This week I came across a blog published by the high-brow, intellectual daily The Guardian, which attacked the gender stereotypes and sexualisation, rife in the toy/kid’s entertainment industry.
As a woman I agree with the author: mainly because my mother refused, point blank, to buy me Barbie or any other similar doll – unless and until they could give me a ‘positive role model’. Apparently, one day I would understand.
Being a child of the rampant consumerism of the Eighties, I struggled to see the problem in owning a doll, which in turn owned a collection of pink ballroom gowns in every cut and in every shade of pink.
Don’t get me wrong; I had many toys and dolls, such as Monchichi the clever monkey, beautifully illustrated atlases (to check out whence monkeys – and our ancestors – originated), discs with matching (and beautifully illustrated) books: Andersen’s Tales , the Grimm Brothers’ Tales, Aesop, Ancient Greek Myths, Norse Legends, Alice in Wonderland, and from Scandinavia , the land of happy kids, I got Alfons and the Karlsson-on-the-Roof.
Still, it was Barbie I coveted. I pestered, argued with, cried, begged, protested with my mother, to no avail.
This went on untill… Barbie spoke to me, while I gazed, enraptured at the latest Mattel addition, proudly occupying the centre of our local department store’s toys window.
I cannot remember exactly what Barbie told me, but hers were not soft-spoken words extending invitations to shopping sprees and longs lazy days on the beach. Barbie uttered a call to arms: “Go on, take the plunge, make a statement, buy your own Barbie doll”
So I did.
In the spring of 1988 I finally turned up at school with a Barbie, purchased with my own pocket money and during a school trip, miles away from my mother. Faced with the fait accompli, the lady mother acquiesced.
There I was, clutching my long-limbed, smiley Barbie, showing off my own plastic representation of unattainable human perfection to friends (and their friends). Result!
I had won, Barbie had won, the Eighties had won.
And so had my mother, because of all the Barbie dolls I could have bought, I chose Barbie Doctor. So perhaps it was my mother, who had always encouraged me to take charge and to stand up for myself and what I thought right, who laughed last.
Life after Barbie…
My Barbie Doctor sported a beautiful, frilly lab coat, a stethoscope, and, if memory serves me well, a pink doctor’s bag for emergencies.
I soon tired of Barbie anyway (kids are fickle), and saved next for a subscription to Poochie the Pink Dog’s mag. Poochie’s copybooks and stampers and even ear muffs followed. I loved Poochie because she was fun and organised, friendly and resourceful, not because she was pink (though I did not object to that)
So, in conclusion: dear parents, I understand your worries but, please, relax a little. Kids are practical and shrewd individuals. If you talk to them, they will listen.
I agree girls (or boys) should not be under the impression that they will necessarily grow into long-limbed, narrow-waisted, white-toothed adults. Keep telling girls and boys that we can all make a difference, we can aspire to give something back, we can try to improve ourselves (whatever size we are) and that makes us special and beautiful.
Keep saying that they are beautiful because their minds are creative, intelligent, honest and a little wicked. Incidentally, keep insisting that they eat well and are active, for their own sake, not to look like Barbie.
But should we really ban Barbie?
Barbie on the dole
Barbie appeals to kids. Period. So, it’s Mattel we must tackle!
I’ll start: Dear Mattel management,
please, give us more natural, credible Barbies. I would like to see
Barbie Fund Manager,
Barbie Business Owner,
Barbie Campaigner (complete with pink placard),
Barbie on the Dole (now that would capture the Zeitgeist), applying for jobs
Barbie Cab Driver (ok, the cab can be pink, if you really insist),
Barbie President of the WHO/UN/USA
Barbie Fight Fighter
I want to see Barbie living in a normal flat, or still living with her parents, because she is paying off her student debts. (BTW who are Barbie’s parents?)
Give us Barbie looking dishevelled after a run, make her a little plumper, while you are at it.
Do that, and I will buy a Barbie for my Godson and every child I know and care about!