How I Learned to Love Barbie

Mom Moment 9

barbie friend or foeIf you're a modern mom, you've most likely had the Barbie discussion with other moms, or just in your head. If not, it goes something like this: "Should I allow Barbie in my home, or do you think she'll give my daughter an eating disorder?" As a feminist to a princess-loving daughter, I've been especially on guard with the messages my gal is receiving at this young age. Yet as a mom who works hard to instill confidence and self-worth, I also ask myself if one doll is really going to bring all of that crashing down.

It's tough being the modern mom. Which is why when I was offered the Barbie Dolls of the World to check out, I balked for a second. Then I thought, hey, if Barbie is trying to represent all kinds of cultures, bring it. So Ireland Barbie, China Barbie, and Argentina Barbie came into my home and my 5-year-old daughter and I explored Barbie, and what it all means.

And that's when she made me realize how not a big deal this whole Barbie issue really is, after all.

Apparently Barbie Dolls of the World have been around a very long time, yet I've only just heard of them. I was curious if my daughter would recognize them as "Barbie" or think they were something else entirely. But there's something about that tiny waist and substantial rack that is instantly recognizable. Here's how our discussion went down:

(As I busted out the Barbies of the World.)

Her: I love Barbies!

Me: Why?

Her: Because it’s so pretty. You can just play with them. It’s fun.

Me: What do you think of this one? (Hand her China Barbie.)

Her: That one is cute because it has pandas. Cool brush, pretty earrings.

Me: Where do you think she’s from?

Her: Is she from Japan?

Me: Close. 

Her: China.

Me: Right! How is she different from other Barbies?

Her: Because she’s Chinese, plus she has a panda. Are these princesses? These look like princesses.

Me: No. (Hand her Ireland Barbie.) Where do you think she's from?

Her: Uhh, France.

Me: She’s from Ireland.

Her: So these are Barbies from the world. I get it now. She’s pretty.

Me: She looks a lot like the other Barbies right?

Her: Yeah, like regular Barbies, right? Can I put her down?

Me: Yes. How about this one? (Hand her Argentina Barbie.)

Her:  Is she from California? New York? Israel?

Me: Argentina.

Her: What’s Argentina?

Me: It’s in South America.

Her: Well she looks like a regular doll also, right? Oh cool, all the Barbies that are new have pets.

There you have it. My little girl was much more blown away by the pets than by the Barbie boobs. In fact, she slept with the cocker spaniel from Ireland, yet promptly lost her Irish Barbie doll.

I realize that media does have an impact on the way we see ourselves, compared to others. I know that girls have an uphill battle given the decades of sexism, misogyny and being valued solely for our physical attributes. But for now, at least, I don't think my daughter is soaking up any body issues from her Barbies of the World. But if I do hear her making any remarks about her own unusually wide waist line, I'm shipping them back to their home countries.

Do you allow your daughter to play with Barbie?

books & media, girls, toys