I have a confession. Yesterday, I bought my daughter a Barbie.
Once upon a time, I swore there’d be no Barbies in our house so that Sofie would be free from cultural feminine stereotypes and negative messages about her body. But lately, with Barbie Fever running rampant through her peers, I’ve been rethinking my position.
Perhaps I’m melting under pressure of her soulful, pleading face as she suggests to me that maybe one day, when she’s big enough, she can have her own Barbie. Or perhaps it’s due to a vision of my anorexic, fake-blond adult daughter one day informing her therapist that all her body image issues stem from having never been allowed to own the coveted doll.
There is some truth to that. I know that the forbidden object only increases in its desirability and, therefore, its effect. And similar to the toy gun issue … even if you ban them from your house, your kids will turn something else into a pretend gun.
My sisters and I played with Barbies. There was no stigma then. She was just another doll everyone had. I chopped her hair, sent her on dates with Ken and eventually abandoned her in a toy bin along with a bunch of other less sinister dolls.
Avoiding Barbie will not avoid negative messages. Sofie will be bombarded with them all her life. My job is simply to equip her with the self-esteem and inner strength to withstand the onslaught. I can’t bury my head in the sand about it. Better to face the enemy head on. Give her the Barbie to play with. And keep giving her positive messages about her body.
Ballerina Barbie is the one Sofie really wants. I bought it at Walmart, which feels like it only compounds the sin. I did at least avoid the blond, pink-attired cliché, and chose the more sensible brunette wearing purple. (As a side note: the ballerina doll has flexible feet that stand flat!) I draw the line at Barbie’s numerous plastic accessories and acquisitions. She can live in the wooden dollhouse Sofie already has.
What they really need is an Eco Barbie (made from all recyclable materials). She’d be wearing second-hand clothes (a “Respect Your Mother” T-shirt), no makeup and jewelry made from salvaged metals. Eco Barbie would come complete with her own recycling accessories, a hybrid car and an organic canvas Dream Yurt.
This whole Barbie issue reminds me how uncertain parenting is. So many things I was once adamant about can simply slip away into indifference, while issues I never expected can blindside me. Accepting that I can change my mind mid-game continues to be a refreshing revelation.
About the Blog
Donna created her Eco-Mothering blog while working for an environmental non-profit. Her motivation was two-fold: to document her new parenting journey and to share eco-friendly information with a larger community. This blog will highlight a selection of posts from eight years of writing at Eco-Mothering.com