The Barbie Thang
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The Barbie Thang
My daughters are getting to the point where they want to do
the doll thing. I think it is probably good for
imagination play, etc. but the only ones their friends have
are Barbies. Ugh.
Not trying to be hard-core, but the whole Barbie thing is
just a little much for me. My mixed babies and the way-too-
skinny, blonde Barbie. Don't get me started.
What other dolls are out there that they can dress up and
do the whole thing with?
Not against buying some of the Barbie accessories (car,
house, etc.) just have some issues with Barbie and Ken and
Please don't tell me I am overreacting - I know I probably
am, just want to see what is out there.
I, too, have been looking for a Barbie alternative, so I'll be curious to
people suggest. I haven't come up with a very satisfactory answer, by any
means, but here's the best I've got. I've seen some nice, normal Barbie
dolls with soft bodies (can't remember the brand) but the Barbie clothes
fit them and they are entirely too plain and unappealing to my daughter--
had *no* interest. I think also, part of the appeal of Barbie is that
young adult and the others were girl dolls. We have another adult doll she
likes, but we can't find anything to fit it since it isn't exactly Barbie
doesn't have its own line-- it's closer to dollhouse sized. If your
wants to play with other girls who have Barbies, she probably wants one that
will be the same size. The mermaid Barbie-- I think her name is
is an improvement, in my opinion. She has flat feet and a slightly more
athletic frame and she has a story (my daughter picked out the coloring
book). She's a surfer-girl who learns she is really a mermaid princess and
then has to rescue her mermaid mother and ends up being able to go back
and forth between surfer and mermaid. They really hit on all girly
princess, mermaid, blonde surfer girl-- but she does have a super-hero vibe,
too. The doll changes from mermaid to surfer, her hair turns from blonde to
pink and she has ''body art'' that comes out in the water (yes, a Barbie
stamp of sorts). There's plenty to mock there, but I also think it's not
worst thing in the world. And the Disney princesses (oh, I know, I know)
about the same size as Barbie but at least have dolls of more ethnicities.
really difficult to find any Barbie accessories that don't look like hooker
clothes, but Amazon carries a line by Olivia's Doll Closet that are more
''Glamorous Barbie Goes to a Ball'' than ''Paris Hilton Barbie Goes
Maybe not such a big improvement, but as I said, this has been all about
compromising for me! Maybe more than I should, but I figure if I fight it
hard it will only come back to bite me in the ass. When I think of all the
I played with Barbie as a girl, it makes me smile and relax-- we made poor
Joe be a stripper and Barbie was the single guardian of Skipper and they
in a swanky pad and ran a horse vet clinic... all the time, hopping around
pointy toes and dressing very glamorously.
Hi. Just want to let you know, my daughter was as adamantly against Barbies
as you are and raised her daughter, our dear grand-daughter, on
There is a ''get real doll'' that I LOVE. She does snowboarding, soccer,
basketball, hiking etc. etc. There are many other similar dolls out there.
just want to tell you that now my grand daughter is 13 and WANTS
She has collected quite a few (garage sales etc. using her own allowance
money to buy them etc.) She knows about body image and tries to dress the
Barbies to be anti-Barbie dolls (if there is such a thing). She is creative
costumes and does not really go for the Barbie outfits out in the market.
she DOES now own about 12 Barbies!!!! (for the first time in her life)
Anyway, I also have a nephew who didn't know what candy was until he was a
teen. (I remember him lining up M & Ms as color chips in play, never putting
them in his mouth. I remember him refusing dessert like I was offering him
eggplant or something. . .) And now, at 22, he thinks chocolate is a basic
food group in his everyday diet. . . He basically eats junk food all the
(and his Mom, my sister, raised him on organic healthy veggie-emphasized
diet. . .)
all to say that : BE CAREFUL. If you overdo anything, the rebellion takes
when they get older!!!!
Good luck with it. I share your concerns. Moderate is the answer.
Check out the Only Hearts Club dolls
(http://www.onlyheartsclub.com/index.html). They have much
more realistic young girls' bodies and wear cool
teen/pre-teen clothing (although they also offer a
ballerina, a princess, and a rock star, too). And they
represent the Bay Area -- African American, Hispanic
American, Asian American, and Caucasian American dolls. My
granddaughter is a big fan. (Oh, and they have soft,
poseable bodies and each one comes with a little pet.)
There are Hawaiian Barbies, black Barbies, hispanic
Barbies as well as Ken's. Go find them online on ebay or
amazon. You can go the route and just be selective about
the dolls you are buying. It was a fun time in my house
and my daughter and her playdates enjoyed the phase for a
full 6 years!
Although not enough stores stock them, Mattel does make a good variety of
Barbies other than blonde and white. I recently collected an Xmas wish tag
charity - the 4 yr old girl requested ''ethnic Barbie with accessories''. I
pleasantly surprised at the choices on the Mattel website i.e. a 2 doll set
and little sister (teen body proportions not so alarming) and accessories
music related - violin, flute, cd, music book.
About the Barbie: I feel your angst. I played with Barbie
when I was 8 - 10, and I've been a lifelong feminist for
fifty years. I mostly built cardboard houses and decorated
them for my Barbie. The clothes and accessories were too
expensive and lame for my thinking. You just don't know what
meaning your daughter will attach to this toy. Denying it
will only prolong your discomfort. Let her have it and pass
through it. This too shall pass. If you're determined, there
are other diverse alternatives out there, like ''American
Girl,'' etc. But these are very expensive and there's no
guarantee she'll not still want Barbie anyway. Good luck!
Your role modeling will probably do more to influence her
about her image of women. Free to be, you and me.
How 'bout Brats dolls.
Don't give in to your principles. I have daughters now 10
and 7 and managed to maintain the no-Barbie rule without
being a total grinch. I was really into Barbies myself as a
child and do think they gave me a warped sense of body-image
and consumerism (must-have-all-clothes!) Anyway, we really
got into the Madeleine doll set which the girls knew from
the books. They had a dollhouse and clothes and everything.
Unfortunately, you'd have to get those on eBay or something
now as they've been discontinued. The company tried for a
while to ''update'' the dolls and their clothes, but it was
terrible--reminded me of Catholic-school Bratz or something.
You didn't say how old your girls are, but your best option
is probably Groovy Girls. They are really cute, very diverse
options for hair and skin color. Cute outfits you can buy as
well as cars, beds, etc.
I know I got probably some eye-rolls behind my back from
friends and family who wanted to give Barbies as gifts, but
it really wasn't that hard to let people know and when we
did get a Barbie or two from folks we didn't know as well, I
would usually trade it for something with my daughter and
then give the Barbie to Goodwill.
Try Groovy Girls. You can find them, for example, at Five
Little Monkies on Solano Avenue and at Elmwood Kids. Great
variety of skin tones and hair types. Cool accessories.
Groovy Girls come in various shades, has a few boys, and many
accessories. My now 12 year old still loves them. They are
plentiful at garage sales, and we have also made many of the
traditionally gaudy clothes, furniture, etc, or adopted stuff
The little girl in our carpool just showed me her ''Hacker
Barbie'' which was a joke among women in computer science for
a long time and is now a reality! OK, Mattel actually calls
her ''Computer Engineer Barbie'' and I think she is supposed
to be a sysadmin, not a programmer, but she has cool
eyeglasses, a pink laptop, a bluetooth stuck in her ear, and
comfortable shoes! She looks exactly like all my programmer
woman friends (haha - not!) Anyway I only have boys, but if
I had a girl, I'd probably get her the Hacker Barbie and
then look the other way when her wardrobe started expanding
to include ball gowns and stilettos.
Engineer mom who LOVED her barbies
Have you seen Barbie lately? There is a number of multi ethnic, not so
with big boobs versions out there. It's not the Barbie we grew up with. Give
another chance. She's not so bad.
