In Defense of Barbie
I played with Barbies for way too long…like embarrassingly too long. I didn’t give up the habit until middle school. I guess I should have known at the time that I was destined to have a job in fashion, since I was so crazy for Barbie.
Barbies get a bad rap, and I get it. Her proportions are crazy, and maybe she has a negative impact on young girl’s body image. I personally think that your relationship with your mother and how she views herself has a greater impact, but that’s all I’m going to say about the controversial aspects of Barbie…all I know is how much little Sarah loved her Barbies.
I had plenty of dolls as a kid (I was an only child after all), but my favorites were my American Girl doll and my Barbies. I was thinking about this the other day after listening to an NPR story by friend and fellow fashion #girlboss, Jane Hamill, about Barbies. Why did I love Barbie so much? The simple answer, she was an adult doll, and I desperately wanted to be an adult.
You know how some kids just have an old soul? Well, that was me. At the tender age of 7, I couldn’t wait to have a checking account and sign a lease on an apartment of my own. I relished the freedom that being an adult would bring…no school, my peers would be the adults I loved to be around (again, only child…), and I could be fabulous.
Barbie was a way for me to live out that dream life before I was old enough to legally get a job. She was gorgeous, smart, successful, and so fabulous! She had a ton of equally fabulous girlfriends, and Ken would come around sometimes, but she always had this come hither aloofness that would drive him wild. She was a reporter sometimes, a bohemian artist others times, and a successful fashion designer living in Paris others. Essentially, she was the playtime manifestation of the person I wanted to become, the person I am now (at the age of 31), and the person I still hope to become as I continue to make decisions about the way I live my life.
Was her life kind of shallow? Well, I guess, but it was the life that I idolized. I had plenty of friends that had very responsible Barbies, who got married, had kids, bought a house in the suburbs, and you know, that’s cool. I, however, never wanted those things, and while I was playing with those Barbies, there was no one there to judge the life choices that I so craved. I was able to let my imagination run wild and try on different careers and lifestyles through my Barbies.
Gloria Steinman said, “Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” I was lucky, my Barbies didn’t give me self esteem issues, but they did give me possibility. They allowed me to plan my life without judgment or scorn or limitations that others placed on me. They made me realize that beauty and brains didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. They helped me picture the life I have today and hope to keep developing, that of a badass woman who grabs life with both hands and runs with it.
So, thanks, Barbie, you may be a little basic with all that make-up and pink, but you really are a bad ass bitch underneath it all.
Did you play with Barbies? I would love to hear about your experience, positive or negative. Please share!
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