Peaches n’ Cream—that was the name of my favorite Barbie when I was a kid. She was exactly what you would imagine a Barbie of the ’80s named Peaches n’ Cream to look like: sparkle top, flowing, poofball of taffeta—in peach—with a matching stole. She was “as beautiful as a peach blossom.”
But somewhere between the 1997 “Barbie Girl” song and my mid 20s, Barbie became a culprit. Strong women blamed her for corroding little girls’ self esteem. Articles blasted her. The media demonized Barbie for being, well, a Barbie doll. I was convinced that if I ever had a daughter, Barbie, like Voldemort, would be an evil whose name we did not speak.
Now that my daughter is 4-years-old, prime age for Barbie-wanting, she speaks the name constantly. She stalks Barbie at the toy store like a creepy high school boyfriend and somehow finds Barbie cartoons on YouTube with no help from me or her father.
The other day at a birthday party, I’m pretty sure she was trying to “borrow” (aka steal) the birthday girl’s Barbie gift. As much as I thought I would one day raise my fist against the plastic evils of the world (insert sarcasm), I have had to reevaluate. I’ve had to revisit the reason I disliked Barbie and realized that maybe I misjudged her. Maybe she isn’t responsible for single-handedly collapsing the plight of women everywhere. Maybe she never was.
So, now, I’ll gladly buy my daughter a Barbie, and here’s why:
1. Barbie’s Comprehensive Resume
This bitch is accomplished. She has had 150 careers and has covered 40 nationalities. She started out as a teen model in 1959, then worked her way up to the ranks of fashion editor. By the ’80s, she had already gone to the moon (four years before Neil Armstrong, by the way), won the Olympics, and was CEO of a company. This was a decade before she would run for president, two decades before Hillary Clinton.
2. Shaming the Pretty Girl
With all of Barbie’s accomplishments and accolades, we only focus on her looks. No one praises her on her fabulous dentistry work (yes, she has also been a dentist). We only talk about her looks and pretty face and downplay everything else she can do. Sounds a lot like most womens’ plight, don’t you think?
3. Bitches Be Judgin’
I hear arguments daily about how our bodies are our business. We spread messages of being confident and proud in who we are and what we’re born with—”Be yourself.” Then we drag Barbie through the proverbial dream coals for her teeny-tiny waist and big ol’ boobies. Even if they are physically impossible, shouldn’t we let a girl live. Her body, her choice.
4. A Savvy Symbol
Let’s say Barbie is a symbol. Why not use her for good? Why not make her a model of a hard-working, beautiful woman who is driving her dream car and dating her dream man. No one said her exact dream life has to be yours, but the symbol of living your dream is one I can get behind.
5. The Absolute Problem With Opinion
The joke goes, “The problem with opinions is that everyone’s got one.” If you choose to view Barbie as an inflated-boobied, blonde bimbo with no brain who is single-handedly destroying the self-esteem of young girls everywhere, then that is exactly what she will be. If you choose to see her as a fierce fighting feminist who breaks barriers, challenges stereotypes, and shows girls limitless possibilities, then that she is. It’s all in how you choose to see it.
6. Undeniable Test of Time
In an era where everything is fleeting, you gotta give credit to things that have stood the test of time. Barbie has been around for 56 years. U2 and Coldplay combined haven’t even been around that long.
7. Unstick Yourself
I bet this whole time I’ve been talking about Barbies, you’ve been envisioning one kind of Barbie: the long-haired, blonde Barbie. Don’t worry, I have too. We’re stuck in the past. Currently, the Mattel Barbie Boutique website’s front-page picture is quite diverse though—different skin colors, different hair colors, different hair styles, different hair textures, different nationalities. Yes, still skinny. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but Barbie has come a long way from the one-size-fits-all model.
8. Fanatics Exist
There are people who undergo radical surgeries to imitate Barbie. These people are interviewed, televised and highlighted. You know who isn’t in the spotlight? Me (hello, Peaches ‘n Cream Barbie over here). They don’t spotlight the normal people who idolized Barbie as kids and ended up totally fine, and these people far outweigh the fanatics.
9. Um…Guys? She’s a Doll
Let’s not lose sight of this simple truth: She’s a freaking doll! A doll my daughter will play with and so will my son, and that our dog will, at some point, chew up, behead and bury.
10. The One Job Barbie Shouldn’t Have
Even with her comprehensive resume, there is one job Barbie shouldn’t have, and that’s teaching my daughter about her self-esteem. That’s my job. And if a doll is teaching my daughter where to get her self-esteem, then I am doing something very wrong. There is research to show that Barbie’s impossible shape affects girls’ body image. There’s also research that shows that a mother’s attitude has far more power and pull over her daughter’s confidence than any doll.
11. A Surefire Teachable Moment
In a classroom, a teachable moment is an unexpected opportunity that arises when a teacher has a chance to offer insight on a topic that was not planned. Use these moments to teach your daughter that Barbie is a plastic toy to be played with. Then teach your daughter that you are a real woman—a beautiful, smart and generous woman. No extra parts required.
Now if you need me, I’ll be reliving my childhood in a pool of Barbies.