Check out Liv dolls. They're the same size as Barbies, but
have more realistic proportions. They come with different
wigs and you can get clothes and other accessories, so they
serve the same play function but they don't have the
inappropriate sexualization problem. They also have more
joints than a Barbie.
I don't know if these are still on the market, but my
daughter loved Groovy Girls. They're soft dolls that came
in a wide range of ethnicities and had all kinds of
accessories and clothing options. They are somewhat more
expensive than a basic barbie (they ran around $10 - $15
each about 8 years ago,) but you get all the fun of
changing outfits, etc without the implied glamour of
My kids LOVED Barbie (even my sons)! I loved the kind of
play they did with Barbie, which I think is your
question. What type of doll will allow that type of play
(conflict resolution, acting out feelings and emotions,
role playing, and so on) but not be so...Barbie. Here are
a few ideas:
1. Get Real Girl. There is a similar sized doll called
Get Real Girl. She camps, rock climbs, hikes, and so on.
Her featurs are more ''real,'' too.
2. American Girl has period dolls that reflect a time in
American history. The books are historical fiction, and
very well written. Each doll comes with a set of books.
They are much bigger in size than Barbie.
3. American Girl also has some other series, some dolls
that are more Barbie size. Check out the website.
4. There is always the non-doll route: Calico Critters,
Polly Pockets, My Little Pony....
Miss those Barbie days!
Only Hearts Club dolls are wonderful. They look like regular
girls and have pretty hair and are Barbie sized but look
like kids and nowhere near Barbie or Bratz or the other
trashy types, LOL. I got some for my nieces and they loved
them, so did their mom.
I have wondered about the same thing. Some time back, I
wrote about it on my blog and the responses were really
helpful and insightful. Here is the link:
If you read that, I will say that I still haven't given the
dolls to my daughter, but only because she hasn't asked or
expressed interest again. If she plays with them at friends'
houses, so be it.
My daughter plays with, dresses and undresses, and does hair
on my old Jenny doll, which I think might be a bit like what
the current American Girl doll is like.
I am also the parent of a biracial child and concerned about
this as well. Have you heard of pactadopt.org? They have
wonderful classes for white parents of adopted
biracial/African American children. It is focused on
adopting but there is extremely valuable information for us
and our education. It sounds like you are already sensitive
to the issues so that's great!
As for Barbie, I plan to try to head this off by getting
fashion magazines featuring non-white models that I can look
at with my daughter, also I get Tiana stuff and always
emphasize that she is a ''princess!'' (even tho she was a frog
for most of the movie, sheesh) and I think I'm pre-empting
the Barbie request by constantly referring to
beautifully-dressed non-white women as ''princess''es. (It
seems to be the fancy dress that she first identifies as
princess) We'll see, my daughter's not aware of Barbie yet.
Another thing I noticed, and I say this with no judgement of
you, but your kids might appreciate the term 'biracial'
rather than 'mixed' - it was pointed out to me that 'mixed'
sounds like 'mixed-up', which has a negative connotation. Of
course I am assuming your babies are bi-racial. If they are
blessed with more ethnicities then I'd consider asking a
college student of a similar background what they prefer -
they seem to have their finger on the current pulse of
enlightened thought. Or the folks at Pact.
Anyway - def. check out pactadopt.org!! Read some of the
stories they have posted. Very illuminating, though
i was having that same problem with my 4 yr old. Pickings
are still slim in this day and age! You didn't say how old
your daughter was but i'm assuming in the 4-6 range? seems
like that when they start getting interested in Barbies and
Disney Princesses nowadays! There is a line of Mixed race
dolls called MIXIS but they are hard to find: I saw some on
Amazon.com and a site called www.dollslikeme.com. which
sells other mixed race dolls too.
Also Mattel makes a new line of African American dolls of
varying shades call So In Style. The teen age looking dolls
did not look mixed race and I don't like their Hip Hop Roca
Wear Video Vixen clothing but they have some baby brother
and sister counter parts that look like 4-6 year olds called
Lil s.i.s and a couple of them, specifically Julian ,Zhara
and Kianna look biracial and very cute- they are extremely
hard to find though and people are overcharging for them if
you do find them. I bought a Zahara and Chandra ballet set
on ebay for 19.00 + shipping because Chandra looks like me (
Black) and Zhara looks like my little butterscotch baby!
Bratz Dolls and Moxie dolls look kind of multi racial but
are way to sexed up for my approval.
The Friends Forever line has a biracial doll named Nika
looks like a normal girl and like books!
Youu could also try Groovy Girl dolls - they are soft rag
dolls but ethnically diverse and not all sexed up like Bratz
There are some amazing doll artist out there that customize
dolls like barbie, skipper, Kelley etc by changing their
hair skin tone and many look biracial and multi-racial, have
curly hair dreads, freckles,etc. You can read about some
of them here and see their amazing work here:
These artists will do custom work and it is a bit expensive
but might be worth it down the line to have a special doll
made that looks just like your daughter. I'm actually
going to see if I can lean to do it myself since I am an
artist( there's lots of tutorials on the web on repainting
an re-rooting dolls hair for a custom look.) I'm also going
to contact Mattel and other doll companies to let them know
there's still a huge gap for mixed race dolls for kids not
just generic Black, White or Latin. Good luck and I really
feell for you!
If your main objection is that Barbie is blonde, not any of
the other host of objections that arise to Barbie, you
might try googling the Barbie Basic Black line (I might not
have the name right, but that's close). They came out last
year, so I'm not sure how widely available they are now,
but saw a couple on Amazon and other online sites. These
dolls are sold in black cocktail dresses, and come in a
rainbow coalition of colors. Number 8 and #10 look mixed
race (one blond, one with relaxed hair). Number 4, my
personal fovorite, is black with short natural hair
(possibly the only fashion doll I've seen since the '70s
that has natural hair.) They also had some in blonde, or
redhead, but many brunettes, and a much more realistic
slice of humanity than the Barbie aisle usually represents.
I think these were marketed as collecters dolls, so they
were a bit more expensive than your typical $5-6 Barbie at
Target (although these were sold at Target in their time).
I personally enjoyed Barbies in my time, although it was
when I could make clothes for them that they were most
interesting. For me they really were fashion dolls.
You should treat your family to dinner at Lanesplitters on
San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley. My point is that
there are creative approaches to Barbie and your kids are
If a straight legged Barbie can win a rodeo....
My daugther just received a barbie for her fourth birthday. It
came with another present and we just hid the Barbie.
Unfortunately, my son keeps bringing it up and I'm afraid my
husband will cave and give it to her. Although we've both
aggreed no Barbies, he's now asking what's the harm? I
just ''feel'' so against it. Growing up in a So-Cal beach
community, I feel very strongly about not giving the message
that girls ought to look like Barbie. Should I just relax and
let her have the darn Barbie - hoping that living with us will
be a stronger force in her life? She's really into the whole
barbie, princess, ballerina, girly thing - despite us not even
having a TV! And I'm not ''girly'' at all. thoughts? thanks!
