I was just listening to Ontario Today (a provincial call in show on CBC Radio One). The discussion today was all about Barbie. She celebrates her 55th Birthday this year and the host, Rita Celli, was having a lively discussion about whether this iconic doll was welcomed in your home or was tossed in a dumpster.
I have to say the topic is near and dear to my heart, not so much about the right or wrong or political correctness of owning a Barbie. For me it is about Barbie the searing memories I have of my childhood. I can laugh at in now but I remember well the envy I had for my sister’s Barbie.
A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about Barbie and I decided to resurrect and update it because I still laugh at the idea of being deprived of a real Barbie as a child.
by Font Meme
When I was a little girl my parents gave my sister a beautiful blonde, blue eyed Barbie. She had long hair and lovely clothes and a boyfriend named Ken… who wouldn’t want to have Skipper as a little sister? I wanted the dream house and bubble-gum pink Corvette. Didn’t you?
*Sigh… that was my Barbie dream, until my parents decided that one doll was just the same as another and they got me an imposter – yes, a faux Barbie.
How can this be?
What were they thinking? Didn’t they realize I would KNOW its not a REAL Barbie? First of all this FAKE Barbie had chestnut hair and brown eyes (I guess my parents wanted to get a doll that was more representative of my traits rather than the blond haired, blue eyed, buxom doll.)
My FAKE Barbie had unruly hair that was hard to comb and matted easily. She also had two key elements that were drastically wrong: (1) her ‘skin’ was smooth plastic and (2) you could not bend her arms or legs. That is what a REAL Barbie did: posed in different running, sitting positions or waving to her fans and friends. She was always dressed in some hip outfit with super cool shoes and boots (although those always seemed to get lost easily...argh!)…I often wondered: Why would my parents think that they could fool me? *Sigh…
For me the importance of getting this iconic doll held more than the promise of hours and hours of imaginary play. Months spent plotting her whole life: marriage to Ken, babies... twins maybe, cute pets, a fancy convertible car...a. d.r.e.a.m. h.o.m.e. I meant that I too could play with all of my friends in their giant two story dream homes.
I was, however, denied this joy. I could only watched my older sister and her friends play in a fabulously, happy, pink, sparkly Barbie world.
I harboured my disappointment for years. I’d bring up that flawed purchasing decision whenever I felt an injustice transpiring in my 7 - 8 – 9 – 10 -year-old world.
As the years went by, so did life. I met a boy, got married and a few years later, I had my first child - a sweet baby girl… and I quickly realized:
IT WAS TIME
I was finally going to own a Barbie, legitimately.
I would SHE would get it all: the dolls, the clothes, the Corvette...the c-a-m-p-e-r!
Little did I know that to make amends for the trauma that I suffered, *snicker*, upon my daughter’s birth, my sister immediately sent my newborn daughter a beautiful, new, sparkly...
How cool was that? My childhood had come full circle. Barbie was in the house!
I was amazing to see the changes Barbie had made in past 55 years. She was no longer just a big sister to Skipper or a wife/girlfriend to Ken. She could be a Veterinarian and not just a pet owner. She could be an engineer and not just a ‘happy’ camper. She could be a doctor and not just a candy-striper (not stripper ... she is a Barbie not a Bratz people... so get your minds out of the gutter). She has always been a ‘career’ woman* didn’t you know? .
I have two daughters now and we have brought them up to believe they can be anything that they want to be. I watch with satisfaction as my 13 year-old plans on becoming an orthodontist and my 16 year old talks about being a doctor… They dream, I pray and say a word of thanks… maybe all those hours pretending Barbie can be whoever we wanted her to be have finally paid off.
My daughters are now 15 and 17.5 and the one still wants to be an orthodontist and the other wants to study world development and social justice. The irony is that the oldest (the one that got the first Barbie) is the most down to earth, feminist and anti-Barbie- Girl-in-a-Barbie-world-sort of girl. So playing with Barbies as a child didn’t change a thing. It did not change who she was meant to be: a strong, confident young woman.
This is an opinion piece and is no way associated with Mattel or Barbie. All Barbie pictures and logos are registered trademarks of Mattel Toys.
* "Barbie® doll– Barbara Millicent Roberts– was “born” on March 9, 1959, in (fictional) Willows, Wisconsin. First introduced as the original Teenage Fashion Model, Barbie doll has since had close to 150 careers, represented more than 40 different nationalities and collaborated with more than 75 different fashion designers. With one Barbie doll sold every 3 seconds somewhere in the world, Barbie remains the world’s most popular doll and a powerhouse brand among girls of all ages.”