Tuesday, December 23, 2008

kids don't think like us: barbie.

I have been mulling over the idea of this for a while and (once again) Jezebel finally inspired me to come out with it. For as far back in my adult life as I can remember, I have been swamped with the idea that Barbie is a terrible influence. She "sets unrealistic standards" of being able to carry out any and every job in the world and having a gait so fragile, she would have to walk on all fours... if she was real. (She's not, by the way.) This used to upset me. How could such an idea be used for a child's toy? What are they trying to teach?
I don't know about you guys, but when I was playing with Barbie dolls, as far as I was concerned, I had a pretty little doll that I could dress whatever style I wanted and she had fun tiny accessories. (I always loved things that were far smaller than what the item should be, or crazy over-sized.) She would go shopping, she would go to the movies, and, occasionally, she would end up horizontal on top of a genitalia-less Ken. (Come on now, we've all done it.) She was just a woman that I could drive around in her hot pink car when I was years from a license and one that I could learn how to french braid on (although, Cabbage Patch dolls were far easier to learn with). I never looked at her and thought I wish I could look like that. Her little cone-like boobs were never something I dreamed of someday growing. Oh, and I hated that I couldn't put her in a split or move her arms that much. She was plastic; woman-shaped (I used that phrase loosely, of course) plastic.

This society seems to be looking for anything they can use as a scapegoat for all the mental anguish in the world. Halo inspires kids to shoot up their school, Barbie pushes little girls to purge for her "figure," right? I don't buy it. I'm sorry. If anything, maybe they're the last straw. And, while I don't agree that kids should be playing violent, bloody video games, there has to be a foundation for the kind of mental state it takes to bring a gun to school. A child with a healthy mental base and upbringing knows that shooting is wrong and it's just a game. But this is besides the point.
We're adults. We know so much more, obviously, than we did as children. Their innocence, their lack of analysis and psychological information.. they see shapes and colors, toys and activities. I haven't taken a child's psychology class, so - if you have - please correct me if I'm wrong. I can't possibly imagine that a little girl (or boy - I don't judge) will pick up his or her first Barbie doll and think, "She's perfect. If I don't look like this piece of plastic, I am ugly, misshapen, and a horror show to the human race."
Sure, we could use more shapes of Barbie. A bigger Barbie, a "plumper" Barbie (I'd model myself after that one); yes, I think these should exist. A lot of other dolls come in all kinds of strange and unrealistic shapes, too, though. Dolls aren't really meant to be anatomically correct. They're meant to be toys.

I don't have a history of anorexia nervosa because I played with Barbies. I never once associated any of my toys with my undeniable quest for emaciation. Now, I don't want to assume this is the case for everyone. Maybe I'm wrong.
Would any of you in an way associate toys or childhood activities with your illness?


[P.S. I just noticed that my last post was my 1ooth of 2oo8. Woo!]

9 comments:

licketysplit said...

I enjoyed reading this and it definitely brought to light a different perspective. I'll have to mull over it for a bit :)

Alex said...

So, I think that Barbie as a single doll didn't really influence me a lot, but I disagree with you that it didn't have any effect on us all. I think that Barbie as a part of a larger paradigm is the problem. Little kids may not see Barbie and consciously think, "I need to be thin," but when you see Barbie, and TV commercials with thin models, and TV shows where all your favorite lead characters are thin...I think that as a whole system, young girls are bombarded by that crap so much that it seeps into their systems. So maybe if you had Barbie but you didn't have television, or classmates, or magazines, things would be fine. But Barbie combined with everything else...that's the problem.

Alex said...

that was me, Ali, by the way :)

rerobbi said...

When the mind expands to examine the depth of a situation it allows us to see other possibilities. In doing so we begin to see that what we thought of as “truth” for years might not now be so true after all. Once we question our thoughts we can see other layers that might be more true for us. It’s really beautiful and freeing.

You’ve demonstrated that with this post. We all have thought patterns that made us who we are today, however when we take the time to question our thoughts, we find more accurate ideas of what we once believed. Once you’ve found the truth of what is, we become more forgiving and understanding of not only ourselves but others.

With that said, I’d really like to see them make a 40+ Barbie with a little bit of belly and droopy boobs. Oh and maybe she comes with a little bottle of Prozac and she has gray hairs in places we didn’t think you get gray hair. That way when we get gray hair and our boobs droop we won’t be shocked. We’ll expect this to be normal and beautiful. We might not feel unusual because, nobody told me these things happen. But I digress…xo

emmy. said...

ali - first of all, "alex" always throws me, haha. second, you make a very good point. it's true that we *are* so surrounded by these idealistic images and they all pile on top of each other. but that's sort of the point is that it's not just barbie.. it's not even just the media. i think, while these things definitely play a hand, they're given far too much weight (haa) over the fact that.. eating disorders are coping mechanisms. they come from trauma, they come from mental illness, they come from something deeper emotionally and mentally, but people seem to want to push those facts aside all together and just blame the social environment.
i'm certainly not saying you're wrong.. i do agree to a certain point. i just feel like, all too often, the big picture on the whole is not being looked at.

lol, mom, maybe you could start selling those in you're AZ shop you're planning on opening up ;) gramma barbie. or barbara. she'd be barbara at that age.
who doesn't love a gramma? barbie should have one, too.

JJ said...

I actually think Barbie was a good influence. She was pretty, sure, with her shiny, long blonde hair and cute figure. But she was doctor barbie, and dentist barbie, and whatever else she wanted to be! There's much worse toys for little girls to be playing with! Like those Bratz dolls. They don't make doctor Bratz or dentist Bratz, and those are the ones to worry about. (Though they stopped making them now, didn't they?)

Krystle said...

Amen. To all of this. I loved Barbie as a child, becuase she was versatile and represented fun and hope for a lucrative future. She was beautiful, but in terms of proportion, I could have cared less.

My sense of self-loathing was far too engraned and inate for toys such as Barbie to have created. It's so much deeper than the shape of a children's toy.

Do I think we have unrealistic expectations? Of course, but there is so much more than outside influence when it comes to eating disorder etiology.

I really enjoyed reading this post because I truly agree that we take certain things too seriously in hopes of finding a tangible and easy, as you said, scapegoat for the world's ills.

What matters is that we do our best to provide a stable and healthy atmosphere for kids (and adults) in which to thrive, even if their toys are proportionally off. :)

alex45 said...

Many kids — particularly teens — are concerned about how they look and can feel self-conscious about their bodies. This can be especially true when they are going through puberty, and undergo dramatic physical changes and face new social pressures.

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Alex45

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Michelle said...

Currenly the Campaign for Commerical Free Childhood has a campgain for Bus Radio to stop promoting 90210 to 6year olds.

You might want to check out authors Susan Linn and Dianne Levin, Phd professor at Wheelock College to learn more about these issues...Dianne has a new book out So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and How Parents Can Protect Their Kids