I would just give her the Barbie. My daughter received 2 or 3 as
gifts and they rapidly ended up naked in the bottom of the
toybox, never to be played with again. She is now 9 and the
opposite of what I would consider ''girly''. I remember the most
fun thing about Barbies from my childhood was interchanging
Barbie's head with Ken's...I grew up ok with no self image
problems. So while I also don't *like* Barbie, I think she can
be pretty harmless, especially if you provide a nurturing
atmosphere where your daughter feels safe and accepted the way
I'm a not-very-girlie mom in a family with no tv, who thought her girl would
even know what a barbie was. My now 4yo girl is super-girlie - deeply in the
princess, ballerina, unicorn thing. We were in Hawaii when she was about 3 and
found a raggedy, frizzy-haired, washed-up barbie on the beach. My girl's eyes
widened, she held the doll out in front of her and said ''Yes!'' It was love at
sight. She now has about a dozen barbies, who are collectively know as The
Daughters. They're usually naked, with faces painted with markers. They have
names like Snome and Kum Lum Chum (the fastest runner). A concerned friend of
mine said to my daughter, ''You know, when I had barbies as a girl, I always
that I should look like them.'' My daughter looked at her like she was crazy and
said,''What? They're dolls! They're not even real people!'' I think she'll be
THis was a tough one for us, and in fact we took our daughters
clues to solve it. Our first girl, now 11, never cared about
the dolls and I was extremely happy about it. Our second one,
now 8, managed to get one of those into the house and has been
intensely playing with them since. I didn't fight it because
it seemed to be really her desire to play with it and because
her friends all had some of the same dolls. THe main issue
though is cost. The Narbies got out of fashion very quickly
and now she has to have to Brats and other Myscene stuff that
her friends play with. I've noticed the interest for the dolls
fading out though, they have probably outgrowned it. I would
have probably created more of an issue if I had refused to have
her have any of these dolls. On the other hand, I've allways
refused to buy any of my girls the barbie shoes, clothes,
school supplies (including lunch boxes) that they've asked for
at times. Barbie is a doll and stays in that categorie, no
body dresses up as one.
See if you can find a copy of the documentary Barbie Nation (it
was on PBS a couple of years ago) and rent it. It was made by a
mom who swore her child would NEVER play with a Barbie doll--it
has great footage of Barbie conventions, interviews with
Barbie's creators, and footage of other people with their
Barbie fixations and fetishes. It really changed my kind of
knee-jerk feminist feelings about the whole thing....and I was
a HUGE addict of all things Barbie as a girl.
In the end, her daughter plays with Barbie with her friends and
also with her mom--and they use it as an opportunity to talk
about women's roles, the importance (or not) of looks, fashion,
etc...and a chance for the mom to give her daughter a lot of
her own values, and to question those of our Barbie-centric
society. BTW, it's not a kid's video.
Let her have the Barbie, and all the subsequent Barbies she
will undoubtedly receive as gifts over the next several years.
When she's old enough or if you feel like she's ready, you can
talk to her about how Barbie's proportions are ''silly'' and make
believe, all the while reinforcing positive messages about a
healthy variety in women's body types AND, most importantly,
demonstrating a positive attitude about your *own* body.
Meanwhile, just let her have the dolls without any fuss. She
might not even be interested.
My mother was adamantly anti-Barbie, and all I received as
gifts went right back to the store. It was very traumatic for
me and I was always embarrassed when the giver would inquire
about how I was enjoying the Barbie. I also felt really
alientated from my peers who all had them - something that your
daughter might not experience given where she is growing up.
And despite my mom's intention to salvage my body-image by
keeping Barbie out of our house, I still grew up, and still
struggle with, hating my body. Barbie is one tiny facet in a
society full of negative messages for women.
Don't make a fuss
My daughter is still an infant so I haven't dealt with this as a parent yet,
but I will say my mom was very opposed to Barbies when I was young.
Of course that was what I asked for as a present from everyone else (I
convinced my teenage male cousin to buy my first Barbie). I managed
to collect at least 10 Barbies, none of which was purchased by my
parents. Although I dealt with some typical body issue images as a
teenager, I think my mom counter-balanced the Barbie thing with lots of
positive books and messages about women so I recognized at an early
age that the Barbies were fun to play with, but were not in any way
representative of what a woman should look like. I think that you are the
best strong woman role model for your daughter and that playing with
Barbies will not negate other positive messages you provide. From your
daughter's perspective, Barbies are fun because they have lots of
clothes to play dress-up with and you can move the arms and legs.
My daughter never liked Barbie, but my son sure did! It was so
counter-culture that I never discouraged him. We are, however, an
anti-Disney household due to Disney's use of sweatshops. In our
home, Disney was emphatically, strictly forbidden. I did a lot of
explaining to our children and showed them a lot of material. I
allowed my husband and other family members to ''tease'' me about
it, pretending to get ''upset'' if anyone mentioned 101 Dalmatians,
etc. All in all, between my policy of no-tolerance, along with
the ability to laugh at myself a little(I mean, nothing, no one
is perfect) we were able to, in fact, have a Disney free child.
In your case, I feel that if you have strong feelings about
Barbie, I would not yield. I would show tolerance of others by
not judging others choice of toys in their homes, but I would not
bend at home. A lot of dialogue is required when you take this
position, as you have to constantly counteract the images that
society gives your child (what could be more american than Mickey
Mouse, except Barbie) but it can be done. Just be very open about
it. I can't think of anything worse than just saying something is
taboo without talking about it. If you feel your position is
valid, then you should have good arguments to support it that can
help to convince your children, too.
Good luck. You can be Barbie-free too.
boy, you're probably going to get a million posts about this one.
i'll try to keep it short. we're a pretty crunchy family with two
daughters. i never had a barbie growing up, and we were dead-set
against barbie for our girls.
my oldest (now 6) ended up obsessing about them SO much, and not
just a (in retrospect perfectly innocent-seeming) barbie, but one
of those mega-slut Brat dolls. oy.
after denying her Brat gifts from friends and getting grief for
over a year, we finally allowed her to buy one with her
allowance. i let her know that i disagreed, but that she could
make her own choices. within a week she forgot all about it.
now it's nice and quiet in our household.
maybe we should all collectively share a barbie or brat doll and
pass it around so all our kids can work it out of their systems
without lining mattel's pockets.
so why are their heads so freakishly large, anyway?
I have two girls. I did not purposely keep Barbie out of the
house, but we just started getting them as gifts. My girls
like them becuase they can go in the bath or the sink and they
don't get ruined. I have seen my girls have some great
imaginative play with the Barbies taking a trip to Africa to
see the animals. etc. So far, there is no mention of their
shape or their makeup or any of the other stuff that gives
Barbie a bad rap. I have some of my ancient Barbie stuff (a
camper van and some clothes) that the girls have played with
The girls also have Groovy Girls and baby dolls, but because of
the swimming in the tub thing, it seems like the Barbies get a
little more attention.
I am very aware that there are body image issues that may come
up as the girls get older, but I have decided as a parent to
try and lighten up as much as I can. I think that putting a
ban on particular toys gives them incredible appeal. We'll see
what happens when they decide they need a gun!!
When it comes to Barbie, people sure have strong opinions!
Personally, I think that kids are attracted to Barbies for all
the obvious reasons: she's pretty and she's got fabulous
clothes and accessories. I think we adults have the tendency to
over think this one and miss the obvious.
The Barbie phase is so short-lived anyway. I say go with it!
Lessons about body image and ''different kinds of pretty'' can be
OK With Barbie
When I was seven my dad got me a Barbie against my mothers
wishes. My Barbie rode horses, led wagon trains, swam, climbed
fences & mountains and escaped from bad guys. She also had to
find food and clothing and make a house in the wilderness (of
the backyard) for the other dolls in her charge. There was only
so much you could do with a baby doll, mostly be a mother, and I
felt that got boring.
My own daughter got a Barbie and I found a kit of Barbie clothes
you could cut out and make. So her doll was much better clothed
than mine. She made houses in shoe boxes, sheets from hankies,
and she had several of the smaller dolls in the Barbie line.
She grew out of them and went on to run track, horseback ride,
work at a battered womens shelter, and go to college.
Barbie is what you make of her. So are the Disney princesses.
You are a much bigger influence than a doll. My daughter also
had the American girl doll and rather than pick a blonde blue
eyed doll like herself, she picked a dark haired, dark eyed,
glasses-wearing doll - like me.
