Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Barbie Dilemma


The original Barbie doll, introduced in 1959
(Image Source)


I was a HUGE fan of Barbie when I was younger. I easily had two dozen Barbies who between them all owned enough dresses, shoes, and accessories to clothe a small city. My friends and I played Barbies well into Jr. High and then, when it became too socially unacceptable to keep playing them, I started collecting them instead. I amassed a fairly impressive collection of "Special Edition" and "Collector" Barbie dolls and proudly displayed them on the shelves of my room. My infatuation with Barbie even continued into college and I actually had two of my collector edition Barbies sitting on my desk in my freshman dorm room!

Barbie and I were really good friends.

When I left home all of my collector Barbies went into a box and they have been in my basement for the last few years waiting for a little girl to grow up enough to play with them. Well my little girl just turned two, and I was gearing up to give her one of my Barbies for her birthday. Then, unexpectedly, I had several experiences that made me question whether or not I really wanted to introduce her to my little girl.

One of my readers sent me this interesting article "Why I Banned Barbie" about a mother whose school-aged son, just after having had a family talk about pornography, announced that he thought Barbie was an inappropriate toy to have in their home. The mother talks about how they decided that, for them, it was best not to allow Barbie in their home. The article reminded me of a book I have called "The Barbie Chronicles" that has long been hibernating on my bookshelf. It was given to me by one of my Freshman dorm-mates who thought it was ironic that a girl who was studying Women's Studies and had such strong ideas about women and femininity had two Barbie dolls sitting on her desk. She said she couldn't make heads or tails of it and she when she saw the book, which is a collection of essays for and against Barbie, she immediately thought of me. It had been years since I'd read the book and I decided to pick it up again.

The book brought up two main ideas about Barbie that, despite my great love for her, have really made me question whether or not I want her in my home. The first one is Barbie's undeniable sex appeal. A brief glance at her history shows that from the very start Barbie was intended to be a sexually loaded toy. In her essay in the "The Barbie Chronicles" Carol Ockman explains,
"Barbie was invented by a woman, Ruth Handler. Handler, a director at Mattel, together with her husband Elliot... had watched her daughter, Barbara (she also has a son named Ken), play with adult paper dolls and wanted to make a female adult doll in three dimensions. On a trip to Germany, Handler supposedly saw a doll called Bild Lilli, sold principally in smoke shops as a kind of three-dimensional pinup. Based on a comic-strip character that appeared in the German newspaper Bild Zeitung, Bild Lilli had a ponytail, feet molded into high heels, and clothes for all occasions. The principal narrative of the comic shows, Lilli, scantily clad, in situations where she is taking money from a man. Unlike Barbie, Bild Lilli was not made for children but for men... Handler decided to reinvent this pornographic caricature as the all-American girl... such a blatant sign of sexuality almost scuttled the doll when it was first introduced. Had it been up to the toy buyers at the toy fair, the ex-pinup/supermissle might never have been catapulted to stardom. Sears, Mattel's biggest client, categorically refused to buy Barbie, objecting to her too-overt sensuality. It was the consumers who launched Barbie's impressive career... Unlike her pro-type Barbie gives the appearance of sexuality without sex itself." (pg. 78-79)


The original Bild Lilli doll, Germany.
(Image source)

Now granted, I don't think that parents who buy Barbie for their kids, or the girls who play with her, would classify her as a "sexualized" toy. Yet I know, from years and years of playing with her, that Barbie often gets played with in ways that aren't always appropriate. In fact, I remember quite clearly that my first lesson about the "birds and the bees" was taught to me by one of my little six-year-old friends when we were playing with Barbie and Ken. Everything about Barbie, from her wardrobe, her nude body, her relationship with Ken, and the lack of any other "adult" supervision in her world invites a little girl to fantasize. When it comes right down to one of the biggest appeals of my Barbie dolls were that they could wear all the clothes that I wasn't allowed to, they could do the things I wasn't suppose to do, they could go places I couldn't, and be things I wasn't able to be. Barbie was a great creative and imaginative toy but she often tempted my little girl heart to play with her in ways I know my mother wouldn't have been proud of.

