Google+ Authentic Parenting: Barbie Dolls with Big Bosoms Bring Up Big Questions.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Barbie Dolls with Big Bosoms Bring Up Big Questions.

My daughter will be turning two in the spring. As she starts to assert herself and express her wishes with full sentences, it seems the transformation from baby to little girl is in full gear. With this transformation, and having also tuned into some recent posts at The Mule and PhDinParenting that discuss the appropriateness of the messages in some products that are currently being marketed towards girls, I have been thinking about Barbie dolls,female role models, and the choices we want to make as a family.

Having two boys first, I haven’t really focused much on the implication of high-heeled shoes for three year olds, scooters that come with make-up kits or dolls with disproportionate bosoms’ or the potential messages these “girl” toys may or may not have on my baby daughter’s life.

When there were just boys in the house, I took a lot of time to consider whether or not guns or any figurines that represented potential violence should be allowed in the house. When my first son was born I was sure I didn’t want them at all. Then after a lot of research and pondering, some interesting insights on play-aggression and actual violence, I became more flexible in allowing a select few toy weapons in the house. Playing pirates, knights, and cowboy, cop and robbers types of games can be wonderful playful outlets for learning social skills and sharpen emotional regulation. Not being a big believer in only having gender specific toys, we also had a baby doll, a play kitchen, and a mini doll house in our playroom, long before I had my daughter.

Now, my daughter plays with the tool bench, the pretend drill and with the knight’s fort just as much as the boys. But in reflecting on these two recent posts about Barbies and high-heeled little girl shoes, handsome hubby and I started talking about Barbie dolls and Disney Princesses and whether or not they would be something we would want our daughter to play with.

My initial reaction; These dolls portray a totally unrealistic image of women with the giant bosoms and invisible waist line. His reaction; If she wants the doll and has fun playing with it them then he doesn’t see the harm.

Ok, Wait! Then he said what really got me thinking: It doesn’t matter as much what doll Bella plays with three or four years from now should she ever want a Barbie, but, more so what image I, as her mother, the primary female role model in her life make for her of women and women-hood, now and for years to come.

I don’t always agree with handsome hubby, but this time, he might be right. The positive role-modeling, the healthy body image, self-confidence and the “I can do anything” attitude is what I should focus on and what should hopefully matter in the long run. I haven’t made up my mind whether or not Bella will have a Barbie doll in years to come or a scooter with a make-up kit but this much I think I have figured out:

What I model matters. I don’t have to have the perfect body because, well I don’t, but it does mean I need to love it and take care of the one i have. I don’t have to accomplish my every dream because I will not, but I should dream, dream big, and share my dreams with her. I don't have to master power tools or the art of gardening, because I can’t do either well, but my children and I can try those things together. Whatever I try to do, even if I fail miserably, it will show them that I’m willing to try anything. I don’t have to have all the answers to all the questions, but I do need to have the wonder to seek out information and the patience to share, learn and grow with my children.

Does it matter what message those products are trying to send? Will I try to stick to more wholesome, esteem-friendly products for my children? Probably yes. What about for you?

Peace& be well,

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  1. Heh, depends on your perspective, my daughter might be asking why her doll's bosoms and butt are so small...

  2. I wrote something on this very subject awhile back. I have a little disclaimer though: as an adult, I am a Barbie collector so I am a little biased, but as a child I grew up with Barbie and spent hours playing with her. And as a child, I didn't see Barbie for her body. Back in the 80's, the Barbie slogan was "We girls can do anything" - and Barbie did. She was a teacher, an astronaut, a soldier, a veterinarian, an entrepreneur - she could be anything, and so could I. I didn't think about her waist size or her legs or her feet or her hair. I concentrated on the adventures she was having. My Barbies were college professors, or shopkeepers. I had one who was a famous singer and had a home in Paris. It was all about imagination for me. I think the idea that Barbie is a bad influence because she promotes an unrealistic body image is a very adult concept placed onto Barbie by adults, while children see beyond that and see Barbie and similar toys for more than just their bodies.

  3. My oldest daughter received her first Barbie and Princess dolls from someone outside of our family when she was around 2 years old. By the time she was 4 she was interested in playing with them. Now, with 3 daughters (ages 8, 6 and 4) we have around 20 Barbies. They get played with less than most of our other toys and mostly my daughters just want to dress them and brush their hair. (All of our barbie clothes were hand-knit by my aunts.)

    I'm really quite pleased to see another enlightened parent NOT bashing Barbies. I have never noticed any undesirable attitudes from my daughters regarding body image or female stereotypes or any of the things that some parents say are projected by the 'Barbie-image'. I think kids know that dolls are dolls.

  4. I absolutely agree with you! Ultimately, you are your children's super star and role model- not Barbie. They are going to look to you for guidance and ideas of self-worth. And, even if they don't actually look to you, they will inevitably be absorbing all of the messages you send on a daily basis. If you are spotted holding Barbie next to yourself in the mirror for comparison, then there will likely be some confusion for your daughter. I believe that our job as parents isn't to shield our children from ideas and images that might differ from our own beliefs but to continue to model positive behavior in spite of these bombardments and to address questions and issues that arise from alternative ideas head-on.

  5. I came to the same conclusions after reading the book Cinderella Ate Your Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. That book also talks about social media, which I'm not ready to tackle (good thing my daughter is 2 1/2). Another element that the book discusses is imagination. If boys (and girls) play with weapons, etc from their own scripts, the effect of the violence isn't as high than playing video games or copying a violent script from a TV show. I would assume the same would happen with girls. If they play with dolls, like Barbies, from their own imagination, they think of them only as play things not role models.

  6. What I appreciate about this the most is the evolving opinion that is emerging from the conversation between you and the husband. I am very aware of these types of images right now because my toddler-aged daughter is so attuned to her world. Will my daughters have Barbies? I'd like to say probably not, but the truth is that don't know. I, too, am going to cross that bridge when I come to it.

  7. Whether or not parents agree I think articles like this are an important reminder to be vigilant about what influences we allow into our homes. Our children are growing up in a world that is very different to the world we grew up in. I think barbies and other toys marketed to girls have changed along with our culture and are much more fashion based and sexualised than perhaps they were in the 70's and 80's (as Monkeybutt shared). I'm not convinced the actual body shape of barbie is the main concern. I think it's more what barbie teaches young girls about what it means to be a woman. By that I mean being fashionable, cool, popular, getting a sense of belonging from friends and men etc..I will admit that as a child I loved playing with my "Shaving fun Ken"...yes, that's what he was called. So so wrong in so many ways! lol

  8. Thank you to everyone for sharing all your thoughts and ideas here. It is really great to have such a sharing of ideas and opinions - sometimes making decisions is a long process and it is certainly helpful (at least for me) to hear what other mothers are thinking on the same subjects!
    @Jenn, I really like the points you make and it is something I have been thinking about a lot my eperience with Barbie is similar to yours, it was all about imaginative play.
    @Tara, I hear your points and had a good laugh about this shaving fun ken comment too ;)
    Thank you all for your comments!!!


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