You asked for opinions so here is mine (as unpopular as it might be). I am super
conscious of the whole body-image issue and the way society imposes impossible
ideals of beauty on girls. But as far as Barbie goes I think we (adults)
the issue. I think that your little girls will not necessarily think that Barbie
ideal for beauty unless you teach her that by your reaction to the doll. If you
Barbie in addition to other toys and dolls, show her artwork/photos representing
kinds of beauty and tell her that beauty is from within - she'll get it. I don't
4yos look at Barbie through the same lens we do. Most of us as adults look at
and say, ''how ridiculous to think I could look like that'' or ''she is really a
because almost no one really looks like that'' and I bet deep down inside, we're
little disappointed. Not in ourselves but in the dream we all had to be perfect
gorgeous. A dream that - no matter how good-looking you are - can never come
true. I think a 4 or 5 yo has much simpler view of Barbie. The see a pretty doll
cool clothes and accessories to play with - period. Also, when we believe
to be tolerant and open minded people it is sometimes difficult to be tolerant
open minded about things we disagree with. But our job as parents is to teach
children as best we can and then support them in their decisions. If my daughter
thinks princesses and Barbies are great, then I have to try to understand what
loves about them and somehow embrace that eventhough I think it is hokey and
sexist. There is obviously something very basic in these concepts since it
be nearly a universal interest to young girls. What my daughter loves about
princesses is not that a prince will come and save her but that they get to wear
sparkly things with layers of gossamer-like fabrics that twirl really nicely.
really the depth of it.
The Queen Mother
Questions for all moms who are anti-Barbie-pink-princess:
Did you have a Barbie? Baby dolls? Did you want one? Were you ever
aware of the differences in boys and girls? How did you explore those
differences? What games did you play? What was your mom like? Who
were your female role models? For what reasons? How did you learn to
define what kind of woman you wanted to be?
Where is the evidence that the ''Barbie Thang'' ALONE will ''ruin'' our
daughters? Don't we all know by now that it it's not just the toys that
make us who we are?
For the record: Me and my two sisters LOVED Barbies. We are happy,
educated, healthy women who certainly have never used a 10-inch
plastic doll as our role model for anything.
Look at the BIG Picture
Of course you hate all that Barbie is and all that she represents; we probably
Having said that, I truely believe that Barbie is harmelss. I, too, did not
daughters to play with Barbies, but they did. They LOVED them. They were not
attracted to Berbie's over-simplistic and sexist body-type, but rather loved
out scenerios with their Barbies--dialogues that were engaging, insightful, and
often represented issues they themselves were dealing with at preschool or grade
school. I really found the types of dialogues they created (either playing
with friends) were wonderful! I was able to remove myself from the horror of
as an insult to women (and men) everywhere and enjoy and value the type of play
they helped to create.
By the way, my VERY feminine daughter and Barbie Lover is now nine and HATES
Barbie, refuses to wear dresses, and wants to be a professional soccer player
she grows up. Clearly, playing with Barbie did not make her overly feminine in
negative way or prevent her from being the rough-and-tumble kid she is today.
They Grow Out of It!
Oh did I have a serious, serious Barbie thing. I had the 3
story town house, the van (I could fit my puppy in it), a
traveling house, clothes, furniture, dishes, I don't know HOW
many barbies. LOVED my Barbies. And I was considered an
attractive girl but always grew up telling my friends to develop
their personalities because ALL beauties fade and there is
nothing sexier then a beautiful MIND. (Guess who taught me that?)
I am not a girlie girl but can be when I feel like it and I can
honestly say that it is not Barbie that you should worry about
warping the mind of your lovely daughter...it will be her
friends, family, boyfriends. Give her a good foundation so when
she has a few earthquakes she learns to roll and not stand
rigid. Trust that you will be able to kick that dumb blond
perfectly skinny unrealistic little dolls behind with your super
Barbie Been there Done That
Perhaps this has been said before, but I was actually quite a fan
of Barbies when I was a child....and I don't think it has hurt my
self image or made me think I needed to look like Barbie. I
actually think I'm a pretty well adjusted adult. It's probably a
lot of other factors, whether Barbie is present or not, that will
determine whether someone grows up with certain pressures about
looks, body image, etc.
That said, I do understand parents not wanting to expose their
kids to Barbies for these reasons...my friend didn't want her
daughter to have one, and every time a birthday came her daughter
would ask us to get her a Barbie. Finally her baby sitter got
her one, and she was happy.....I think now she has gotten over
her Barbie fixation and on to other things. Similarly my
daughter enjoyed playing with Barbie and now really doesn't so
much anymore. I guess what I'm saying is that it's up to you for
the broader political reasons, but as far as your individual
child, I would agree with your husband's ''no harm done'' attitude.
There is an extensive and very good discussion already archived online about
agree with the advice to not make too big a deal about it. Anything that is
''forbidden fruit'' or that clearly pushes your buttons will become a lot more
attractive. Also, as a feminist myself, I began to rethink my approach to
pink and glitter, etc. I realized that I had actually bought into the idea that
things were better than ''girl'' things. Who is to say that loving pretty
adorning oneself with glitter is less worthwhile than loving trains or action
And these are not necessarily mutually exclusive either. My daughter, and many
other girls, loves both dress ups and princesses and also soccer and science. My
main concern about Barbie is the body image issue that you mentioned. To
this you might want to get her some ''Groovy Girls'' who have lots of great
and accessories, but also more realistic little girl bodies and very diverse
(I like the Groovy Girls much better than the Bratz, who have some of the same
issues as Barbie and are very sexual.) We are fortunate that now there are a
more options for promoting various ideas about what girls are like and what they
can do than when we were kids. I wouldn't discourage any toys, but encourage
that you like better.
--a feminist mom not stressing over Barbie
I tried to resist barbies. Someone gave one to my daughter when she was about
and I didn't make a big deal about it. She played with it and then got bored in
weeks. Unfortunately one family member saw that one barbie and decided that
meant my originally stated ban on barbies was off and now gives barbie stuff all
time and I haven't put a stop to it (complicated). I was most horrified by the
Kayla - who is a model and comes with a portfolio, a camera and a stage where
is supposed to do poses. At least get Doctor barbie or something but MODEL
BARBIE!!! My now 4.5 year old LOVED it and played with it constantly. I asked
why she likes barbies, she said because their arms and legs move and can dance.
When she was in her kid yoga class and the teacher was talking about this pose
that pose, my daughter said ''I have a barbie that can do Yoga because she
This cracked me up, in my daughter's mind barbie is doing Yoga. I don't think
has any idea why someone would have their photo taken while doing Yoga. I have
since gotten rid of the little stage and camera (secretly) and she has quite a
collection of dolls and clothes (about 4 now).
I have decided that barbie is at least better than all the princesses, so while
I tell her
NO on most of the princess stuff, which is EVERYWHERE (books, clothing, movies,
toys everything). I figure barbie isn't always being rescued, my daughter plays
her in the context of her own life (not with a very prescribed story around it).
perfect but it works for me so far.
I had several Barbies and grew up big time feminist with healthy body issues.
My attitude towards them is basically "meh, not bad". HOWEVER DON'T GET ME
STARTED ON THOSE BRATZ DOLLS
As a mother of an almost five year old girl, I read your ''To
Barbie or not to Barbie'' with interest. (I was also recently in
Toys-R-Us, a place I usually manage to avoid. Wow, all that
pink and glitter is so overwhelming, so mezmerizing. The pink
is almost blinding, which is good because Barbie is nearly
nude, oops, I forgot the five inch pink heels she's wearing.