The other thing that really stood out to me in the book was the way in which Barbie embodies our culture's obsession with women's bodies and physical appearance. In her essay in "The Barbie Chronicles" Wendy Singer Jones says that,
"Barbie is a "body project" girl, she is, as others have observed, part of a complex of widespread and destructive messages directed towards women: being tall and thin is crucial, being white is the norm against which others are defined, ones character and career are always less important that one's looks, and consumerism is essential for keeping up appearances." (pg. 104).
Jones also compares what the world of Barbie teaches young girls about what it means to be a young woman as compared to what another popular toy the "Fisher-Price Dream Doll House" (which comes with a father, a mother, baby twins and some furniture) teaches them. She says,
"Despite the presence of friends and sisters, the Barbie line stresses individuals rather than relationships, and it does so in a highly narcissistic mode, since "body work" is a prerequisite to any form of social interaction. In the Dream Doll House, the family is greater than the sum of its parts; with Barbie, it's always the parts...When your project is your house rather than your body, you're already thinking in communal rather than solipsistic terms." (pg.101)
Another essayist pointed out that,
"The biggest difference between Barbie's aisle and the others can be summed up in one word: babies. In the other aisle, baby dolls were everywhere; in Barbie's aisle, babies were almost non-existent. Paleontologist Barbie or Pilot Barbie would be hard pressed to drag along a baby to the workplace. Even when Barbie is getting dressed for a night on the town with Ken, she obviously doesn't want to lug a baby long. (pg. 179)"
Looking back I can see how what I played and fantasized about with Barbie really affected my perceptions of adolescence and adulthood. Granted, I played with Barbie unceasingly when I was younger and I turned out okay, but I'm not sure if that is something I want my little girl to have access to in my home. As one essayist in "The Barbie Chronicles" pointed out the toys that parents allow in their home really send important messages to children, she said:
"You might still assume that dolls and other toys simply don't matter. A girl can play with any doll she wants, and it will not make a difference to her when she is older. But toys do matter, and they do convey ideas about how adult life should be run... toys convey a great deal about how adults wish children to grow up, and... toys prepare us for the roles we wish children to think of as "natural". What roles do we wish girls to grow up and assume are "natural'?" (pg. 181)
I'd never really thought about the message that Barbie dolls send young girls about what it means to be a teenager and what it means to be an adult woman. Yet as I really began to think about it I realized that Barbie sends the exact opposite message about womanhood and femininity than the one I want my daughter learning. Barbie teaches that how you dress determines your worth, that sexual appeal is what is valuable in a woman, that a relationship with "Ken" is the most important thing and that babies and family are afterthoughts, that breast are for appearances and not for function (her breasts have no nipples, so obviously there is no breastfeeding going on there!), and that shopping is the answer to all of life's woes.

She really isn't a very good role model.

And yet... I still really love her.

My husband can't understand it for the life of him, but the thought of getting rid of the box of Barbie dolls sitting in my basement makes me sad. For good or bad, Barbie was a big part of my childhood and it is hard, now that I see her with grown-up and critical eyes, to realize that I might not want my daughter playing with her.

Can you see my dilemma?

What would you do?

40 comments:

  1. You raise many interesting points. I also played with Barbies growing up, it was my favorite thing to do. Our family has been talking about this and we have decided to ban Barbie too. I think there are so many more choices now for toys than there was 15-20 years ago. I am grateful that there is.

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  2. I played with Barbie, but I think I'll make dolls for my girls. I don't think Barbie is inherently bad, but I don't want to introduce that standard of "beauty" to my girls. I remember as a young girl deciding I was always going to walk on pointed toes (like Barbie!), and being frustrated that I couldn't because it was too hard. The world will introduce Barbie-like beauty to my daughter soon enough--I don't want to be the one to do it.

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  3. As one with teenagers who's already been through this--I didn't have Barbies growing up (go Strawberry Shortcake dolls! Becky & Mandy & Jenny!) and planned the same. Along came my oldest 2 daughters, who encountered Barbies at friends' houses and just loved them. I eventually caved and we had them for several years (although I banned naked Barbies lying around and drew the line at Bratz dolls). Fortunately they grew out of the stage and it didn't turn into a big issue, the dolls were just naturally shorn, decapitated, and eventually tossed. And when daughter #3 didn't love them, they were never replaced. Good luck!

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  4. Very thought-provoking! Barbie is part of my childhood, too. My three-and-a-half-year-old does not have any Barbies yet--she has a lot of Disney Princess stuff, though. She knows who Barbie is because she's on Toy Story and commercials, but I have not bought her any because I kind of felt like they weren't age appropriate, but perhaps I will end up deciding they are not really appropriate for any age. I decided before my children were ever even born that "Bratz" dolls would not be allowed in my house...if I hadn't grown up with Barbie, would I feel the same way about her?

