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!