Anyway,I am sure it is apparent that I am not a Barbie fan, but
I do know that what you emphatically deny, a child will want
even more, even if you explain your reasons it will just sound
like ''blah balh blah '' to a little girl who loves pink and all
that galmour. So, a friend of mine seems to have come up with a
very amusing and novel way to deal with the barbie issue (she
has two girls 7 & 9). I have used it with my girl when she,
like yours, got one as a present a couple of months ago. My
friend sat her two girls down while they were combing out
Barbie hair for the umpteenth time. She said to them ''You
know, Barbie is really beautiful and all, but she has one
terrible flaw. Can you guess what it is? ....She has REALLY
REALLY stinky feet. Peau! This one liner was like sucking all
the air out of a baloon. Ah, perfect barbie is no longer
perfect, and she is stricken with a funny and yucky flaw. Your
daughter may still want to play with the doll, but will never
look at Barbie the same. It worked like a charm for me. My
daughter's Barbie is at the bottom of the stuffed animal barrel
and hasn't been seen since. Hope this silly solution works for
not crazy about Barbie either
Our now 7-year-old daughter was given her first Barbie as a gift by cousins when
our daughter was 3 or 4 years old. We were kind of mortified when our daughter
opened the gift. I said, ''Oh, sweetie, your first Barbie doll.'' You should
the look on the cousin's face! She couldn't believe our daughter didn't have a
We didn't make a big deal of it with our daughter and never did. As luck (or
luck) would have it, she got as gifts a few more Barbie's in the following year.
be told, she was interested for about 3 months, and hasn't touched them since.
while we're anti-Barbie as well, we found that our daughter's interest went away
rather quickly on its own. She remains very into girly things and princesses and
like, even though I'm not girly myself.
glad the Barbie interest has passed
Hello to the community of Barbie questioners! I just read the posts from the
We have two girls (now 10 and 12). There came a day when we also had to make
that decision. Having grown up in a feminist household, I was determined to
out a way to teach my kids about the bad image that I felt Barbie represented.
started to focus on Barbie's unrealistic body - especially the waist, hands and
feet as they seemed the most fake. So I said that we didn't want to buy them
because of that.
The girls understood that, but then came the day when were looking at items at
used toy stores on Solano and they found another Barbie look alike by a
company. She had flat feet! There was also the wheel-chair Barbie and some
that we found over time. So they now have those dolls and some others, but they
got the point, and now realize what we were trying to do. It was also hard to
what they got from their friends as gifts. In the beginning we told people not
them Barbies, but that made us feel uncomfortable and we couldn't always ask
everybody. So you could say we caved in, but our process got the girls to look
dolls very carefully and think about their own proportions. They learned a lot
buying used things, feminism and body images.
Absolutely not. No Barbies. It's really pretty simple. Don't make
it so complicated. Barbies present a corporate body image,
manufactured, no doubt, by abused laborers in China, which your
child will spend thousands of hours processing. Is that really
what you want? All of my playmates had Barbies. I didn't, and I
didn't mind for one second. I got to play with my friend's
Barbies (and Kens), when I wanted. I had a ''Midge'' doll that
presented a more Tom-boyish image. There were never any long,
elaborate speeches/explanations from my mother; it was just the
way it was. I drew my own conclusions. A better question for the
BPW is perhaps, why are parents so afraid to say no? Fear of
rejection by their kids? Come on parents. Be strong. Be
confident. Be clear. Do the right thing. Set an example. In fact,
what better example to set - especially for a daughter - then to
simple say 'no'?
To the parent who says, ''Just say NO.'' I'll tell you why I don't say no.
Because in the
long run, it really doesn't matter. Why make YOUR issues your daughter's
played with barbie when I was young. She rode horses, built houses, and flew
planes. Why not? I loved playing barbies with my friends. Did I grow up to
barbie? Absolutely not! I am the primary bread-winner for my family, have
higher degrees from top-notch universities, and have a solid, feminist identity
perspective towards life and society. You are giving barbie WAY too much power!
your daughter has solid, positive role models in her life (both men and women),
will model her life after that, not after imaginative play with barbie. All
three of my
daughters played with and loved barbie. They are now in elementary school and
middle school. Two play soccer and one plays soft ball. All three swim on a
team, and all three are now tom-boys. The barbies they loved are somewhere
under their beds, now forgotten. They all three went through an intense barbie-
phase, which my husband and I totally supported. Because we didn't make a huge
issue of it, or place a value judgement on it (''We don't play barbie at our
types of statements), the phase passed after a few years and they moved on to
interests and different types of play.
THAT is why I don't say no.
A feminist who is not afraid of Barbie
I, too, question whether Barbie's physique sends the right
message to our daughters about body image. But I remember hearing
that the person who invented the Barbie doll did so because the
only other dolls that existed at the time were baby dolls. Think
about it: when children play with baby dolls they are engaged in
imitative play, pretending to be little mommies. Barbies on the
other hand encourage fantasy play. When you play with Barbies you
can assume a role of an adult woman who is not Mom and instead
can pretend to be, say, a flight attendant, fashion model or
archaeologist -- one who is single, responsibility-free and with
a great wardrobe to boot.
Pro-Barbie (or at least not Anti-Barbie)
My 4 y.o. daughter told me the other day that she really wanted a
Barbie Rapunzel. She happened to see it in Target and advertised
in the paper. Up until now, we have been a Barbie-free household
because quite frankly, Barbies drive me crazy (the whole thing
about it being a false ideal of a woman, the high heels, etc.).
And I would prefer to remain that way. But my daughter is now
getting into the ''pretty'' thing. This includes other
''princesses'', all Disney of course. And this is WITHOUT us
owning a single video and without her having seen most of those
types of movies ever. She must pick it up from preschool or
ANYWAY, I know some of this is developmental. But I'd really
love to get some thoughtful insights and advice from people who
have gone through this with their daughters and how they came to
decide Barbie or no Barbies. Dont' just tell me to ''chill''
because that will not be helpful to me. In the end, I just may
end up ''chillin''', but right now, I'm looking for some good
guidance so I can make up my own mind! Thanks a lot.
I held out against Barbie for the same reason, but gave in after
her four year-old birthday party when my daughter got one or two.
Then I started watching how she played with them -- usually the
Barbies were the mothers or the big sisters or the teachers, and
the smaller dolls (kelly's) were the preschool/kindergarten
kids. The play sometimes had something to do with the clothes
but I think it was more that the dolls were a step past baby
dolls. The obsession was pretty intense for a while and we have
a lot of Barbies and kelly's and a couple of Kens, but now, at 6-
1/2 it has disappeared as suddenly as it arrived, to be replaced
with new obsessions.
I vowed that *MY* daughter would never play with Barbies, let
alone have one of her own! That was six years ago, when my
daughter was born. She now has half-a-dozen.... I let this issue
go because of the type of play she does with them: the Barbies
talk to each other, work out each other's problems (who can play
with whom, and how that feels, and so on), role-play, and the
like. Her cousin also played a lot with Barbies, and I didn't want
to make an issue of it for that reason as well. Because I did
not make them taboo, or a mystery item, she is growing out of the
Barbie phase, and they remain mostly under the bed at this point.
She is even saying now, ''I really don't like to play with Barbies
anymore; I think I will go draw...''. If you really hate Barbies
and are dead-set against it, you could always push the Madeline
Doll series, which includes several 8'' dolls, clothes, furniture,
and so on. My daughter LOVES these dolls, and they don't have
breasts or high heels....
Mom of Two Girls
oh, do i remember this one! I grew up in a Barbie free
household, and my husband and I originally decided to be Barbie
free. My daughter began to show increasing interest in them at
about 3 1/2. I hadn't said anything about them one way or
another to her, they just weren't part of the landscape at home.
The event that made me shift my thinking was a visit to a friends
house who has two older girls and many, many Barbies (I will warn
you that if you do go the Barbie route, they tend to multiply
quickly). For the girls who lived there, they were no big deal;
the dolls had been tossed into toy bins, and were clearly just
part of the landscape. My daughter went around their house,
finding all the Barbies, and carried them around in her arms.
She had about 7 of them bundled up, and lugged them around for
quite some time.
