This is an overdue post. I’ve meant to write something about this topic for quite sometime now but always postponed it. Until last night when I read the latest ridiculous post about a mum refusing to buy a Barbie to her girl. It just sent me up the wall so I now need to vent it all out.
Let me give you some background. When I was little I was in LOVE with Barbie. With my sister and my mum we used to go to toys shops and admire the shelves full of different Barbies. The idea of owning my own Barbie was like a dream. My mum loved it too so whenever she could afford it, she would surprise me and my sister with a new Barbie. I remember my first Barbie was a simple one with a little pretty dress. My mum used to sew skirts and dresses for our Barbies so we had the opportunity to create different roles for her: one day she was a mummy taking care of her little kids, one day she was a secretary, a swimmer, etc.
Playing with Barbie for me did not mean dreaming to physically become like her (never even thought or noticed she was slim, blond bla bla) but getting inspired to play different pretend roles every time I was changing her clothes. I was inspired to make her having different careers in sports, music,business and being a mom, have a family, a house.
One day my dad (yes my dad!) came home with Big Jim and a green Jeep. Someone gave them to him and he never thought those toys were just for boys. He just gave them to us and we started playing imagining that both Big Jim and Barbie were going traveling and they were a family. When my dad built wooden furniture for my dolls, I created a house for Barbie, I developed my own taste and designed her a home. Barbie helped me to be creative.
I remember my favourite one was Barbie “Fior di pesca” ie Barbie “Peaches”. She had the most beautiful peach colour dress and I’d spend hours getting her ready, fixing her hair. Why would wanting to make your favourite doll look like a princess be so wrong? If this was really teaching something bad, we should had stopped women dreaming to be pretty for their wedding day, which is the closest you can get to look like a princess I guess.
The second most favourite Barbie was “Barbie giorno e sera” (Barbie day and night). Her outfit would change from professional business woman during the day to glamouros party girl at night.
What is wrong with imagining to have a job and go to the office during the day only to discover that at night we can party? Aren’t we all like that? Why is this kind of role play so bad? Please don’t tell me because her skirts were too short, that’s just being a bigot.
I remember treasuring those Barbies I received (I still keep in a box in my attic) and now those dolls are linked to amazing childhood memories. When I was little I thought Barbie was inspiring, I could make her be whoever I wanted it and this was a big thing in my head.
Having always loved playing with Barbie obviously I could not wait to buy one (or two) for my daughter. To be honest at the beginning it was more an excuse for me to own one more Barbie than for her to play with, it was my childhood dream to have many Barbies, many outfits, different roles to make Barbie play and fantasising about playing different scenarios.
When I read the post about this mum hating Barbies, although I can respect her opinion, I find her argument for not wanting to buy a Barbie to her daughter really absurd.
One of her reasons for not liking Barbies is that she is not comfortable with the idea of having naked dolls around the house. I clearly think this underlies a more serious, personal problem. Naked dolls!??!
Although I tend to ask Bee to dress her dolls up (mainly because we keep losing bits and pieces) I don’t see any problems seeing undressed Barbies around the house. If a Barbie is undressed is because Bee was probably about to change her outfit and then she got distracted by another toy not because she enjoys looking at them naked (what kind of sick mind would think that) .
What are you really teaching a girl by acting like that? That she should be ashamed of her naked body? Isn’t this a totally wrong message to pass on?
Second reason: she won’t buy a Barbie to her daughter because the doll has unrealistic proportions.
Do you really think that when Beatrice plays with Barbie she really notices that Barbie is slim, with blue eyes, perfect boobs and long blonde her? Never, I never heard her mentioning that to me. I think girls of her age are more about feelings and role play than noticing sizes or particular features that mainly adults are concerned with.
If Bee would really notice and be influenced by that, she would definitely not saying ” Mamma you are bella” when on an early Sunday morning we cuddle up in bed and I have no make up, funny looking hair and I am definitely not wearing a glamourous dress. And certainly she would not go “Mummy I love you but you need to slim down or put some make up on”, come on!
If we were to think like that we should then ban all toys and princesses dolls including, fancy dress costumes and Disney dvds from our daughter’s lives. What about the boys then? Following this theory isn’t dreaming about being Spider man or Superman something bad too? Isn’t sexist thinking that only action figures for girls are bad?
I liked one of the comments a mother left in the post. She actually mentioned the fact that “Self respect and self esteem should come from you as the parent. Leaving that to a doll is lazy”.
My daughter is influenced by the way I treat her and other people, by the way I teach her to behave. I guess whoever has got problems with a simple dolls has hidden problems withing his/her childhood and blaming a doll is perhaps a way for them to feel better.
Children have played with dolls and action figures since forever. I believe that especially when really young, dolls can help a kid’s imagination, they can help them exploring new things. If we were to ban a simple doll, we’d definitely be more worried and stop the negative body and self-image messages portrait in television, in movies and music videos.
Owning a Barbie and enjoying giving one as a present is a bit different than becoming an obsessed mother and wanting a daughter to compete at pageant shows and focusing on her success based on the looks, now that is wrong!
Funny enough I haven’t yet come across a post about banning children from owning a Monster high dolls which apparently are very popular right now. Do you know them? Did you see that they come with coffins and skulls!?
The only reason why Bee didn’t get another Barbie for Christmas is that I already bought too many Barbies for her and I fear that she won’t be able to treasure her dolls as much as I did when I was little if receiving a Barbie as a gift was to be taken for granted.
It’s a parent job to teach their children about healthy body image and I wish people would just stop blaming a doll for not knowing how to develope a positive body image for their children. Young girls are daily bombarded with messages about how they “should” look and appearance and although we cannot stop this, we can teach them how to judge and question these messages.
I quote another mum comment as I could not have said it better:
“The Barbie experience is what you teach your children it to be….Look for the positive in every situation…..when you look for the negative that is what you see”.
ps if you would like to read Barbie’s interesting legacy and a great message of self-esteem please check this article published on the Huffington Post