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  5. My mom let me have Skipper Barbie who is a younger doll without the adult body. There are new versions of Barbies (different brands) like that now with more modest clothing too. I found one at Target that is made from soft materials. As we picked it out we talked about why we chose her, her clothes are modest, she is similar to you, not older, etc. My girls have never asked for Barbies although I'm sure they have played with them at other homes.

    I am also not big on some of the Disney movies for similar but more subtle reasons. I have become choosier about what kind of "princess" I want my daughters to remember that they are, daughters of God. I try to choose media that represents that.

    One of my friends won't even buy things with different Disney characters (or the like) on them because she wants them to identify with eternal principles more than characters created to make money. It gave me something to think about.

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  6. Don't ban Barbie! I think you are looking at Barbie all wrong. Little girls aren't thinking that they want to look like barbie or that without Ken they are worthless (those thoughts are WAY to mature for a 3-8 year old. I didn't even think some of those thoughts until you pointed them out). My barbies for one, were always part of a loving family where the tiny tots went to sleep at a certain time and Skipper went out on dates (with good boys) and Kelly played on the her bike. Their rooms were always clean, and if not, mom would tell them to clean it before they could go play. I think Barbies allow girls to pretend to be a mom or an adult and to copy what mom and dad do in a way that baby dolls don't. In my experience, there is no harm in playing with barbies. It wasn't until late elementary school where I started to play "innappropriately" with them in any way. Maybe that can be an alert to you - maybe your kids are hearing things from their friends that you haven't talked to them about yet.

    In your heart you know that Barbie is wonderful and a great part of childhood. And those dolls you have in your basement are beautiful, innocent dolls like bell and tinkerbell not white-trash barbie.

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  7. I'm now 44 years old and very confident in both my appearance and my intellect--but I spent many years wanting hair that would grow and breasts that would blossom. I blame Barbie for that. Whether it was the intent of any toy conspiracy or not, she was my ideal and I was disappointed.

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  8. If I were you I would keep Barbie in that box and share here with your adult children as and heirloom. I don't want my little girls playing with dolls that don't look like little girls. There are many more uplifting toys available. I think many little girls can play with Barbie in a proper way, however I don't think little boys can, So we won't be having barbie in our house.
    One more thought: Imagine bringing a doll into the temple- would you pick Barbie or an American Girl doll?

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  9. I really recommend you read this Blog, thoroughly, before making a decision. It totally transformed how I think about Barbies, and about how I play with my daughters. I think you'll love it.
    http://playbarbies.wordpress.com/about/

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  10. I played with Barbies a lot as a girl but never grew up with the 'wrong idea' of how women should behave. True Barbie does encourage individualism but with a good collection of dolls, and a family attitude being taught, wouldn't it be natural for the Barbies to create a family? I used immodest Barbie clothes to play how 'dangerous' and 'inappropriate' they were. (Barbie lost some clothes and ran crying to her room many times- if only she would learn!) I just played with the Barbies in the manner and values I was taught. I understand your dilemma but I personally believe we have gone looking for 'evil' messages in EVERYTHING these days- nothing is safe to give to your kids and we are forgetting that they are just children. Good Luck! :)

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  11. Is this honestly a dilemma for you? You describe a doll based on pornography, void of family, full of self and you ask what you should do? Dump them! You already know what to do in your heart. Now have the courage to do it.

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  12. I remember playing with barbies as a kid, and I remember the inappropriate things that I, as well as my sisters, would have them do. I feel ashamed just thinking about it.
    Barbies have been banned from my house. Granted, I only have one daughter (so far..I hope..) who is almost 3, which I feel would be too young to introduce such a doll to, if I were ok with them.
    I just don't think that a 3-year-old, 5-year-old, 8-year-old...should be playing with a toy that portrays the body of an adult. Especially when there are brothers around. (Just like the article you linked to.)
    At the same time, I know how hard it is to get rid of things that have meant so much to you for so long.
    I suppose, and I'm guessing this thought has crossed your mind, and maybe you mentioned it in your post and I didn't notice, but I suppose the best thing to do is to take your dilemma to the Lord, and He will help you know what is right for you and your family, and He will give you the strength and courage to do whatever needs to be done.
    Good luck!