In seeing her, I remembered more about what it was like to be
little and grow up in a Barbie free home. My best friend had
Barbies, and I didn't; as a result, there was something very
mysterious and attractive about them, and the fact that my mother
was against them added to the interest. As a teenager, I
definitely went through all the lookist stuff many do, and a
phase of dressing/trying to look like a version of Barbie (I'm
not saying I succeeded, I'm just saying I tried). This was
despite the fact that I never owned a Barbie.
Barbie to me has become a symbol of what we hate about lookist
culture. I decided it was far more important to have them not be
forbidded fruit, but talk about them more. We've talked about
that Barbies feet would make it hard for her to run, that real
people don't look like Barbie, that Barbie's clothes are fancy,
but hard to play in. We've also talked about why Eric the prince
didn't become a Mer-man in The Little Mermaid instead of the
other way around, to give you a sense for where we went on the
Disney Decision. My take on things was to have little bits of
them, as they are a part of our culture, but talk about what they
mean, and how we feel about them. It's nigh on impossible to
block exposure to these things once your kids hit pre-school, and
Bottom line, I have an almost 6 year old daughter (and a 5 month
old daughter), and yes, we now have Barbies in our house. After
a brief obsession, she's no longer as big of a deal, but does get
played with on occasion. I have at least one friend who made the
decision to be Barbie-free, and we put the Barbies away unless
they're asked for when her daughter comes to visit out of respect
for her decision.
Good luck to you!
I played with Barbie from age 6-11 and loved it. That was
overseas in the late 60ies. Barbie provided me with hours of
imaginative play. When I moved over here as an adult, I could
not believe the ''misuse'' of Barbies. I used to have one Barbie,
one Ken, and two skippers and used the inside of a cabinet as a
two story house for them. I loved to dress the dolls, but
mostly I was acting out spontaneous creative scripts of family
life and work or romance (as I was nearing preteen age). Here,
in the US, the market is swamped with Barbie dolls and nobody
knows what to do with them. I see nothing wrong in my daughter's
play with one adult Barbie, breasts and all. However, she only
has one (the pediatrician), she has also one Ken (with hair),
and about 5 ethnically diverse Kelly/Tommy dolls to play school
or family with. I carefully select accessories (she'll get a
portable Barbie house and a Barbie minivan for Christmas) and on
her birthday invitations I have always noted ''no Barbie dolls.''
I find it so wasteful to see large quantities of Barbies lying
all over people's houses or stuffed in huge baskets any way they
fit. My daughter treasures her one Barbie and takes good care
of her. One day her Barbie will get a dark-haired friend with
shorter hair (I'll be the hairdresser if Mattel doesn't deliver)
and Ken will get a friend too. Otherwise, we're done for the
doll part, unless Mattel finally manufactures a Tommy who is not
caucasian. Barbie is what you make out of it. All the creative
play I had with Barbie in my childhood was great training ground
for writing and directing stories and for developing
improvisational skills. I wouldn't want my daughter to miss out
on the experience. Barbie is the mom of the family. She has work
clothes, play clothes, a wedding gown, a fancy dress - just like
in real life.
This isn't exactly what you asked for, but I thought it might be
helpful nonetheless. I was big into Barbie as a child, and what I
got from it was a huge creative thing (rather than a ''what women
should be'' thing): I made houses, clothing, pieces of furniture,
etc. out of fabric scraps, boxes, found objects, and so on. I
made up very elaborate stories about my Barbies and other small
dolls -- I even wrote them down in little books. I guess I
identified my Barbies with fantasy books like ''The Borrowers.'' So
maybe, if you are leaning toward ''yes'' to Barbies, you can
encourage your daughter to use them in this way (my mother did a
lot of this with me), and reap some benefits.
By the way, I have a PhD in a math-related field and have never
paid much attention to traditional ideas of what women ''should''
be, so I don't think the Barbie thing conditioned me to think in
any particular way...
Boy can I relate! Just the word Barbie set me grinding my teeth.
But after a one year passionate desire for ''everything Barbie'' my
5 1/2 yr old is pretty ambivalent about them now. What I did is
equate Barbie with everything ultra feminine but not necessarily
bad- a picture of a woman with lots of makeup was a Barbie-lady,
poofy hair was Barbie hair, high heels were Barbie shoes. When a
relative gave her a Barbie, we didn't exactly treat it delicately,
in fact she learned pretty quickly to take the head off and liked
dressing it up anyway, as a headless doll. Eventually she acquired
more Barbies (not from me, but I limited them to 5) and gave many
away. She's moved on to horses now. One word of advice - throw the
Barbie shoes away immediately - they hurt like hell when you step
on them in bare feet.
I always thought that women who dressed their girls up in pink
and frilly outfits and bought then Barbies early were forcing it
on them. Well now I have two girls, and I found out that for
some females, ''pink happens.'' I had hoped to keep ''B'' out of my
first daughter's life until she was 5. I hoped that she would
enjoy baby dolls for as long as possible. Then she came home
from a garage sale with her daddy with a used-B and a look that
said, ''I got away with something!'' I realized that I had
made ''B'' too much of a taboo thing. So I relented. Then I
noticed that everytime she plays with B and other dolls with the
same style, she pretends they are her children or the smaller
ones become the children of the bigger ones. So the play is
still as if they are baby dolls. My second daughter is 2 now,
so ''B'' is already part of her play because the dolls are around
the house. So I won't tell you to ''chill'', but do things the way
your family wants to do it and that feels right.
Our daughter, almost 4, wanted a Barbie car (VW). Of course,
that made her want the ''girls'' who go in the car. We got her
the camping Barbie set, with tent, 3 dolls, and camping
clothes. There are no high heels, and she loves putting them to
sleep in the sleeping bags. With what they are wearing, I would
expect them to get some mosquito bites. Now, she also wants a
Rapunzel. I decided not to worry about it. My dad wouldn't
allow me to have Barbies, because of the whole body image thing,
when I was young. When my older cousin finally gave me hers, I
was too old to play with them any more. I still resent it, as I
felt very left out playing with the other kids, and being the
only one without a Barbie to bring along. When they get a
little older, we can indoctrinate them about how false the
commercial images are, etc. Good luck.
Barbie Tolerant Mom
I can so sympathize about the Barbie Thang. When our older
daughter was turning 4, she announced to us--in the line to see
Santa--that she was going to ask for a Barbie. My husband and I
had talked previously and agreed there would be no Barbies. But
we also are big believers in ''Santa-as-unconditional-love-and-
acceptance'' and didn't see how she could ask Santa and then not
get it (BTW, we learned from this to talk about what we'd be
asking of Santa *before* future visits, so we could tell her
what was okay to request and what ''might not'' be okay).
That Christmas, Santa delivered two Barbies and a house (we got
two Barbies so she could social play rather than just dressing
the doll up). She played and we cringed.
When she was about seven or eight, the Barbies became extremely
passe and were rarely used except as bath toys. :-) When our
younger daughter was born, virtually the same pattern: Barbies
at four, passe by seven or eight, then bath toys (and
ultimately, the trash).
So, while I don't recommend ''chilling'' per se, I would recommend
grinning and bearing. Oh, and if you do have Barbies in the
house, watch out for the shoes. They're deadly when you step on
Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. Both Disney and
Barbie have discovered that secret combination of
characteristics that make Barbie (and Barbie x Disney)
completely irresistible for many girls (and a few boys too).
For example, my 3 yo son likes to sleep in his 5 yo sister's
nightgown with Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White on
the front. So far, he doesn't really want to wear her Barbie
Our daughter is only 7 mo. old, but we have already had to come
up with a humorous approach to ''The Barbie Thang''. When my
daughter was born, my mother-in-law bought her a Princess Bride
Barbie - complete with a magic mirror so Barbie can gaze at
Prince Ken as she waits for him to rescue her. I was horrified
such an ultra-passive display of feminity ... but my husband
came to the rescue. He bought a Barbie-style doll named ''Jade'' -
an African-American doll with very short hair - and dressed her
up in some old GI Joe clothes. So now we have ''GI Jade''!
