the two.

  3. Amen. Totally agree. What is truly insane is not Barbie’s size, it is the fact that some people can no longer tell the difference between the fantasy world and reality. Noone ever said Batman shouldn’t fly because it’s not “realistic” and makes boys feel bad about themselves. Thanks for this post!

  4. You’ve got some very good points there!
    Let fairytales be fairytales! Children have a fantastic imagination and as you pointed out, that imagination is hardly simulated by an “average” doll. And you can’t just cut the child out of the rest of the world by isolating her from possibly “offending” images and toys. The little girl will be faced with criticism and nasty comments concerning her physics at some point of her life anyways. It’s not like playing with an “average” doll will keep her self-esteem high forever.

    Rather than being concerned about some plastic dolls’ effect of little girls, I’d be more worried about the fact that these days, adults don’t pay attention to what children WANT but what they think they want. Kids spend hours watching the telly and when they finally get around to playing themselves, they are given toys that leave no room for imagination (like that Lammy doll). Seriously, you can’t protect your children by brainwashing them to think in a certain way.

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