How Come Zack Gets A Barbie?

by Tracee Sioux

How come Zack gets a Barbie and I don’t? Ainsley challenged.

Why don’t you let her have Barbie’s? My protegee, Ambrea, asked.
Zack just sat sucking satisfied on the top of GI Joe’s camoed head from his car seat.

Freaking Barbie. All day long I’d been being challenged here, on So Sioux Me, about why I don’t allow Barbie. Could the lack of a Barbie doll might actually harm the development of my five-year-old daughter? Am I being too extreme? Some think so.

Is a bad feeling in my gut a good enough reason to restrict a mainstream toy? Have you seen Sunset Tan? It’s like a strange planet that Barbie took over. Watch the show and then tune into Dr. 90210 and see the perfectly beautiful, normal girls carve up their bodies attempting to look just like Barbie. Have you ever been to LA and seen how homogeneous Barbie beauty is? That’s my objection. The Olly Girls are the epitome of girl-mothering failure, in my opinion. That’s the bad feeling I have in my stomach that says, just say no to Barbie. I don’t see how anyone can watch those shows and not see Barbie’s influence. But then I find myself in the car listening to:

How come Zack gets a Barbie and I don’t? Ainsley challenged.
Why don’t you let her have Barbie’s? My protege, Ambrea asked incredulous.

uuuggghhh. I have nothing. Well, I’ve got a feeling in the pit of my stomach that screams Barbie sucks. But, I don’t have a concrete reason to back up or ban the acceptance of GI Joe. He’s a war doll with exaggerated masculinity in his plastic chest. He seems very much the same as a boy Barbie doll, to my five-year-old daughter.

Like most of my children’s toys I didn’t buy GI Joe. We were at a thrift store, and I had found Ainsley playing with the Barbies. Zack was being fussy and I grabbed the nearest toy, a GI Joe, to buy myself some browsing time.

A generous and kind employee gave Zack the GI Joe.

I didn’t think the issue through before it was thrust into my life. Zack is a toddler. I haven’t formulated a policy about the acceptability of war toys or male Barbie-like dolls. We have a talking Bill Clinton Barbi-like doll already, does he too have to go?

So, now I have to decide, if Barbie is banned, then does GI Joe have to go too, out of fairness? Or should I just give up and let Barbie in the house to irritate and annoy me every time I have to pick her up and put her away?

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#1 jennifer on 09.05.07 at 6:08 pm

I say, you are the mama and YOU know what is right for YOUR child. So, she can’t have barbie. What is this a third world country? C’mon.

Also, haven’t you heard? Barbie is a “gate way” doll. Next thing you know BAM! House full o’ brats.

But seriously, you can’t please everyone. Sometimes it seems easier to conform than to always be the squeaky wheel. Sometimes…

#2 Stacks on 09.05.07 at 8:03 pm

I grew up playing with Barbies, and I have fond memories of making up stories with my sister and creating a house/office/store out of cardboard boxes in our back yard.

I don’t see her as a reigning example of feminism, but I don’t see her as a terrible blight either. She’s just a toy. I’m certainly not going to feel guilty because I liked her and I still like her.

I don’t think NOT liking her should inspire guilt either however. If you feel that she is wrong for Ainsley, I think you should absolutely follow your instincts. You can find people who will argue either side of the issue, but you have to pick what is right for YOU and HER.

Besides, I haven’t heard of anyone who ended up in therapy because they weren’t allowed to play with Barbies.

#3 Crystal on 09.06.07 at 1:37 am

Don’t go all soft on us now. Your stance on Barbie’s is one of the things I love about you.
P.S. I’m so anti-war that I think GI Joe should get sent off on a tour of duty, if ya know what I mean.

#4 Anonymous on 09.06.07 at 2:32 am

Some people think GI Joe is just as bad for boy’s body image as Barbie is for girls. If Barbie’s look can only be achieved through plastic surgery, Joe’s can only be achieved through steroid use. Google Dr. Harrison Pope to read more about his studies on this.

If GI Joe Extreme were life-size, he would have a 55 inch chest and a 27 inch bicep. Compare that to the average athletic guy whose biceps are only about 11.5 inches around.

#5 J Morgetron on 09.06.07 at 3:03 am

I think all good mothers question themselves. All good children question their moms. It sounds like everyone involved is doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing.

#6 So Sioux Me on 09.06.07 at 1:31 pm

Thanks for the vote of confidence everyone. I suppose someday soon I’ll have to formulate a concrete rule about GI Joe that’s consistent with my rule about Barbie. There are definate issues with GI Joe: War, body image, caricature masculinity as there are with Barbie: consumerism & materialism, body image, caricature feminity.

Consistency is key in parenting. Fairness, and all that.

#7 blue milk on 09.07.07 at 1:48 pm

I think Barbie and G.I Joe are both very dodgy for the reasons others have put here very well.

We’re not in the majority but that doesn’t mean that we’ve got it wrong. Why do our kids have to play with grossly distorted versions of man and womanhood? This world is weird for popularising them. You’re not weird for recognising that.

#8 The Mayor on 09.10.07 at 2:14 pm

Barbies are fun tools that allow little girls to act out what they feel adult life is like. You need to remember something – they aren’t your toys, they are your daughters. Your daughter will be pretty resentful of this when she is older. Trust.

#9 So Sioux Me on 09.10.07 at 4:01 pm

Just because Mattel and MGM sell these toys doesn’t mean I have to buy them or allow them.

What if you’re wrong? What if they aren’t just toys? What if the reason girls hate their bodies so early – see Campaign for Real Beauty Research – is because we expose them to caracatures of what they’ll look like when they grow up? What if the reason women feel bad about their breasts and have them reconstructed is because they never measured up to Barbie?