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  13. I never played with Barbies growing up ... well, except for pulling off Barbie's head while singing that song, "Momma had a baby and BOOM her head popped off!" (Was that just a crazy Midwest thing? I promise I'm not some scary person now....)

    Joking aside, I struggle with some of these ideas too. My girls know that we don't get any toys that are dressed immodestly so most of the Barbie things are out. But, like one of your previous commenters said, I too focus a lot of my concern on the meta-messages found in many of the Disney princess movies. What do I want my daughters to believe about themselves and their place in the world -- and do those movies support and oppose those beliefs?

    I wonder if I analyze things to much .... I don't know honestly.

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  14. I've decided not to get my girl any Barbies. Primarily because, as Liz also pointed out, I simply don't want to introduce that standard of beauty to my daughter. It is something the world will teach her anyway - why should I bring something like that in to our home, into her life? My daughter is still too young to know anything of Barbies, but if it's something she'll want when she's older I might consider getting her some of the 'alternative' Barbies available these days - a doll that looks more like herself! Her dearest toy right now, is a soft handmade doll. :)

    For the same reasons, I'm not getting my son some of the violent action figures or certain toy guns...

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  15. Awhile back I wrote a post on my blog about "The Barbie Doll".

    http://ourdaisylife.blogspot.com/2009/04/i-just-dont-get-it.html

    I don't think it'll change your mind, but it helped me put in perspective to others my ideas on the role of Barbie.

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  16. I might have to turn in my "Man Card" for having even read this post, but to make it worse, I will throw in my opinion. Here it is:

    Much ado about nothing.

    I am surprised that so many people have spent so much time and effort writing and studying and extolling the evils of a plastic doll.

    If you can't play with Barbie because it reinforces unrealistic body image, then you also need to throw out anything with the new Rapunzel, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, etc.

    (Please be gentle - I know I am not in my natural habitat)

    I played with GI Joe when I was a kid - and when I walked down that aisle in the store, there weren't any babies either.

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  17. I'm with Middle-Aged Mormon Man.

    I know I'm in the minority, and what I will say will rub people the wrong way, but the whole banning Barbie thing sounds like a trend to me.

    My girls have barbies and they have spent most of their time playing with them by setting up house. They enjoy changing the outfits and creating "scenes" in a household sense. What they create is what they have seen in their lives, and since they don't see p*rn or sex or naked people running around, they don't create those scenes.

    Children are innocent and I agree we need to allow them their innocence for as long as possible. But I think we freak out too much about what will harm them. Will watching Cinderella really teach our 5 year olds that you can fall in love in one night? Probably not. Maybe the story of how I met their father will, though.

    I get it. Bratz dolls are banned from my house because they DO promote skankiness. Certain barbie outfits are also banned. But barbies, Princesses, dolls themselves? Whatever. My 10 year old has already outgrown them all, and my 8 year old is close.

    Irony? How many of our boys have dart guns and light sabers? What is that teaching our boys? How many of them have trucks and soldiers?

    They are TOYS. How our children learn about their bodies and relationships and how life really works has a lot more to do with parenting than with Barbie dolls. That doesn't mean I will judge anyone who bans Barbie or whatever --just that I'm tired of being judged because I don't.

    Rant over.

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  18. I'm sure you already have, but pray about it and decide what's best for you. I don't see anything wrong with Barbie as long as good parenting is still part of the package.

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  19. Lol!!! I LOVE what Middle-Aged Mormon Man said!!! This issue so often proves to be SUCH a double-standard! Do we have little boys playing with "Peter Priesthood" dolls who magnify their callings and go home to wife and children after working righteously at their offices all day? Nope. They play pirates, GI Joes, Legos that are centered around war themes, and other similar toys. I don't remember a lot of little boys growing up warped because they didn't fill out like GI Joe either.

    I LOVED my Barbies (and guess what? You're little girl won't KNOW unless you TELL her what Barbies origins are!!! It's a total non-issue!) and I loved how many options she had- through her, I got to pretend to be a doctor, a veterinarian, a mommy (that was my favorite), the manager of a grocery store, a pilot...the options were endless. My mom sewed a lot of her clothes and that's how I cut my teeth on my sewing machine too! It was a great way to practice basic sewing skills and to make sure that Barbie was dressed appropriately.

    Barbie is a roll-playing toy and that is TOTALLY natural for little girls, developmentally! Through her, I was able to imagine choices and consequences which is key to girls' development.

