Today on Babble, two writers argue both sides of the big-boobed thorn in the side of all conscientious, feminist parents: Barbie.
Despite the shocking revelations about Barbie's scandalous past, the objections on Babble are the old ones: unrealistic body image. Says Mike Adamick, the concerned dad whose daughter has just received a first Barbie:
A friend's daughter, then 7, told her mother one day that she needed to go on a diet so she could look "more like Sally" — the name she had given to her Barbie. I'm not saying Barbie is the gateway to eating disorders. But I also don't think dieting fits into the realm of playtime. How fun is that to look at a toy and think you're suddenly not good enough? Yay! And our friend's daughter is not the first to bring this up. And I doubt the same emotion overcomes a girl playing with a chubby Cabbage Patch Doll. Some young girls see Barbie, want her body and then destroy their own. After all, isn't Barbie a model for the perfect female?
The opposing argument, "Aw, Just Let Her Have a Barbie," comes from Jeanne Sager, formerly anti-Barbie, who relaxes after her young daughter actually gets a Barbie and falls in love with it.
I didn't even know she knew who Barbie was. She spent hours that night, ripping Barbie's clothes off. Making me put them back on. Ripping Barbie's clothes off. Making Daddy put them back on. Brushing Barbie's hair. Tangling Barbie's brush in knots in Barbie's hair. It didn't matter what I thought. Barbie had found a home. She's now up to three Barbies - all gifts - and I've given up on a lot of my feministic outrage. It's a doll. She has impossibly big boobs and and impossibly small waist. But she's hardly the only doll to be lacking in realism.
When actually confronted with the doll they'd feared, Sager and her husband find it's just that: a piece of plastic, unable to suddenly control their daughter or overcome their influence. "By not making it a big deal, we've managed to make Barbie no more special than her collection of Hess trucks or her art easel." Furthermore, Sager acknowledges that she herself managed to develop all the neuroses and insecurities she hoped to spare her own daughter - without the benefit of Barbie. The funny thing is, by the end of his "anti" essay, Adamick has come to pretty much the same reluctant conclusion. Not only is his daughter fairly disinterested in the doll, but he determines that at the end of the day it's his behavior as a parent that matters more. "I still maintain that I'm not going to buy one...but if another Barbie enters the house, I think I'm the last person who should be making a big deal of it. "
This whole debate made me laugh: when I was a little girl, my conscientiously liberal parents denied me a Barbie. Indeed, my playroom was conspicuously lacking in pink plastic generally, although there was plenty of beeswax and wooden toys. As a result, the Barbie attained forbidden fruit status: it became an obsession, the focus of all my desires. And when I finally received that long-awaited Mattel box when I was five, it held far more fascination than it otherwise would have. After all, it must be special if parents fear it so much! But even with Barbie's seedy past and bad feminist cred, such concerns seem relatively quaint compared to the threats posed by child strumpets like Bratz, or the legions of real children on TV behaving questionably. As these things go, a Barbie can serve as little more than a lesson in poor lipstick shade choices, and the sad fact that plastic hair doesn't grow back. The rest, as Babble agrees, can probably be offset by more normally proportioned grown-ups.
Earlier: XXX! Sex Secrets Of Barbie And Ken