Comment permalink

Barbie is a Problem, With or Without Parenting

Ever heard of a picture being a thousand words? A 3-D toy is worth even more.

This morning I woke up to an unwelcome Facebook tag by a friend. The friend of mine is a very sweet person, but we very rarely agree on anything! The photo she tagged me in was one that read, “If you raise your girls right, they can play with a Barbie without wanting to be one.” We have argued over whether or not girls should be given Barbies in the past, which is what I’m sure she is referring to.

I removed the photo from my wall since I wholly don’t support it in any way. Firstly, I don’t support parenting advice—particularly from people without children—that is not solicited. That’s not only annoying, it’s condescending in one of the worst ways. Have a baby, watch her grow up, then give me advice. This applies not just to this Facebook page (and beware if you check it out; there is loads of content, including fat hatred, misogyny, and plenty of other crap that discredits the photo anyway), but to anyone who wants to tell me what’s good or bad for my child.

But I also think the sentiment in the photo isn’t even on target. The worry is not that your daughter will become Barbie; Barbie herself has no personality, so why worry about that when we can worry about our daughters becoming insipid, do-nothing Bella Swan, who allows herself to be victimized every day? No, the worry is that our daughters will look at Barbie and think, “Why don’t I look like this?” (Because it’s anatomically impossible.) “I need to make myself look like this.” Cue the dieting, the eating disorders, and the lifetime of body hatred.

I can tell you right now that even if you raise your daughter to love who she is, what her body looks like, and to see the beauty in all things, she’s still going to get messages—from her peers, from the media, from peers’ parents, from boys—that she is unworthy; that the only worth she has is in her body, and that her body is not perfect, so she needs to “work on it” all. Her. Life. Don’t believe me? Ask one of the 80% of children in the fourth grade who’ve already tried a fad diet. Ask my friends, who cry because even though they try to teach their daughters to love themselves the way they are, their efforts are in vain when their kids start school only to be told they are fat, or skinny, or ugly, or whatever. Some of my daughter’s friends want to diet—in the first and second grade!—because they think they are fat, when they clinically are not in any way. They think their bellies should be “flat,” not the natural, tiny curve that they were born with—and they are already hating themselves.

No, I won’t let a Barbie into my house (my kid doesn’t even want one, but that’s not the point). I don’t let toys that promote hatred, self or otherwise, into our home, and anyone with kids realizes that the worry is in this—a healthy body image—and not in the girl “becoming Barbie.”