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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Barbies

I knew it was inevitable.

My children, when they decide to rebel, will most likely be well served should they decide to rebel by becoming Republicans...or playing with Barbies. Alexis, at the ripe old age of three and a half, has apparently figured this out and is requesting them.

We have, in our attic, a shitload of those things. They are a combination of leftovers from my sister and myself and the leftovers from Elizabeth. The ones from Elizabeth come from both her house and her father's. Suffice to say, there are a lot. A lot of plastic, perky boobs, impossibly small waists and long legs...figurines that do not in any way, shape, or form represent a real woman's body. Figurines that represent that women are nothing more than playthings, to be controlled by some outside force, even if that force is just a little girl innocently playing.

Some will tell me, "It is just that...innocent. I played with Barbies, and I am just fine!" IDK about that...there is still a lot of misogyny in this world that is very cleverly disguised. As feminists have moved above ground, the resulting push from those who would like to maintain the status quo has moved below ground. It is more insidious, more patronizing, and more harmful...an attitude of "Well, you asked for it all, and this is what you got. Happy? Serves you right for going against nature!" All the while, ignoring the fact that while women may have changed, men still have not and are still buying into the whole "It's my biology!" argument.

Some will tell me, "Barbie is a doll! No one translates what her body looks like into real life!" Really? Cause I distinctly remember thinking that Barbie's body WAS the ideal as a child. As I became a teen, I remember thinking, even at my skinniest, that I was fat. Now as an adult, I still have to struggle with a sometimes very warped and distorted, yet media-fed, image of what is beauty. I don't believe him when my husband tells me I am beautiful because I can't get past the numbers on the scale. When I see a "beautiful" woman with an "ugly" man, I wonder why but yet when the opposite occurs, I don't blink an eye. Granted, all of that probably did not come from Barbie, but there sure as hell was a starting point somewhere.

What about the measurements of Ken? He is pretty unrealistic as well. Do I want my daughter to look at men and think that that is the ideal? That to be a perfect couple, you must have plastic good looks and a shit ton of trendy stuff?

Elizabeth played with Barbies and turned out just fine. However, this was before I started to become more and more invested in learning about feminism and the insidious ways that sexism manifests itself today. I also know that Elizabeth inherited her father's build...tall and skinny, with a pretty high metabolism. My oldest daughter is going to be H-O-T, in all the traditional senses of the word.

Alexis, however, is most likely destined to be short and squat like her father and I. I can already see that she inherited her dad's short, thick legs. She is not overweight...I would like to point this out. She is actually a pretty skinny little thing, probably because she subsists on a diet solely composed of whatever minerals are in the air and three bites of whatever I served for dinner. I am actively teaching my children to make better choices about their food and making a concerted effort to have healthy foods available, as well as to make our lifestyle more active. But I also know what it is like to have an older sister who is rail thin, and to forever feel that you are compared to her. I also know that my in-laws have a really nasty habit of commenting on weight, and I will go BALLISTIC if they say anything to either of my girls. Overcoming what society presents to you (as well as your own family!) is HARD. Do I really want to exacerbate that struggle that she is going to have because of what still is yet to change?

I struggled with the princess thing...and finally reached the compromise of emphasizing the good in each and discussing the bad (I could go on and on about that, but that would be a post in and of itself...) However, short of constantly reminding Alexis that Barbie is not representative of a real woman's body and that she should not strive for it, as well as the fact that the lifestyle that she represents is a myth, I really don't know what else to do. I hate the feeling of fighting a losing battle. Someone already bought her a Barbie for her birthday last year. I know if I make a big deal of it in front of my mother-in-law she will deliberately buy her as many as she can because she is passive aggressive like that. I have all of those Barbies in the attic, just taunting me...little plastic symbols of repression and misogyny. Sigh.

I still don't know what I am going to do...

2 comments:

  1. My mom never let me have Barbies as a kid - they are a "negative portrayal of women", as she often told me. I still ended up feeling fat as a teen and left out as a little girl when all of the other girls could trade clothes and whatnot for their glamourous dolls. I had Ginny dolls as a compromise (lots of clothes, shiny hair, but still looked like a 10 yr old girl). Kind of like this, but mine was the Jordache version (sigh, 1982): http://www.flickr.com/photos/doramarie/3273458106/ (and yes, I had this exact vanity and the wardrobe to the left to go in the dream house I built of shoeboxes).

    I don't know if it did any good to keep Barbies out of my hands - my friends had them, I coveted them, and I still ended up buying Teen magazine to find out all of the things that were wrong with me.

    On the other hand, I desperately hope my own daughter will have no interest in Barbie and would rather go kick a soccer ball around.

    Good luck - it's a tough decision.

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  2. Funny...my husband and I had a conversation about this tonight. We both agreed that simply banning Barbies without addressing all of the other ways that sexism and misogyny are present in society is useless.

    I let her play with them. I think I am going to sit and play with her a bit with them, so I can interject more of my feminist mindset into her play :p

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