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Sunday, July 3, 2016

We ♥ Barbie

So for many years, I have had discussions with other Moms about Barbie and her supposed negative
influence. When my daughter was a toddler, she began to enjoy Barbie movies and I felt their messages were clear and positive: Girls are strong and can do anything, friends and loyalty are important.
There's major physical differences
here, right? Right? Hello?
There were always Moms who disagreed, referencing Barbie's impossible figure, and first-world fashion standards. Now, I did (and do) find it silly that every single person in every single Barbie movie has the same height and body shape, but I never felt that was a point of importance to my daughter. All the Mario characters for Nintendo are short and plump. Do parents frown on this because it encourages obesity? As parents, shouldn't we encourage our children to see what is actually meaningful? Pretty sure that if a child wants to watch a Barbie movie because it looks fun and their parent tells them "no" because Barbie is too skinny, it's the parent causing the damage - not Barbie.
Now, Ella's first favorite Barbie movie was Barbie in The Three Musketeers. She wanted to be a musketeer for her preschool Halloween party, and I think we even wrote in her school record book that she wanted to be a musketeer when she grew up. It was the adventure she loved; the fact that Barbie and her friends kicked ass in skirts and sparkly tops, foiling the plan of the accented villain. She got to ride horses and had a sword, and an adorable kitty sidekick. But she also made mistakes she atoned for, made new friends, and overcame sexism. 
As she grew, we encountered many Moms who disapproved of Ella's love for Barbie movies and books. But I stayed resolute in what I felt she was taking from them. She wanted to be a surfer, and a rock star, and a ballerina, and a princess, and a fairy, and a
 teacher, and a scientist. The funny thing is, Ella never played with the dolls. With her love of the movies and books, she was given several, and I passed on mine to her, but she picked them up for a handful of minutes maybe 3 times a year. Dolls have never appealed to her, but Barbie's adventures and messages of friendship and girl power have.
Classic Barbie vs. Realistic Barbie
After a completely surprising comment she made the other day, I am convinced that the negative view on Barbie's figure is actually another symptom of what we raise our children to see, and how. In the years of Barbie thus far with my daughter, we have NEVER, not once discussed Barbie's breast-size, waist-size, height, or skin-colour. We have however, discussed how brave she is, why she made the choices she did in a particular movie or book, why friendship is important, how strong she is, how practice makes someone better at something, why it's important to stand up for your beliefs, and more.
A couple of days ago, my son and I were discussing one of the (many) professions I have had over the years when my daughter burst out in exclamation at my having another "thing" I could do.
"Mom, you're just like Barbie!"
Now, my immediate reaction was to laugh, as I am physically the farthest thing from Barbie you could pretty much imagine. "Oh, am I? Is it my long, blond hair?" I asked her as I flipped my brown/faded pink mop over my shoulder.
At this she squinched up her face and sort of laughed and went back to her drawing. She was confused. I ended up on another task, but her statement stuck with me. It was a little later when I realized what she had meant.
She thinks Barbie can do anything; she is the ultimate renaissance-woman. She has even said so over the years. And she sorted me into that category in her mind.
My kid had paid me the absolute compliment, and she didn't even see it that way. It was me who had immediately thought of Barbie's physical form, not her.
So I proudly disagree with anyone who says that Barbie is a negative influence on young girls.
Everyone has legs like this, right?
Super realistic, right?
Those proportions are totally
spot on!
Yes, I feel she is physically unrealistic, just like virtually every pop culture icon found in Anime and cartoons, not to mention the American film industry. No, I don't feel that she represents a realistic lifestyle for the vast majority of the world - and not just her fantasy movies. But I truly believe that if parents are active with their children in talking to them about what they watch and experience through media in all its forms, Barbie is an excellent role model for girls.

Barbie shows girls that they can do anything.
So, who is telling them otherwise?

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