I know the facts. Barbie is sexist. Her breasts are ridiculously large and no one has a waist that small. And she's far too skinny. She gives us complexes, bad body image issues. She's vacuous. She has far too many clothes for a teenager and she has permanently high-heeled feet.
But I can't help it. I love her anyway. When I was a little girl, I had a box of Barbie and Ken paraphernalia. I even had her little pre-pubescent Skipper sister doll who I reviled. Skipper was so boring and flat-chested. She was nothing like the blonde beauty.
I had two sisters and the three of us had enough Babie loot to start our own Barbie business. For hours, we would dress and undress our Barbies. We'd brush her hair and sometimes melt it. We'd create make believe worlds where Barbie went to parties and did amazing teenage things. Other times, we'd pull her legs from their sockets. I'm not the only one who feels the love. Grownups in Japan will soon be able to buy real Barbie wedding gowns so brides can play Barbie for a day.
Yet, if I had a daughter, buying her a Barbie would give me pause. The feminist in me says, "No! Stay away!" Barbie is not anatomically correct. She values fashion over substance. She's anti-intellectual. What adolescent girl shows up in evening gowns anyway? I would worry that I'd be contributing to a warped body image and shallow aspirations. My woman's studies class in college dedicated a lecture to the perils of Barbie and female body image. But the kid in me says, "Bring it on!"
I have to say this: I don't think Barbie did me much harm. In fact, I think she was good for me. She was so much cooler than the baby doll alternatives that peed on command or blinked when you shook them. And she was far more exciting than a Cabbage Patch doll, which was all the rage in the early '80s, but really kind of boring once you got down to it. Barbie was creative. She led me into a world of fantasy where she had a car and a house and a boyfriend.
So, if I have a daughter and she begs me for a Barbie, I think I'll relent. I'll probably even get down on the floor with her and dress Barbie up for her big night out with Ken. After all, someone needs to show her that Barbie's knees can bend backwards in a freakishly awkward contortion.
|Ronda Kaysen is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek.com, Architectural Record, Huffington Post, New York Observer and AM New York. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.|