So today, scrolling through the Guardian I noticed yet another article disparaging Barbie. How many times have we heard that Barbie is on her way out? (If you regularly read the Guardian, you’ve heard this an infinite number of times). Barbie may well be decreasing in popularity, but with the rise in popularity of children playing with computers/iPads & such like, surely the sales of all traditional dolls could well be declining.
Anyway, something which has always baffled me about the outcries from certain feminists that Barbie is a poor toy for little girls to play with is how? Barbie has had close to 150 (!) careers, she’s been a doctor, an astronaut, a vet and even president of the United States. Whereas the Disney princesses, with the exception of Pocahontas & Tiana have all exclusively been waiting for their prince. Only Princess Tiana has had a job or any career ambitions (to own her own restaurant). Why is no one vilifying them in the same way they are hounding Barbie. If anything, Barbie is a step up from these stereotypes. Couple this with the fact that Barbie’s long term boyfriend, Ken has never worked, she is supporting him! She’s a feminist icon! (Maybe not, but there are worst things children could be doing than playing with Barbie).
Yes, Barbie is blonde, tall, thin & beautiful, but as a brown girl, I loved her as a child, I certainly didn’t feel inferior due to the standard of beauty she supposedly set for me. I mean, she’s a doll. She’s been a doll for 55 years (and looking good on it) has she also been responsible for eating disorders for this long too? I don’t think so. Studies to the contrary have used small sample sizes and even conclude that any negative images a small sample of girls may have about themselves are negated with the ageing of the child.
Calls for plus size Barbies are preposterous, being overweight is unhealthy, why should Barbie pander to the feelings of mollycoddled children in order to encourage them to lead an unhealthy lifestyle? Instead of telling them to accept themselves the way they are in the midst of an obesity epidemic, surely we should encourage them to care about their weight by persuading them to adapt a healthy lifestyle.
Let’s not forget either, Barbie is not really a role model, she’s just a doll. As a little girl playing with my Barbies in the 80s, I definitely didn’t look at Barbie as a woman I aspired to be, anymore than I’m sure little girls do now. She was my doll and if she taught me anything, surely it was that I could be anything I wanted to be.
Any opinions please feel free to leave them in the comments!