Thursday, May 10, 2012

Away from the Barbie World!

My daughter is a senior toddler and despite my best attempts against it, she has been exposed to toys of the likes of the Barbie doll. Be it television commercials selling Barbie and her high heel shoes with sparkling dresses, be it the numerous animation shows for children where Barbie and her likes are the main protagonists, I find her a part of my living room almost every single day. If it’s not  television, then it is Barbie merchandise in the markets or on another child’s body. She is on sharpeners, pencils, dresses, school bags,  water bottles, sun glasses, shoes and sandals , even on moisturizing lotion bottles, As time goes by I find it more and more difficult to save my daughter from Barbie and the burdensome influence she brings with herself.
So are you one of those who after reading so far are thinking think what is wrong with me and why I grudge a pretty, petite, plastic doll with goody-goody image.
Even if one were to look at Barbie as merely a toy and nothing else, I find many things wrong with her, starting with:
·         She is a little child’s doll but has an adult body.  Now why would you want a toy to introduce the concept of breasts to a child, that too as young as that? I have thought about it from all aspects and I don’t see a single merit in it though there are numerous and grave demerits.   
·         To top it, she is very well endowed in chest area and has a really tiny waist, her legs are endless and her hair are golden and perfectly styled. Have you seen a little girl like that? Have you seen a real woman like that?  If Barbie were a real girl/woman, she would be 5ft 9 inches tall, with her vital stats being 36”-18”-33” and she would weigh close to 50 kg(~110 pounds)*(check reference below). So, in other words, if Barbie were a real girl, she would be termed anorexic and would be taken to hospital for both physical and phsycological treatment. I don’t want my daughter idolizing something that stands for vanity before sanity.
·         Her skin complexion and her hair color and texture is so different from the kind of people around us in India. I almost find the doll racial, asking people to accept a very old and outdated concept of beauty that too imported from a foreign world.
·         She wears make up and high heels and other accessories on all ocassions. Come to think of it, a girl with a body like that, why on the world does she need three tones of eye-shadow, with eyeliner and lipstick. She always wears high heels, even when she is “Doctor Barbie”.  So what is it really telling the lil girl playing with it, that enhancing your looks is going to remain your constant goal and  make up is  going to be an everyday essential commodity when you grow up.
·         I see her solving very trivial and stereotypical problems – like inviting friends to tea party,  baking buns, freeing mermaids,  giving makeup/grooming tips, making fashionable dresses(yes! gimme a break!), being a pop star or being a victim protagonist of a fairy tale, where some evil character is making life hell for the docile Barbie in Victorian dresses, whose highest point of achievement in life is getting married to the prince who once got manipulated by that evil character. If Barbie was doing other things, like architecting fancy buildings,  building a  car engine, going on a space mission,  doing classical dance or raising a large family single handedly, etc..  she would be the kind of role model that I’d like for my child.
·         Barbie promotes gender stereotyping to the hilt: Everything about her is pink, starting from her skin tone, her lipstick, her shoes, her bags, her dresses, her sun shades, her accessories. If htat was not enough, all the merchandize with Barbie even mentioned on it is bound to have something pink about it, even Barbie roller-skates are pink. Now, there is nothing wrong with pink, it is a very soothing color, but when did it start becoming the banner color for all things ‘girlie’? DO we even need a banner color? Barbie’s friend Ken has blue wardrobe and besides his tanned body and golden hiar, you find that he stands for things blue. But color is just a small little thing,  her gender stereotypic encompasses marriage as the ultimate victory for girls, solving tea party logistics issues as serious and grave problems instead of teaching children about caring for their environment or contributing in building a new world.  
·         My biggest and severest problem with Barbie is that she seems to say that irrespective of who you are, what you do, how important you actions are, the most important thing about you is your appearance. If you are perfectly groomed,  you life will eventually be fine.  Even if you are going to save lives as a doctor in an hospital, you need to “Look” perfect while doing that! For me Barbie is the goddess of superficial!

I don’t know how many months or years before my little girl puts her foot down and demands that she possess a Barbie like every other girl she knows. I wish I could explain and make her understand why she deserves so much more than a Barbie, but maybe I am asking for too much, too soon.


  1. Appearance matters, no matter what the category: living people, toys, electronics, vehicles, name it. Our intelligence and knowledge based on real experiences of our lives has little role in determining how we judge people or object around us. Perhaps humans are hard-wired that way. You can again blame capitalism, social structure, etc etc for exploiting flaws in human nature, but, perhaps, exploiting flaws is also hardcoded in our DNA.

    I am unsure what my point is, so please dont ask :)

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  3. Well If Barbie is part of your (rather Our though name of character is different) everyday, we are somehow responsible for that.

    But the real question is do we have option ?

    I am sure in the past we must have offered them something which now we want to keep away from them.

  4. Brij: Well, we as parents of my daughter haven't introduced any gender stereotypes in our household. She has never played with a barbie in her home, though I can't say the same about friends or relatives she visits. So as the post suggests I am struggling with things outside of our control. If a child is watching telly tubbies on television and in commercial break she sees barbie and her doll house, that is not what we had planned for or what we can control.

    Being educated about what is right for your child is an option we can choose. I see many parents not even making that choice. Ignorance is always a convenient bliss. If many parents had shunned Barbie, she wouldn't be the rage she is today. But then maybe they don't mind what she stands for.

    And I am not referring to Barbie as name or abstraction of something else, I mean Barbie the doll they sell in markets. All the points in the post are for her and her only.

  5. I know the feelings of the parents who encounter awkward questions from their little ones and they get shocked and think how did he/she got to know about such a thing. But we must accept that all the exposure the child is getting not 100% in our control. She has to go to school, she will watch TV and movies. So what I practice now that when she asks such questions I try to give her a moulded but satisfactory answer to fulfill her curiosity. We are living in a rapidly changing world around us with so much exposure of such contents to the little ones, so we must not compare with our childhood and try to teach the other aspects of life to them with real life examples like showing them the workers at a costruction site, hawkers, sweepers, housemaids etc. and narrate them their life routines and the hard work they do to get their bread.

    On the other hand I totally agree with the point that you have mentioned here and its worth being considered by all parents. I would add few more characters to it like Doremon and Chota Bheem and his gang. Does chota bheem, raju, chutki etc. never go to school :-)