Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Case for Barbie

(image found here)
Recently in the news and magazines, articles have been popping up about Barbie's 50th birthday; which is being celebrated this year by Mattel and by collectors everywhere.  However, her birthday does not come without it's share of opposition. For years now people have railed against Barbie as an unhealthy and unrealistic role model for our daughters.  

Mothers and psychiatrists alike came out against the impossibly-curvy-while-being-impossibly-slim (according to sources, her real life measurements would be 39-21-33) doll, stating that she was largely to blame for the rise in eating disorders and heightened sexual awareness in young children. 

I have to disagree. My mother, single until I was 8 years old, allowed me to play with Barbies.  My mom is not a girly girl. Sure she likes herself some fancy heels and she curls her hair before she goes out, but she's more likely to be seen in cotton and flannel in her free time and I could probably count on my fingers the number of times she has allowed makeup to touch her face. She has caught her own fish, killed her own deer, changed her own tires and helped build her new house after she got married.  

I am a girly girl. I love makeup and fashion and the one time my dad took me hunting I humiliated him beyond description. I had several Barbies and boxes full of clothes and a Ken doll for all of them to fight over. My 3 younger sisters also played with Barbies. They range from "almost as girly as me" to "touch me with that curling iron and you die". 

Last Christmas my friend, who had previously been opposed to letting her daughter play with Barbies, allowed us to buy her one as a present.  Her husband had decided it was high time his little girl get some fashion sense. (heh) My sons picked out "Barbie for President" Barbie. Score one for females around the world, I say.  Barbie now has had so many uniforms and held so many positions, a young girl can hold this doll and see before herself a world full of possibilities. 

And about those eating disorders: What has happened to women, teens, and young girls since Barbie began to be ostracized a couple of decades ago? We have gotten fat. The term "muffin top" has been coined and it does not refer to anything so warm and delicious as a freshly baked blueberry breakfast food.  

The last time I saw a Barbie with workout clothes on, it was 1984.  Is it possible that having an impossibly beautiful and curvaceous icon to look up to (down upon?) helps us to see the possibilities in ourselves? Helps us to make goals of beauty and health that have been tossed aside in favor of a milkshake and french fries? 

Happy Birthday, Barbie. May your youth, beauty, and impossible curves last another 50 years!


Staci said...

Wow - you aren't going to win any political correctness awards with this post. I was laughing out loud at your assessment of this generations weight issues. I am pretty sure that the "muffin top" is more related to current cut of denim than the modern figure.

Nonetheless, I LOVE the vintage Barbies. Olivia and I are always drooling over them.

Nancy H. said...

I remember the times when I played with my Barbie, I was nice, then it turned to Bungie Barbie not too long after I entered the 5th grade.
And am I the one who's "almost as girly" as you? Because it sounds right.

Maxine Parrish said...

I've always loved Barbies, and they're heaps better than the other alternatives on the mainstream market. Bratz Dollz? Seriously? They make Barbie's proportions and choice of apparel seem positively normal, even frumpy in comparison.

Gurgy said...

I agree, Barbie is not the cause of our eating disorders. Look at all the fashion models, they take drugs and starve themselves to be a size that is not healthy at all. Young girls see these models and actresses and think that they have to look like them to be someone. If we got rid of those types of preconceptions we would be alot better off.

Erin said...

AMEN & hallelujah sister!!!

Catherine said...

Um.... who are you? The com-con Barbie?

Nanette said...

unfortunately, Barbie hasn't really helped in the fashion department after all.I think she needs more outfits. She does have a husband now though!