10 January 2009

We Hate Barbie

Mrs. Yeoman Farmer and I have never allowed Homeschooled Farm Girl to play with Barbie dolls. Part of the reason, admittedly, is that Barbie has struck us as the epitome of glorified blonde/white sexuality; we don't want our beautiful mulatto daughter thinking there is some kind of arbitrary standard she is falling short of. But even if one opts for the dark-skinned version of the doll, there were other things that gave us pause: Barbie's impossible proportions, and the endless parade of accessories, and...and...the pure commercialism of the entire franchise.

No one ever pressed us to justify our opposition to Barbie, so the whole thing remained largely a non-issue. Few of HFG's friends even have Barbie dolls, so she never asked if she could have one. And we certainly never raised the subject. As a result, we never really thought through or formulated an over-arching explanation for our discomfort with Barbie.

Fortunately, Mary Anne Moresco has done our work for us. In a brilliant article at Catholic Exchange, she puts words to the subconscious thoughts that had been troubling us about Barbie --- and adds some details and additional considerations that never would have occurred to us. In part:

In the late 1950’s Barbie became the first “adult” doll for children. She was copied from a German prostitute doll name Bild Lilli, who was a character in an “adult” cartoon. The prostitute Lilli doll was sold, not to girls, but to men in bars and tobacco shops. Unaware of her prostitute background, Barbie’s American creators used the prostitute Lilli doll as a prototype for the first Barbie doll.

Barbie’s wardrobe was and still remains indecent. The 2008 Holiday Barbie wears a silver gown with a more than plunging V-slit that goes straight from neck to navel, as she poses with gobs of thick black mascara and hand on hip. Barbie recently debuted as a “Happy Birthday Gorgeous” doll-with her shiny teal blue dress slit up the side of her entire leg. Modesty is decency (CCC 2522). How are girls to learn modesty, if they are, almost from infancy, bombarded with an assortment of over-sexed immodestly dressed indecent dolls?

Although America may be blinded by the indecency of Barbie, other countries are not. The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Saudi Arabia stated that: “[B]arbie dolls, with their revealing clothes and shameful postures… are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West.”

Barbie is unhealthy for girls, not just because she is immodest, but because she is so impossibly thin, with a figure that does not conform to normal human proportions. The International Journal of eating disorders has reported that if Barbie’s dimensions were projected to human size, they would be 38-18-34. Barbie dolls can cause girls to dislike their own body shape, and lead them toward eating disorders. ...

Barbie is not only indecent and overly-thin. She is a narcissist. She herself could write a book on self-absorbed excess and acquisition. With disturbing ease, Barbie spreads this debilitating mentality of acquiring and excess to young girls. One look at the magnitude of Barbie’s paraphernalia will show you why. Barbie owns just about everything. This includes over forty pets from a lion to a horse to a zebra; multiple vehicles from a Corvette convertible to a “surfs up cruiser,” Volkswagon, Mustang, Ford, Jeep, “Hot tub party bus,” and a “Jam and Glam” bus; and a mountain ski cabin, a 3-story “dream house,” and “Barbie Talking Townhouse.” And this barely touches the surface of Barbie’s possessions and what has helped make her worth $3 billion a year to Mattel.

Go read the whole thing. Especially if you have a daughter you love.

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