    And guess what? I ALSO played with baby dolls and Polly Pockets with no problem. It didn't warp me or bend my thinking at all. I played my values and explored values. Little girls will do that no matter WHAT toy you give them!

    I think it's interesting that when women grow up and start reading the histories of things like this that they had NO IDEA about as little girls, suddenly the things they loved become tainted and sullied. As a little girl, I knew that Barbie was fun to play with and that was it. That's all I cared about.

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  20. And as far as what doll I'd take to the temple? I wouldn't, but if I DID, I'd be FINE with Barbie as long as she was dressed in her Sunday best. ;o)

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  21. chibbylick: THANK YOU for sharing the link to the "How to Play with Barbies" blog! I love her ideas about how to guide appropriate play with barbie dolls and for building a collection of diverse-looking dolls, including babies (there actually ARE baby Barbies--you just have to find them). I love how she has dolls that look like herself, her daughter, and her daughter's father...if only I could find doll to look like my husband...there aren't any Polynesian Kens!

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  23. I am glad to hear so many different view points on Barbie! I suspected that there would be a lot of passion for this subject, because for some little girls (not all) Barbie really makes a huge impression on your perception of womanhood. I appreciate hearing all the different view points!

    I do want to address the comment made by several readers though that it is silly or overreacting to analyze Barbie so closely. I think that it is VERY important for adults to analyze all the toys that their children play with. Like the essayist mentioned in the quote in my post-- the toys we allow children to play with send HUGE messages about what we think is acceptable or not and how we want them to grow up. It isn't be overprotective or reactionary for parents to look critically at certain toys and to determine that they don't want their children playing with them. Every family will probably have different standards, and that is okay, because every family is different. But parents NEED to and SHOULD be evaluating EVERYTHING that comes into their homes-- toys, music, clothes, movies-- and deciding if it sending the type of message they want for their family. That is what it means to be a PARENT. It is what Julie Beck calls being a "lioness at the gate". If you don't do it then you are letting corporations, popular culture or the kids down the street determine what values your children learn.

    That is why I really appreciate this conversation because I am still in the mode of trying to figure out where Barbie fits into the vision I have for my family and it helps me to hear other people's view points!

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  24. For me it all depends on if your daughter wants to play with Barbie or not.

    My mom didn't want us to play video games, but then what happened was we'd just go to our friends houses and play there, which meant we weren't at home as much. She decided having her children home with her was more important than controlling us.

    So I say if your daughter wants to play with Barbie, help her do so in a positive manner. But maybe she won't want to. I never did. My sister did, and that's when my mom bought Barbies.

    I just don't think it's worth the fight with your kids. It's more important to have a loving positive relationship with them than what toys they have.

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  25. To follow-up on my earlier comment. I do appreciate what Heatherlady is saying about being the "Lioness at the Gate", and I understand her point. My point is that because Barbie projects an unrealistic image of women, she is banished. Every kids' movie and almost every toy projects an unrealistic image if something. It is fantasy - it is all MAKE BELIEVE. Why single out Barbie? Don't get started on Ariel selling her soul or Snow White breaking and entering.

    Hopefully the doll a child plays with does not offset all of the good modeling and teaching done by good parents in the home. That's where parenting needs to reign supreme. When I look around and see pre-teens with dyed hair and makeup, that worries me - because it shows parental consent.

    If you really must help your daughters to avoid the projection of unrealistic images of women, you can't take them outside - or even to church. There are surgically enhanced, bleached, dyed, eyelash extended, unnaturally white toothed examples everywhere you look - and these are real people. Not plastic (well almost not plastic)

    Just saying don't overreact. (And I apologize if I have offended by my opinion, or from straying off of "man turf".

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  26. I think here, we can first of all, take a lesson from the Hebraic way of thinking. For the Biblical Hebrews, the origin of something was almost more important than the thing itself. I believe the origin of things does matter very much. Most people would consider it overreacting, but I say throw the Barbie out with the bathwater (meaning, Ariel, Rapunzel, etcetera). They originate from people who are anti-family, and many of them are Godless. They aren't healthy. In our pornographic culture, it matters. A lot. Ever think about why Gothel looks more like she's the same age as Rapunzel's love interest? Rapunzel looks like a child dating an old man...does that bother anyone? Just an aside...I will move on, now. :)

    The reason we get so emotional about it is because we have so much emotional baggage tied to all of this plastic and stuff. It actually hurts out feelings when someone points out that these things we associate comfort with from our own childhoods are really not so great. Wait! Does that mean our childhood wasn't great? Does that mean we are somehow not as perfect? No, it just means we should be wiser than those who came before us.

