Is Barbie offensive to feminism or is she an innocuous toy?
If you don't have a policy in place then you could be one Christmas away from accidentally vacuuming up really tiny shoes. Thanks a lot, Santa.
I wish I could give you what my own decision about Barbie will be, but I'm still hopelessly lost in confusion. That's ironic, because one of my biggest beefs with Barbie is how confusing she is.
I don't know why a $15 Barbie is objectionable to me, but a $100 American Girl doll made in China is A-OK. Maybe it's because of the years I spent as a little girl playing with my Day to Night Barbie, only to grow up and realize that real women don't wear fuchsia suits and pink spectator pumps to the office, even in the 1980s.
But really, of course, it's because of that other issue about Barbie. When my son wanted to know what the big deal was, and why I didn't buy more Barbie dolls for his sister, I only told him part of the truth. The last thing my 7-year-old wants to talk about is bra size.
"What's the 'big' deal about Barbie?" I said to my son. "Well, I don't like Barbie because she sends a message to young girls that being beautiful means having super-blonde hair."
Because of course, Barbie's hair color is her most prominent characteristic. Obviously.
But if I were to talk about measurements, I would mention that in real life Barbie would be 5-foot, 9-inches tall, weigh 110 pounds and have a bra size of 39FF. In real life, Barbie would be freaky.
When my sister was little, she preferred playing with her Barbie doll fully disrobed, and with Barbie's head turned around backward. As the older, wiser one, I thought my little sister was crazy.
But then I saw my own daughter play with Barbie this way, and I had an epiphany. The naked, exorcist version of Barbie has a more realistic waist to bust ratio.
My sister wasn't weird, she was a genius! Turn Barbie's head around and she makes more sense.
To borrow a word from my second-grader, maybe I just need to "chillax" about the whole thing. I know lots of women who played with Barbie growing up, and they all turned out just fine. I'm one of them. Of course, I've always had this nagging feeling that my hair should be blonder. … I know that there's something wrong with my feet too, because why else would high heels be so uncomfortable?
Right now we are choosing to bring only one Barbie doll into our home, but we are still having a lot of fun playing with a whole collection at Grammy's house.
Besides, if we got rid of Barbie altogether there would be all sorts of other problematic toys to fill the void. Like the Cinderella figure in a strapless bathing suit that is floating around the playroom.
When I pointed out that one in passing, a friend of mine quickly shot back: "Don't dirty up Disney for me. I grew up on that stuff."
Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com.
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