Barbie Dolls, toy guns and the cocoon

The writing on this poster made by the Body Shop to raise money to eradicate violence against women reads, "There are 3 billion women who don't look like supermodels and only 8 who do." Mattel sued The Body Shop and forced them to stop selling this poster.

The writing says, "There are 3 billion women who don't look like supermodels and only 8 who do." Mattel sued The Body Shop and forced them to stop selling this poster intended to raise money to end violence against women.

My pledge to ban Barbies lasted until my oldest, Casey was 2.5 years old and the landlady of a vacation rental gave her Barbie doll abandoned by a previous tenant. Casey fell in love with the plastic icon of everything I didn’t want her to be: a sparkly, skinny-to-a-fault, sex object. It launched a sickening decade-long investment in all things Barbie.

Had I snatched the toy from Casey’s little hands or banned toy guns from our toy chest, I would’ve created forbidden fruits. Instead, I put up the poster at left, in our family room over where Casey and her sister Kristen played Barbies for hours. We talked about gun control and weapons and kept no real guns. I helped gussy-up the girls like Barbie dolls for prom nights, even though that racket contradicted my principles.

Sometimes moms have to go with the flow and relinquish control. Our protective cocoon starts breaking apart from birth on, when land-ladies, relatives, friends and society start giving gifts of Barbies and toy guns. Ban guns and your kids will make guns out of sticks and Legos and grab every gun at their friends’ houses.

Why? Because guns, like Barbies, epitomize power in our culture. Our kids need to play around with that power so they’re comfortable with it, whether they reject or accept what goes with it. Barbies don’t cause anorexia Families ought to pay more attention to how they handle power and beauty instead of a plastic toy doll.

Have a family meeting, give your kids the opportunity to run them regularly, encourage them to speak up. Listen to what they say and implement their ideas. This will empower them more than shooting a gun or showing their cleavage to the world. Give girls the gift of being seen, heard and respected for who they are, not how they look.

The owner of this ankle LOVED to play with barbies and still loves to get dressed up. She does not suffer from anorexia and has a very positive body image.

The owner of this ankle damaged by playing floor hockey LOVED to play with Barbies and still loves to get dressed up.

Instead of perpetuating an artificial cocoon without sexist toys, weapons, knives, scissors and fire, it’s far better to allow our kids to experience them and make their own decisions. They will eventually do that — no matter what we say, and more importantly, what we do.

Casey is the unicorn -- a costume she made. Visit her blog at http://smazzle.blogspot.com/

They need venues and toys to act out what they observe in the adult world — full of warfare, highly sexualized women and men in a consumer culture. Their only crime is reflecting us and the world we inhabit and perpetuate, and we don’t like it.

Kristen became an artist. Some of her work contradicts the image of woman in society. I love that she’s comfortable enough with Barbie images to use them in her work.

That’s a hammer Kristen is swinging in this performance art.

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4 Comments on “Barbie Dolls, toy guns and the cocoon”

  1. Erin Says:

    So true! My sister and I played with Barbies endlessly. She ended up with a Barbie-like physique, but that is probably a coincidence. I didn’t, but I don’t have body image issues either. My niece visited our house recently, and we got out all the age appropriate toys for a 3 year old. She bypassed them right away, and headed straight for the Barbies. They became like forbidden fruit – we tried distracting her with the other toys, to no avail.

  2. casey w Says:

    I love(d) Barbies and unicorns, and yet am still an intramural sports champ and director of 20+ people at a large internet firm. I’m getting married and wearing a white dress, but walking myself down the aisle. Sometimes a doll is just a doll, especially if you understand that it’s not meant to be exactly like real life (which is what those conversations eventually did).

  3. raising able Says:

    I still have the Barbies and her accoutrements in the attic.


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