    We really are underestimating the power these things have over us. Honestly, if it is just "make believe", why the emotional response from so many? The answer is that it is extremely influential. The power of imagination is powerful indeed.

    Barbie is made in China, anyway. Do we really need more plastic made by little Chinese kids so we can feel like we're not depriving our children? If you are not opposed to her on a creative origin level, you should probably be opposed to her (and all the other poorly made, cheap plastic garbage found in the toy aisles of America) from a wher-she-was- fabricated origin, in my opinion.

    I loved the article, by the way. Great points made!

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  27. I found this blog entry because many of you have left this page and landed on my site. I was flattered by the people mentioning my blog. My goal in writing my blog is to overcome the issues you write about in this post. Mattel's line has a lot wrong with the way it is marketed - but I gave up on fighting them and came up with a way to bend my daughter's barbie world to meet our needs. Please take a look if you have time. We have it all - families, careers, activities. We have different body types, ethnicities, religions... I haven't built a church, but it wouldn't be hard to do.

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  28. Hi. I can certainly understand your feelings. As women, we are emotional beings for sure. As my standards have gone up, I have realized that there is a lot geared towards children that is not healthy. I can recall a few movies that I LOVED growing up only to rent to share with my children, only to aplogize and turn them off...
    I think your feelings of discomfort are an indication of growth--and probably a prompting. Ask God to verify your feelings; if they are true, then He will let you know.
    That said, I grew up without barbies and I am not scarred for life, lol. Barbies are "banned" in our home as well. I had not realized their origin until your post (thank you) but I have to say I am not surprised.
    I think that toys are like clothes in a way...when one dresses modestly one is more likely to act in a modest manner. (This is why there are uniforms in some schools--this is the reason cited for dress standards at the private Christian school I attended as a youth.) I just can't see how a toy modelled after a lustful object can have a wholesome influence on little girls --or their brothers.

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  29. And for what it's worth, there are parents who have also banned Disney princesses from their homes...I am one. (You are exactly right, Middle Aged Mormon Man--no scantily clad-pact-with-witches, over-sexualized-women's-bodies movies in this home either.)
    *not intended as offensive, just saying that I agree that we shouldn't single out Barbie. Nope, she's got company. ;-)

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    1. Hi Nicole -- I know you posted this comment way back in 2011 but I just wanted to say THANK YOU for doing so! I feel like I am the only one who has banned barbie and disney princesses from our home, so it's nice to know I'm not!

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  30. When I was young, I was never interested in Barbie except for once, and that was when I got to play with Barbie and a whole mess of clothes on a vacation trip. I too enjoyed putting clothes on Barbie that I knew I would never be allowed to wear.

    If you’re having troubles getting rid of your Barbies, I would suggest reading Acts 19:13-20.

    In this story, some Jews try to cast a devil out of a man without any authority. The devil refuses, jumps on them, and overcomes them. The story of the incident spreads, and the people who hear about it, realize that evil is a real power and they can’t trifle with it without putting themselves in danger, so they burn everything they have that is associated with evil.

    This is easily applied in our lives. We have all heard stories of how pornography and immodesty have devastated others and overcome them. If we’re smart, we won’t trifle with these things in any shape or form and we’ll get rid of them in our lives.

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  31. Somebody who commented on my blog said they found my blog via a link on your website. I just looked you up how funny that you are writing about Barbie, because I just had an article I wrote about "Why I Banned Barbie" published on KSL and Meridian Magazine. We must be on the same wave length! You can read my thoughts on the subject at http://jamsandpickles.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/to-barbie-or-not-to-barbie/
    I say your loyalties lie with your kids, not Matel. And great blog by the way!

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  32. While I think it's true that kids don't immediately associate a Barbie-doll with all the history and implications, etc. they DO see images in the world around them-images that parents can't block out all the time. In those images/messages from billboards, radio and TV ads, and even some movies and products aimed at children even, there are terrible portrayals of women and the relationships between men and women. How long before they start to associate the messages that their parents did not invite, with the way they start to make sense of the world and see who they are (and their toys)? They still don't know the full difference between what is seen and what actually is.
    I guess my point is, that children nowadays are inundated with WAY more images and messages than we ever were. So while maybe WE were fine with not associating Barbie with sex and objectification, I think it is getting harder and harder to do that. When you have a toy that looks a lot like the sexual images on the TV/internet/magazines/billboards etc, the mind will naturally and subtly make certain associations. And what is OK to show on ads and TV is getting more and more extreme. So for me, it's BECAUSE my kids will be exposed to so many things I know I can't fully control that I want to be very careful about what I bring into my home someday.

