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


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MIA0223 MIA0223

She loves Barbie. I have never thought Barbie would be anything more to her than a play thing. That's all Barbie is, a fun way for kids to play pretend. That's all she ever was to me and my sister. Neither if us aspired to be Barbie and developed unhealthy habits from playing!

Lynette Lynette

DD is 3 and hasn't shown any interest in Barbie.  I would get her one if she wanted it, but I don't want to push them on her.

GlowW... GlowWorm889

Barbies are awesome! My sister and I had a ton of Barbies when we were little. My fondest memories are of us playing Barbies for hours on end and making up crazy stories for them. They usually involved fleeing war-torn countries and having affairs. I blame the influence of the soap operas our mother used to watch in the afternoons. Anyway, I don't believe Barbie is the cause for body image issues and it's a little odd to generalize that way. Are baby dolls the cause of teenage pregnancy? No, of course not. Just playing with Barbie isn't going to give your girl an eating disorder. You telling her she should look like Barbie, going on a million diets, obsessing about your own body image, and tossing around "fat" like it's a dirty word might lead her to developing one.

Mandago Mandago

If I have a daughter, and she wants Barbies, she will have them. My son has one, and I'm not afraid he'll grow up thinking women are supposed to look like that.

Momma... MommaGreenhalge

I'm still torn on this.  I had an eating disorder and a ton of body issues as a teenager.  Do I think Barbie is to blame?  Of course not.  But I don't think she helped much either.  On the other hand, I think our attitudes as moms have a lot to do with it.  My family growing up is not the kind of family my kids will grow up in.  It wasn't bad, but it can't and won't and shouldn't be replicated.  My childhood was different.  So the rest of the things that played into my body image issues will likely not be there for my daughter.  Also, she has two older brothers very close in age (they are four and two and she's due next month), while I had one four years older who wanted nothing to do with me for a very long time. I think close brothers will make a difference as well.

While I still don't like Barbie and will not be actively welcoming her, I'm not sure she will be banned either.

Aeris... AerisKate

I had a few Barbies growing up and they were just toys to me (as others have posted).  I do have body image issues as an adult, but I think mine have more to do with what I see in ads and on t.v. compared to what I see in the mirror.  I don't know if I'll have to worry about anything with my daughter because she doesn't like dolls and won't play with them.  She LOVES her stuffed and plastic animals, however.  If she actually ever wanted a Barbie, I'd just be shocked that she actually wanted a doll. I'm still holding out that she'll want an American Girl Doll (but mostly because I want one...haha). 

Disney17 Disney17

Growing up, I idolized Mia Hamm, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and my mom. I didn't idolize my Barbie dolls, mostly because I viewed them as toys, because they're just that. If your daughter wants to be a Barbie, that's not the dolls' fault, it comes down to not only her environment and group of friends, but also you're lack of parenting and good judgement.

Butte... Butterflysky_24

I love barbies, and grew up with them, and will be getting them for my daughter. I had them my entire life and never knew until right now that some uptight people really think a barbie doll could really cause self esteem problems. That's what MTV is there for

nonmember avatar Freddie

My role model was mydad. I wanted to be a boyfriend and husband. I never asked my family for it at age 12. I'd only had male GI Joes. Therefore, I saved my own money and bought it privarely. i learned independent dicion making, saving, goal setting, and commitment. I loved Barbie. I never saw it as a standard of beauty for real females. It was just fun. I collected them for over thirty years. As a quadriplegic, Barbie is used for occupational therapy.

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