Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In Defense of Barbara

I was planning on writing a post about Barbie's 50th Anniversary this year and how I call myself a feminist and a major Barbie lover, but it seems that everyone has done this. Which makes me really happy, actually.

I could be sour grapes that other feminist bloggers have stolen my thunder, but the truth is, I'm happy to see that people are engaging in a critical analysis of Barbie.

In a nutshell? I understand that Barbie promotes unrealistic body ideals and that as a skinny, blonde, white girl growing up, I took that for granted. Barbie kinda looked like me, after all. But the truth is that Barbie was and still is in many ways, one of the few toys that didn't require you to mother it. She's not a doll in the typical sense of the word. You didn't feed Barbie, clothe Barbie or change Barbie like she was your child. You acted like you were her. And Barbie had some pretty bitchin' jobs, too. (For proof of how multi-tasking Barbie is, check out the amazing Sarah Haskins' video.)

Barbie was a "grown up" who was mature and not fetishized. She's a healthy way for young girls to see themselves as "older" without being... a Bratz doll. Hell, even the amazing Dora the Explorer got a makeover to look older and more attractive! Not cool. What was wrong with the other Dora?

So to me, the real magic of Barbie is that yes, she was an adult, but she wasn't telling girls to grow up and be an adult too quickly. Bratz et al on the other hand are telling girls that they can be adults now. All they need is to hike that skirt, lower that shirt and load up on the makeup. Barbie on the other hand, let you imagine you really were a Vet who was checking up on Skipper's dog or that you were cruising along the beach with your fancy car and all your lady friends. You were imagining it, after all.

So I say kudos, Barbie. You and your man have created impossible beauty ideals and promoted heterosexism above all else, but your plastic ways have also shown young girls (and boys!) that pretty girls aren't just pretty girls, they can be doctors, pilots, vets and singers, too.

Here's to 50 more years of synthetic tresses and disproportionate torsos!

1 comment:

Making !T Work said...

Well said. I still like kidnapping Ken with my G.I. Joe.