    Oh, and my husband and I work in the entertainment industry. Sexual stuff is totally added into films/ads, etc intentionally. It makes money. Those messages seep in. Even in some Disney princess products there is some really subtle stuff that we hardly recognize-but it's there. Not saying it's pure evil or should never be played with-that's silly, but I think it's just important we are aware as parents so we can know how to communicate certain things to our children.

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  33. Oh, and I did read the blog on "How to Play with Barbies" and LOVED it! If we are creating the context and giving our children specific messages with toys and play-time, it can be really powerful. But if we just throw a Barbie at them without any thought at all, I believe their minds will create associations we didn't intend based on the rest of the world-they may not be horrible and evil associations, but I don't they will be educational or uplifting either.

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  34. Great Post!
    In my house (I have a 5 yr old and 3 yr old girls) we don't have traditional brand-name Barbies. But we do have a lot of the Disney Priness barbie-type dolls. And I insist that we also must own the cooresponding Prince for each princess. (I know, I know, there are plenty of arguments against the disney princesses, too but I am comfortable with them.)
    We also own 2 pregnant barbie-type dolls. One even came with a husband and daughter and home-type accessories. I think they are great toys, and great teaching tools!
    Even my 18 month old son plays with the prince dolls lol. Yay! One more way all 3 of my kids can learn to play together coorperatively!

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  35. Here's what I like best about your post: You are taking a good, hard look at what is best for your child, your family culture, your home, and the messages your choices send.

    Reading the comments has been fascinating. I find it so interesting when people try to discourage this kind of analysis in others. Maybe it's because if one person starts reevaluating something that mainstream society embraces and nurtures, that means that they might need to as well???

    Is it THAT scary to choose between "good, Better, and BEST"? Are we so obsessed with entertainment and materialism that we feel compelled to pull down people who decide to follow the path "less traveled-by?"

    I applaud you for taking a step out of the box and being willing to kill some of The World's so-called sacred cows. As a mom who has found that the air is much clearer "out here," I welcome you! :-) And I believe that your posterity will thank you in the eternities...

    {{{hugs}}}

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  36. Wow, I didn't read through all the comments, but wanted to share my thoughts. We banned Barbie the day our first child was born (we're getting ready to have #7). We also banned any and all dolls who were dressed immodestly. That's right, no Ariel/Little Mermaid, most of the Princess dolls, etc. have ever graced our home. Our biggest issues with these types of dolls have already been mentioned:
    - the extreme focus on materialism/clothing
    - the immodesty

    We aspire to something higher for our children, something worthy of the counsel on gender, pornography, and families we have from the prophets.

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  37. It's interesting to see all the comments and perspectives. As an older mom (my daughter is 30 with a 3 year old) I can throw my ideas out here. My daughter and I both had Barbies -- we're not damaged, and we are both modest and yet we understand in marriage where and when the sexy clothes belong. I would tell my daughter, Barbie can wear this with her husband, in private, but it isn't appropriate to wear it out and about. I did not want her to think that high heels are bad, or even a short skirt -- It's when you wear them and wear and you can wait until you are married and wear them in the bedroom with your hubby.

    The same went with toy guns. It's not that guns are bad. We taught are 4 sons that they are to be handled with respect, never pointing them at anyone, and each one learned the gun safety course. My sister chose to ban the toy guns, and now her sons, aged 21 to 32 all have a collection of guns and carry permits! Funny how things work out. So, Barbie is ok, we teach what is ok for Barbie to wear and when. Same with guns.

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  38. I can completely understand where you're coming from with not knowing if Barbie is right for your girls or not. My 3 year old has one, and it was a gift. But I wasn't very big on Barbie as a kid, and seeing as you were, it seems to me that not sharing her with your girls would be like not sharing a piece of yourself with them. You'll make the right decision for you and your family, but even if you don't end up letting them play with Barbie as girls, DON'T throw them away. Keep them, and share her with them later.

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