Of course, you may not think that an Army Barbie is appropriate
either, but the point is that my husband has decided for every
pretty and passive Barbie figure she receives/demands, he will
also find her a strong professional Barbie, preferably non-
white. Barbie has dabbled in a surprising number of
professions, including astronaut, pediatrician, race car driver,
art teacher, basketball player, and olympic gymnast. We will
give her Rapunzel if she wants it, but at the same time she'll
be getting ''Spanish Teacher Barbie'' - Latina model. Who she
plays with is totally up to her.
Uh-oh, I bet you just opened a big ol' can of worms! I too have
a daughter and am not thrilled with the idea of her getting into
Barbie. She's 28 mos now and has yet to show interest, although
she does like baby dolls. We have friends with a little girl
(almost 4 now) who's in love with Barbie and Ariel the Little
Mermaid, and they think it's fine, even cute/sweet. She is a
girly-girl through and through!
Before I had my daughter I said I'd never buy her a Barbie, but
now that I have her, and know her and repect her individual
personality, I now feel that while I don't need to 'encourage' a
like of Barbie, I also don't need to DIScourage it. I figure
she'll like what she likes, even if it's only a phase/fad type
thing. As far as the female self-image aspect goes, I agree
that Barbie dolls tend to send the wrong message, but I think we
should give ourselves as Moms (and Dads for that matter; Dads
can make or break a girls self-esteem!) more credit. I think if
WE, as our daughter's (REAL) female role models, make an effort
to make them feel good about themselves no matter what their
particular body type, that's all that will matter. I certainly
hope my daughter will ultimately take what I tell her to heart
over whatever impression she gets from a plastic doll toy!
My sister-in-law didn't have a problem with the Barbie thing a
few years ago with my niece. But I did. So instead of lecturing,
I bought my niece other ''barbie'' type dolls that were less the
perfect-blonde-hair-blue-eyed image. I bought her brunette dolls
with a more olive complexion and even found a line of
beautifully outfitted African dolls who looked like royalty. It
was harder to find Asian dolls. There are also dolls that have
more ''real woman'' proportions though they weren't as popular
with my niece (I forget the brand name of this line).
Don't be afraid to voice your real concerns to your daughter.
Perhaps if she knew that you had logical objections to Barbie,
then she would shun the dolls too.
And/or, maybe you could ask her why exactly she wants Barbie.
For me, Barbie was all about creating clothes for her... I
remember a particularly spectacular evening gown I created from
toilet paper... Perhaps my interest could have been sated by
some other toy -- paper dolls, etc... If you could understand
how your daughter wishes to play with the doll, then you might
be able to find an alternative that makes both you and her happy.
My daughter is still a baby and too young for Barbie right now,
but I can tell you that when I was a child Barbie represented
some of the most creative play I had. At first I played with
Barbie in the appropriate and therefore shallow way. Eventually
that got boring and the real fun began! I would strap her to my
dog and pretend she was being carried off by a giant dinosaur. I
would play my parents Beatles albums and pretent she was freaking
out at a concert. WOW! What fun! Later still I began to alter her
appearance, cut her hair and re-do her make-up with markers
(green lips! Oh yeah!). My friends had all the accessories and
their Barbie play was a little less creative I think. Today, I am
a hard-core, no make-up wearing feminist. Now I agree that Barbie
is evil, but I didn't grow up to be a glamour queen. Really, it's
the resulting grown-up that concerns you, yes? Hopefully this is
I grew up with Barbies; mostly we made clothes for them. My mother
considered it good practice to teach us dressmaking -- were were a big
''sewing'' family, and there's nothing like a Barbie breast to teach you how to
make a proper dart.
The only play I remember doing with the Barbies was getting them to make
out with the Kens, or better yet, the GI Joes, who could bend their elbows and
wrists and are therefore superior in the clinch.
I grew into a dyed-in-the-wool feminist who likes to sew and kiss.
I had also tried hard to delay my daughter's exposure to Barbies
for as long as I could ... until one day she and my husband came
home with an African-American Barbie doctor. For a very long
time, my daughter thought Barbie was an intelligent African-
American who's a doctor ... until one day, our beloved nanny
showed up with a box of pimbo Barbies (hand-me-downs from her
neighbor) with all sorts of bikinis, mini-skirts, high heel
My daughter enjoys all her Barbies but is not obsessed with
them. She shares them with other kids who also have/like
Barbies and it's actually nice to see them play Barbies
together. I guess what I'm saying is that sooner or later kids
will all likely be exposed to Barbies, so just make sure you
also expose them to other fun toys, and that they learn
something, such as sharing and taking good care of each other's
toys, from Barbies.
Don't worry. Give her a Barbie.
You know what my sister and I used to do with our Barbies?
They rode horses and cleaned stalls and camped out and beat the
crap out of GI Joe. We cut off all of their hair. They were
anything but ideal women.....or maybe they were ideal
Buy her the Barbie.
I bought my daughter several Barbie dolls. I bought gorgeous
clothes for the dolls, including some beautiful ball gowns. End
result: She played with them for a while and then, like all
other toys, the Barbies ended up forgotten and are packed away in
boxes in the closet, never to be played with again.
My son was obsessed with guns (which I objected to more than
Barbies). His obsession with having a toy gun was so great
that I became concerned. Finally, in desperation, I gave in and
told him I would buy him a gun. I never did, but telling him I
would ended the obsession. I did buy him one of those military
sets with trucks, tanks, and soldiers. Like the Barbies, they
are packed away in their box, forgotten in the closet.
Oh! ... and the worse thing that happened during the Barbie
Period was that I had to play barbies with her sometimes.
P.S. Does this logic apply to Game Boys? :-)
My daughter was given a couple of Barbie dolls when she was
little. I explained to her why I objected to the whole Barbie
thing (body type, awful clothes), and then I let it go. I don't
remember actually playing Barbie dolls with her, but I might
have. I wouldn't buy her any more Barbie dolls or any clothes
for the ones she had. I did buy her an American doll when she
was just a little older. It was more interesting than her
Barbie collection, and pretty soon, the Barbie collection went
by the wayside. Now she wouldn't be caught dead with a Barbie
doll in her possession. I think it's the usual thing that if
you forbid something, your child will want it more. But that
doesn't mean you have to buy a Barbie doll for her. Look around
for dolls that you wouldn't object to your daughter having, but
that appeal to her as well. I think a lot of girls go through
the princess stage, but I don't think it's anything to worry
If you can stand one more posting about Barbie...
I read with interest the postings from people who grew up
loving Barbie like me. However, I would say that it wasn't the
most positive thing for me. My sister (2 years older) and I
had Barbie, Ken, I had Darcie (brunette like me!), my sister
had the Bionic Woman, and we also had the three Charlie's
Angels dolls. I don't remember much ''play'' with them,
creative or otherwise. Mostly I remember the constant
wishing for, planning for, saving for (you get the idea) more
and more clothes for these dolls. I honestly think it started a
pattern of materialism and consumerism for me that I still
struggle with today, mainly for clothes and cosmetics. Of
course, I was also an adolescent and teenager in the 80's
so that didn't help. I'm not sure I would blame my poor body
image on Barbie, although I can remember extensive
examinations of her naked body.
Now that I have an almost 3yo daughter, I am definitely
going to try to steer clear of Barbie for as long as possible
(forever?) I think the poster who suggested the Madeline
dolls was right on. I much prefer my daughter to go from
playing with baby dolls, to playing with little girl dolls. It's
going to be a long time until she is a grown woman, so I'm
in no hurry for her to start trying to relate with/as one. If your
daughter really wants an older looking doll, I was in
Rockridge Kids recently and they have dolls I think were
called the ''Get Real Girls'' or something like that who
seemed like a much better image to present to a young girl.
