I don’t have kids. I haven’t raised any daughters. I am a woman – so I can speak to some extent on societal pressures on women to look this way and act that way and wear this and major in that. I get that.
But I have a serious question – I guess specifically for mothers (or fathers!) raising daughters – about this:
I played with Barbies when I was young. I also played with Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers and I also had baby dolls and dresses and fake makeup and swords and light sabers. I don’t recall ever being forced into embracing femininity. On the contrary, I wore ADIDAS basketball shorts, a t-shirt, and a sports bra to school until 7th grade. I was never told to dress otherwise. I never brushed my hair. (My sister actually did use to beg me to brush my hair… but I don’t think it was because it made me look unladylike. I think it was because my hair was a rat’s nest.)
I played with boys and girls and I did boy and girl things and I wasn’t ever, ever told by my mother that I couldn’t do what men could do. I was told that life isn’t fair. I’ve struggled with that concept ever since I realized it was true. I touch on that a little bit in this post.
I knew boys and girls were different and I knew I was a girl because I felt like a girl and I had girl parts and that’s what I was. I digress slightly in discussing this, but I’m trying to make clear that I have thought of gender issues and how I was raised. I have thought about these things and wondered what really led me to have a sense of self, and a sense of confidence, and an appropriate sense of what is a healthy weight and lifestyle.
So, my question is this:
If YOU are parenting your child to be confident and accepting and challenge societal norms, then WHY can’t your child play with a Barbie and not be pressured into wanting to look like a Barbie?
If your daughter plays with a Cinderella doll, are you worried she will think she has to be a princess? If your daughter plays with a Ninja Turtle are you worried she will develop a strange obsession with reptiles?
I’m not being facetious. This is a legitimate question.
I understand what it’s like to be a woman. I’ve made this clear. But I don’t understand why your daughter playing with a Barbie would counteract all the positive, confident traits you have worked hard to instill in her… unless you aren’t doing that.
Some responses I would anticipate:
- It’s just nice to have an alternative. I agree, It is nice to have different types of toys depicting different types of women. Women DO look different and that’s okay! Although, I realized this without the help of average Barbie and, let me tell you, I am not some sort of genius so I truly believe this is a realization all little girls could come to.
- Studies show that younger girls might have aspirations to be thinner after playing with Barbies. You’re probably referring to this article (or something similiar)which states, “The present findings suggest that Barbie dolls’
ultrathin body proportions provide an aspirational role model for very young girls that causes body dissatisfaction.” I’m not trying to negate any scientific studies here (nor am I qualified to do so). However, sheltering your daughter from any sort of societal pressure will not stop your daughter from eventually facing these pressures, right? Why not prepare you daughter and educate her on proper body image ideals and still let her play with Barbies?
Perhaps it’s easier said than done. Perhaps one day I will have a daughter and I will never let her play with a Barbie dream house. Perhaps I’ll worry at night that she will think she has to fit ridiculous societal standards that she learned from looking at a Barbie.
But maybe, just maybe, I will have a daughter that recognizes that people look different, and that’s okay, and that she doesn’t have to be a Barbie to be accepted or loved. Maybe she will know this because maybe, just maybe, I will be able to teach her, the same way my mom taught me.
Header picture from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Barbie_Logo.png