Monday, April 19, 2010

Achilles tendon and menses be damned!

I love Barbie, and I’m not afraid to say it. 

I reject the idea that playing with Barbie negatively impacts a child’s self-esteem. Even the Ph.D. author of that post admits to the hours of creative fun she had with Barbie.

In exploring how homely dolls might improve one’s self-esteem, the Onion reported “Mattel also announced that it would begin production next year on Timorous Tim, a fey, cowardly action figure designed to boost the confidence of shy young boys.” The ridiculousness of that effort is a source of humor, so why are the imagined beauty standards of a doll so often seen as harmful?

Millions of little girls (and boys, I would guess) have played with Barbie and very few have been scarred, or have chosen to be permanently re-configured as a result.  Clearly, the overwhelming majority of children who play with Barbie go on to lead normal, productive lives. In fact, Barbie may be an inspiration toward those future careers.

More than simply not harmful, however, Barbie is an excellent role model for girls in these respects: she is overtly feminine, wants to be somebody, and most importantly, despite the presence of the lackluster Ken doll throughout the years, is nobody's subordinate. She represents someone who loves her life, unapologetically – you know, to the full extent that an 11.5” fashion doll can.

Why, just look at me.  I loved my Barbie dolls and harbor no harmful, remnant Barbie doll side effects.  (For the record: having a recurrent mad urge to tour the country in a giant, pink RV with all the comforts of home is not a bad thing.)

Radiating a joyous sense of life on her own terms, rather than providing a stilted walking metaphor for the amenorrhea which would undoubtedly result from having her lack of internal organ space in real life, Barbie remains an excellent toy. 

Some interesting Barbie-related links:


Kim said...

I played with Barbie until I was 12. I see my daughter using her as a way to practice social behaviors. As a wise child once said to a concerned mom who worried about such things: "Mom, it's just a doll."

And I love your point about Barbie enjoying being a girl and expressing her femininity.

C. August said...

I don't see anything wrong with Barbie either. Both my daughter and son play with them (though the latter usually involves them in some sort of battle where they inevitably blow up and fly across the room.)

It's interesting that you describe Barbie as being strong and motivated for success. I wouldn't have thought that was true until, having a daughter, we bought the recent Barbie animated movies. Comparing them to most Disney princess movies, the Barbie ones are much better.

The traditional Disney princess movies have a weak "heroine" who needs constant saving, and needs a man to help her.

The Barbie movies, like "Barbie Island Princess" for example, show Barbie as a self-reliant, strong, smart girl who becomes the action hero. My wife an I both prefer these movies over Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, etc.

NOTE: the Scrooge-themed Barbie xmas movie is TERRIBLE. It's an explicitly altruist diatribe bashing selfishness left and right. But the other ones are very good.

Oh, and I wrote about Barbie and Iran a couple of years ago: Operation Barbie Invasion.

Lynne said...

Thanks, Kim - wise child, indeed.

And thanks, C. August. I remembered your post, but was too lazy to search for it! WWBD? She would have looked it up. I still have much to learn.

All of our story games (one child starts the story and the next contributes, etc.) started with Princess Barbie, courtesy of our daughter, and ended with a brutal storming of the castle, sometimes by aliens employing RPGs, courtesy of our son.