I think my daughter might resent it more if I let her grow up thinking she wasn’t thin enough, big busted enough or blonde enough.

Maybe Barbie is just a toy. But, maybe she’s not. Maybe she’s an over-sexualized caricature of girlness that sets daughters up for never measuring up. Maybe too much Barbie is the reason so many women are ready to go to the plastic surgeon. Women aren’t trying to look like fashion models who have virtually no breasts at all.

Good Grief. Barbie is not the end all be all of girl toys. She’ll live if she’s not allowed to have a Barbie. I’m sure there will plenty of other things she’ll grow up resenting too.

#10 Lilith on 09.10.07 at 10:12 pm

If you want to know why girls hate their bodies, look in the mirror. Adult women spend 20 billion dollars a year trying to be more “beautiful”. Admit it, you do it too – I’ve read several of your posts where you lament your hair, skin, size etc.

Didn’t you buy mascara after telling your daughter that the commercials were tricking women? Effectively, you decided to financially support them to lie again. What message does that send?

I guess I am just tired of the hypocrisy of women who say one thing and do another. Who look to industry to change, while underwriting the magazines and beauty companies that perpetuate these negative messages.

Women pluck, shave, tease, deodorize, dye, tan, paint, whiten, and camoflauge everything natural about themselves and then they wonder why their daughters don’t love themselves as they are.

Studies show MOTHERS actually have the earliest and most powerful influence over their daughter’s views of beauty and self esteem. Duh.

Yeah, it’s all Barbie’s fault.

#11 So Sioux Me on 09.10.07 at 10:54 pm

I couldn’t agree more Lilith. See where I came to the same conclusion: Mothers are the key.

As a mother I find it a very fine line to walk – identifying how important beauty is or should be. I try to talk to my daughter about the false advertising – as you bring up – only to find that product actually DOES work better than the others. I suppose you don’t buy mascara? Or shave your legs? Moisturize your face? Use whitening toothpaste? See a hairdresser? Slick on some gloss?

What’s the alternative: No personal hygiene or attempts to look and feel attractive?

Saying beauty isn’t important at all is lying to our daughters – obviously it’s important or I, and I’m guessing you too, wouldn’t be spending what I do on beauty products. Yeah, I want to not have acne. I want products that do what they say. I want hair that doesn’t frizz. I want a cure for melasma. But, I do not talk about “hating” these aspects of myself in front of my daughter.

I’m not blaming “everything” on Barbie. I just don’t see how drawing the line there, at Barbie, will be a detriment to my daughter. Every mother should draw a line somewhere – bikinis, Bratz, Barbie, belly shirts – surely there is something you don’t allow your daughter to wear or play with – I hope. For our daughters’ sake we should be attempting to help them discipher the culture and the culture’s message about beauty and themselves.

To my mind the broadening of the definition of beauty is the best answer. Discussing it with our daughters openly is key.

At times I may seem like I’m being, as you say hypocritical. But, really I’m just working out where the line between thinking about something and how it might effect my daughter and actually deciding what to do about it. Sometimes I decide to do something and have it backfire on me. This is my first-time mothering, and blogging for that matter. You’re invited to participate in exploring these beauty-mother-daughter issues here if you like.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. But I think the questions are valid and productive.

#12 Lilith on 09.11.07 at 3:50 am

I see you trying to make thoughtful choices about your daughter, and I think that’s great. I even get why you donít like Barbie. I guess it rubbed me the wrong way when you said that a doll is causing girls not to like themselves when IMO the culture we women are creating is causing the most harm. Yet that seems to be the last thing we want to discuss.

I am not the perfect role model, but I honestly spend almost nothing on beauty products. I only wear makeup on special occasions and sorry, I haven’t worn mascara since the 80s. I don’t dye my hair, whiten my teeth or get my nails done. I don’t shave my legs (or down there, weird).

I also don’t get eyelash implants, acid peels, go to tanning beds, freshen my vagina, botox, microdermabrase, liposuct, or a myriad of other beauty torture rituals. I don’t buy beauty magazines, period. I donít think using beauty products or wanting to be attractive is toxic, but the importance we women give it in our culture is way out of balance.

Guess what? People don’t run screaming from me. I have friends and family who love me. My husband tells me I’m beautiful and so has the occasional stranger. Iím sure there are others who would be quick to sign me up for What Not to Wear (um, Iíll wear whatever I like) or a makeover, but I honestly donít care.

I may not agree with you on everything, but I appreciate your willingness to explore the issues and put your opinions out there. Iím still learning too.

#13 So Sioux Me on 09.11.07 at 12:35 pm

The statistical evidence is that girls are not liking themselves.

I want to do something about that. Babie is a symbol that’s very easy for me to point to and say “no more of that.” I used to allow her, but found myself so inexplicably proud that my daughter had made a Barbie massacre on her bed that I decided that feeling was an indicator that Barbie didn’t need to be replaced.

Believe me, the irony that I bleach my hair some shade of blond for most of my teen and adult life is not lost on me. Perhaps I throw in a little pink when I’m feeling wild and rebellious – but, Barbie did too (copycat!).

I buy into advertising, everyone does. Some periods of my life I’m very granola and don’t wear makeup or spend money on products. Some periods, like after having babies, I feel like I could use the extra self-esteem from make-up. Some periods I’ve actually been fired for not doing my roots or wearing brand-name clothes! Then I’m confused because I thought looks weren’t supposed to count?

I find my daughter is interested in beauty and saying nothing pretty much lets the culture careen out of control. I may not be able to be the perfect shining example of what’s healthy – I do try – at least my daughter has my input that beauty is not the most important thing. But, in this beauty obsessed culture, it’s not being honest to say it’s not important at all.

I appreciate your comments and I have no doubt at all that you are beautiful and lovely without all the mascara, plucking and shaving I participate in.

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