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Letters to My Daughter: Why She Can't Have Barbie
Times have changed since the popular Barbie doll was introduced to the world. Premiering in 1959, by Ruth Handler, the co-founder of Mattel, Barbie has been capturing the hearts of little girls everywhere.
Handler’s inspiration for Barbie was her daughter, Barbara. Barbie’s full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts and she is from Willows, Wisconsin. She is a teenage fashion model and her primary goal is to teach girls about adulthood. She was created to teach ‘female’ teenagers the importance of fashion and self-expression.
Handler’s primary goal of creating Barbie was to show how women could be independent and not be confined to the traditional roles of the era.
Isn’t Barbie an ideal toy to have? Isn’t she someone to admire?
This is definitely true.
However, if Barbie was a model for the independent woman, why was she a cultural idol of ‘little’ girls?
Most girls love her because they can dress her up to portray their artistic visions, but what happens when those little girls begin to think that Barbie is their child and they are practicing for motherhood?
This is where the horror begins.
Little girls are children. They don’t need to be in dress rehearsal for adulthood or parenting. They should be enjoying their time as children. They should be laughing, pretending and being free from the stresses of life.
By giving little girls the opportunity to prepare for adulthood, Barbie is taking away their childhood. With all this being said, this isn’t the reason why I don’t want my daughter to have or love Barbie.
Barbie was an important toy in my life. I can remember playing dress-up with all seven of my Barbie dolls. I would constantly change their clothes, do their hair, pack them into the car with me whenever I went on vacation with my family.
Barbie was my plastic daughter. She wasn’t real, but I loved her as though she were real. I held a pretend wedding for her and Ken. When I got the Kelly doll, Barbie’s sister, I pretended she was their daughter.
But why did I do this? Why did I create this pretend family?
Because it was ingrained into me. I was adopting ‘typical gender roles’ or at least, making the dolls portray those traditional roles. However, I didn’t want to be the girl playing with her dolls, I wanted to be the girl who was an innovator.
And do you want to know what’s my biggest problem with Barbie?
She isn’t a model of anything. She is only a plastic toy.
But why don’t I want my daughter to have this plastic toy?
I do not want my daughter forced or categorized into a certain type of role. I do not want her believing that all a woman is good for is being pretty and having the perfect clothes.
I want my daughter to take care of her heart and love herself for the feminine beauty she carries. She shouldn’t be worried about being pretty and/or admired. She should worry about leaving her mark on the world.
You’re probably thinking Barbie isn’t going to stop my future daughter from loving herself. You may be right, but what happens when she asks, ‘Mom, why isn’t Barbie plus-sized?’ (paraphrasing, she probably won’t say plus-sized).
If this scenario does happen, I don’t know what I would do or how I would respond. However, I will make sure Barbie doesn’t step her toes into my house.
I love her, but she is uninvited around my family.
I will not allow her to prance her extensive make-up and size zero body around my daughter. I don’t want her filling my daughter with thoughts and dreams that may never come true.
If my daughter asks for Barbie, I will look her in the eyes and say, ‘Sweetheart, you can’t have that toy.’
You’re probably thinking didn’t my parents buy me Barbie. If you’re thinking that, then you are half correct. My dad and paternal grandmother bought me dolls. My mother never bought me Barbie because she was very strict about educational toys. She was raising a future academic prowess (yes, I’m tooting my own horn) and she wanted me to excel at everything I did, since I am an only child.
I believe my mom was looking out for my best interests and I’m thankful for that.
Did I like my educational toys?
Of course. Thanks to vTech, I love math and reading. Thanks to all the books my mom bought me, I have a constant habit of reading everything (magazines, cereal boxes, books, cases of DVDs and Blu-Rays).
Barbie didn’t contribute to my mental, physical, emotional or spiritual health. However, vTech and books made me the smart woman I am today. This is what I want for my daughter. I want her to have brains and beauty, not just beauty.