They also had Madleine and another little girl doll I can't
Good luck and stick to your principles if that's what you
We have not exposed our daughter to barbie or disney princess
movies and books for the gender stereotypes they represent. She
picked it up anyway at preschool as other kids were
acting ''sleeping beauty' or whatever out, and bringing barbies
to show-n-tell. At first I felt upset and disappointed, and
considered asking the preschool to ban these highly commercial
products. I quickly realized that that would be unrealistic and
impractical because I can't protect her from every perceived
negative image during her formative years. So instead my
husband and I have used these opportunities to raise her social
awareness. For example, we talk about how barbies feet are
deformed and she can't stand on her own let alone run, and we
know girls like to run (my daughter loves to run, so she
understood this). Barbie like dolls called GetRealGirls, on the
other hand, can stand on their own two feet and actually do
things like mountain climbing, instead of just looking pretty.
We discuss how impossible Barbie's body is, whereas her getreal
doll's body looks a lot more like a real girl, and is doing
really interesting things with her life. She has since been
given barbies as gifts (not by us), and is bored with her.
The attraction to the princess stories does seem developmental
since so many of her friends are highly drawn to these images as
well. The princess archtype is potentially a powerful image
worth exploring. However, the Disney princess stories are
narrow and one-dimentional, and it would be sad if Disney was
the only interpretation your child is exposed to. We have found
many fun and fascinating princess books at the library and
bookstore, with significantly more substantial characters than
Disney ever represents.
So I would say that the silver-lining to all the negative images
my daughter is and will continue to be exposed to, is that we
get to start having a conversation about gender that will
continue for years to come, that hopefully will enable her to
put into perspective what she sees and experiences and to
address it competently.
We've been a barbie free household for 9+ years. When I felt
like wavering with my younger girl, my older girl insisted we
stay barbie free. Whether it was true belief in feminist ideals
or just not wanting her sister to get something she
didn't...hard to say!
Anyway, someone just gave us a ''Get Real'' doll. Same size as
Barbie, available in a variety of skin colors, etc. Each doll
has her identity ... Corey is a swimmer who goes to Costa Rica,
Keisha plays basketball, Gabi is a soccer player, etc. The
website is http://www.getrealgirl.com/. Apparently they are
available at Target.
So they have long hair, but small breasts, long legs, but flat
feet. They are also seriously buff. The muscles show. And fully
articulated joints. Corey was given to us at a birthbay party.
That afternoon, my girls were playing with her. ''Whew, I just
finished my triathalon.''
I would guess that all the barbie clothes fit too, so you can
have all that fun dressing up that kids love. And even Barbie
has an archeologist outfit! (Complete with hot pants.)
I feel the same as you about Barbie! Our daughter is 4 and had been
mercifully Barbie-free until we had cousins visit, who gave her her first
Barbie doll for her birthday. Of course, they were shocked to hear that
our daughter didn't already have a Barbie. ;-) Anyway, I was dismayed,
but didn't say anything about it. Then a week or so later the wife of my
husband's client gave my daughter...Skipper! Oy. Truth be told, she was
really into them for a few weeks and (possibly because she already has
too many toys and dolls and such) she hasn't shown much interest
since. I would just go with the flow. :-)
I have two daughters 4 & 7. I fought hard to keep Barbie out
with my first daughter until I had a few experiences with her
and her friends that made me realize holding back no longer made
sense. My second daughter also showed interest (short of living
in the Antarctic who can avoid Barbie and the Disney
princesses), so we now have 6 Barbies, 2 Barbie babies, 4 Kelly
dolls and 1 Ken (according to my daughters Barbie needed someone
Several experiences changed my thinking:
once my daughter started asking for Barbie and I said ''no'' it
was the only thing she would play with at her friends house
(this friend had only one Barbie). The ''no'' in this case made
Barbie more desirable than other toys with which she normally
played. Once I got her one (bowling Barbie, at least she was
doing something) she re-gained perspective and no longer cared
Next, came the friend whose mother forbid Barbie until she was 6
years old. One day she showed up from school with a Barbie in
her backpack which she said she borrowed. It turns out she stole
the Barbie from another girl because she so desparately wanted
Finally, I look at my girls, and they love good books,
storytapes, art, Legos, Lincoln logs, trampolining, trapeze
tricks, making potions, fairies, baby dolls, American girls,
stuffies, numbers, puzzles, nature explorations, silly potty
talk, King Arthur, Greek mythology, archery and so forth.
Barbie play is very small in their world because we offer them
so many other opportunities. Barbie is not the role model, we
are. Truthfully, I don't feed the interest with other Barbie
stuff-houses, cars, backpacks. I ask my family (grandma, etc)
not to give it as gifts. I keep the Barbies put away until
someone asks. I have discussed how Barbie looks like no women
we know and how does she walk on her toes like that??? Anyway,
I can live with this and it works. Good Luck! I know this is a
One more voice about Barbie. I wasn't allowed to have a Barbie
when I was a kid, and not having what all the other girls have
made me feel very different. My grandfather once bought me one
(because I begged him to, when we were at the grocery store),
and my mom wouldn't let me keep it. When I was at a friend's
house, I felt self-conscious if she wanted to play Barbies,
because I felt like I didn't know how, but I was too embarrassed
to ask how. Of course, I was a very shy kid anyway, but this
was one more thing that made me feel like I didn't belong.
As an adult, I do find Barbies offensive because of their
unrealistic bodies and emphasis on looks (especially on being
blonde and blue-eyed). If I hadn't had the childhood experience
of not having a Barbie, I'd be reluctant to allow my little girl
one if I had a little girl. But I think I absorbed society's
unrealistic body image and emphasis on looks anyway, from TV and
movies and magazines and even Grimm's fairy tales (Cinderella
was beautiful and good; the stepsisters were ugly and bad). So
I don't think forbidding Barbies accomplishes the goal of
protecting girls from that stereotypical ideal, and it sure made
me feel like a misfit not to be in the Barbie club!
Being the mother of 2 boys, I've been thoroughly enjoying all
these Barbie letters. Barbie was a new item when I was a young
girl (I'll be 50 in Jan).I think Barbie's were only blonde then.
My pals and I made Barbie houses out of cardboard, dressed them
in various clothes and did what I'd call role playing.
Then when Ken came along we also did what another mom wrote in
about...had them make out. I had 2 Barbies,Ken, a doll called
Midge (brown hair and freckles)and lots of home made clothes etc.
At some point I grew out of Barbies...I think my mom kept them
for a while and now they are long gone. I was a major dress
wearing ''doll'' girl who eventually turned into a patched jeans
and fringe jacket teenager and later into, I think, a fairly
well rounded adult.
My niece who is now 14 went through a ''bride'' stage at about 3-
5yrs. EVERYTHING had to be princess or bride, at home and in
public (my sister-in-law got married in jeans and a black
My point is....I don't think any toy obsession is damaging or is
goin to last unless it's denied.
To make a comparison,one my boys was heavily into Pokemon a few
years ago when Pokemon was really a big thing....he had cards,
games, toys...the kids traded cards, they knew all the
characters and who they evolved to..Now the cards and
paraphanelia are on the shelf. My guys like the various trading
cards....Digimon, Dragonball-Z, etc (I'm lucky if I can spell
the names) in moderation. The same boy was also into Thomas the
Tank Engine and dinosaurs with the same intensity at an earlier
Game boy.....also when it was new was much more attractive. When
they get a new game, which they have to buy with their allowance
money, they spend a lot more time on it initially and then tire
of the frequency. So that's the perspective from a mom of boys.
this page was last updated: Apr 8, 2012
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