It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Barbie dolls. In fact, Barbie was banished from the Robinson household long ago. No doubt when news of the ban hit the land of make-believe, every boxed Barbie did a little celebration twerk. My house would not be their final destination.
With five little girls under the age of twelve, well-meaning friends would often default to Barbie dolls as gifts. Personally, I hated the hard-bodied little tart. My disdain was not because of her unrealistic womanly form; I didn’t fret about her giving my girls an inferiority complex. That’s like worrying that a four-fingered cartoon would make my five-fingered children feel like freaks. Reality should only play a supporting role in a child’s imagination.
I had my own reasons. If playing Barbie meant dressing her up, I was forced into playing with the thing far more often than my girls ever did. The fact is, my little girls could hardly dress Barbie. Instead, they brought her to me to dress. Again. And again. And again. All throughout the day. Her stiff plastic limbs and overly rounded components made it almost impossible for my four- to six-year-olds to dress her without intervention. As a result, she often went naked.
I cringed every time I found a naked, decapitated Barbie doll lying in a shallow grave in the sandbox. My yard was, no doubt, the Bermuda Triangle of all things made in China. Abandoned, busty women with bite marks made it especially sad.
The winter Barbie was banned, several of our children joined a traveling choir, visiting neighboring towns and singing in nursing homes. Our family would tag along to be part of the audience, giving the children some extra moral support and familiar faces to connect with. At the time, I had an 8-month-old hip-rider.
There we were — all the girls dressed up with their hair curled in ringlets, singing “Jesus Loves Me” when, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of what my baby was chewing on. You guessed it: the foot of a Barbie doll. Of course, Barbie was spread out like a high school cheerleader, dangling upside down — stark naked! Drool ran down her leg, as my baby boy innocently teethed on her foot.
That’s real life living with Barbie.
At that moment I made a solemn vow: No more Barbies. No more carnage. No more public nudity.
She was nothing more than a doll with overstated dimensions who made it too hard for little hands to maneuver tight-fitting clothing. When the Barbies mysteriously disappeared, it didn’t stop my girls from playing house or pretending to be grown-up mommies. In fact, they hadn’t even noticed that Barbie was naked half the time because the real playing took place in their minds. All my children came with imaginations, which is why we often lost toothbrushes. When a pretty pink toothbrush fell in love with a tall dark blue toothbrush, they were often caught upstairs in a dollhouse tucking in a baby hair brush.
The idea that toys are an extension of a child’s imagination seems to have gotten lost somewhere. The latest example has to be the “normal Barbie,” which isn’t actually a Barbie at all. She is the creation of Nickolay Lamm who, it would appear, named his doll after himself–the Lammily doll.
According to USAToday, Lamm took the proportions of an average 19-year-old woman based on data from the Centers for Disease Control. I will give him this: she sure looks easier to dress.
Then, the entire thing goes from an instrument of play to an extension of the adult world of reality. She comes with a series of accessories that would make a teenager cringe.
Let’s start with the period party pack. Yeah, as in menstrual cycle. This doll douses young children in reality, not fantasy. Today explained,
“It’s tragic for girls to get their periods before anyone has warned them. They think they are dying and they are broken,” [Dr. Deborah Gilboa] says. “I don’t think we should fear the doll … don’t fear the conversation. Give your kids the information you want them to have.”
Call me a prude, but my Barbie doll-aged girls were not in danger of starting their period unaware. There is a difference between ignorance and innocence.
This narrative doesn’t end with decorative pads. Apparently, part of the information the makers of this doll want children to have includes cellulite, acne, stretch marks, and bruises. Oh, and obviously no young girl should be without tattoos and dirt stains.
The teeth marks, decapitations, and frostbite our Barbies endured were inflicted while falling into the hands of toddlers, family pets, and forgetful children. Their hair only resembled birds’ nests because their stylists were four, untrained, and loved hard. They were beloved not for their form or accessories, but rather for the internal dialog they produced within each child. The children created a world for their dolls, not as a reflection of how the world is, but how they saw or dreamed it would be.
Barbies are a tool to inspire imagination, not a role model.
Dolls are, or at least should be, an extension of a child’s imagination. Isn’t there enough reality going on with a Common Core school day, bossy siblings, and an ever-shrinking recess? There is no shortage of information or harsh reality for children today.
Young girls are far better off setting up housekeeping with a family of toothbrushes than using their imagination to care for a tatted-up menstruating doll with pimples and cellulite. Less, really is more when it comes to childhood toys.