Displeased with the images Barbie represents for his daughters, Chris Farley Ratcliffe contemplates Barbie’s future in his home.
“I want Barbieeeee!” This has become a frequent refrain around our house lately. For me it is an indication of a lost battle.
I dislike Barbie dolls and everything they stand for. I dislike the idealized and highly improbable female form. I dislike the materialism. I dislike Barbie’s sexist and stereotypical roles. I dislike her feet in permanent high heel pose. I dislike all of the pink and constant makeup.
We have had a few Barbie dolls kicking around the house that people have given my older two daughters as gifts. I’m not sure why we didn’t toss them out, other than the fact that our girls didn’t really play with them so they just sat around at the bottom of toy bins like so much other kid debris.
Recently my toddler discovered these Barbie dolls. She loves them. She carries them around and regularly demands that she have them in her crib with her when she is taking a nap. One of them is always naked for some reason. The other one usually has her cocktail dress hiked up so she might as well be naked (at least they have ‘nude’ underwear on). This doll has a reversible dress that doesn’t come off, although that’s not to say there hasn’t been some effort made.
I often come across ‘cocktail dress Barbie’ lying on the floor like she has fallen off a building. She has more joints than the others. You can bend her knees, hips, waist, shoulders, elbows and turn her head 360 degrees. She is cheerful though. No matter how disfiguring and damaging her apparent injuries, she is always there with a smile!
Barbie is selling at a rate of three units per second worldwide, which means there are more Barbie dolls sold annually than children born in the world. It is amazing and scary that Barbie is so pervasive. I hope that humanity doesn’t see this as a challenge and decide to try to top the Barbie sales numbers.
I’m not sure of her future in our house. I strongly disagree with everything she represents and yet, my daughter is quite enamored with her. Do we do away with Barbie and deal with her trauma? I’m not sure if this is true of all kids, but mine seem to have tremendous memories and remember all kinds of things I thought they would have forgotten or for which I have retained no memories. So if we remove Barbie from our house will we cause a life-long trauma caused by a missing favorite toy? It is likely that someone will give her a Barbie along the way as a present so this will be a running battle.
Maybe we let Barbie stick around and use her as a teaching tool to talk about eating disorders. Did you know that if Barbie were a real woman she would have such a low percentage of body fat that she would be unable to menstruate? While I don’t believe that playing with one toy will cause any of my daughters to develop an eating disorder, I am concerned about the overwhelming media images and messages that reinforce the “thin is best” story line personified by Barbie.
I think most humans in the developed world and likely many in the developing world have dealt with and deal with body image issues. My hope is that I can help my daughters to feel good about their bodies most of the time. I have no idea whether letting them play with Barbie will help or hinder that plan. I guess I’ll let Barbie stick around to jump start a very important conversation with my daughters down the road.
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