A Serious Question for Mothers Raising Daughters

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:

‘Average is beautiful’ Barbie doll goes on sale

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.

Thoughts?

MKB


More references:

‘Normal Barbie’ Crowdfunding Campaign Could Bring Gorgeous, Realistic Dolls To A Kid Near You

Header picture from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Barbie_Logo.png

6 thoughts on “A Serious Question for Mothers Raising Daughters

  1. Well, I must say I was a little scared to read this!! You certainly did play with Barbie and the dream house and the leather skirt that Rene and Abby loved Barbie to wear!! You did play Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, and loved throwing some hoops in your driveway! That is right, you were given the choice to PLAY and find out what You liked and disliked!! My children were given that same opportunity and I for one, think you all turned out to be pretty awesome!! Barbie didn’t seem to influence any of you on the choices you made for your adult life. I do remember all of you, Abby, and Rene’s Barbies were pretty smart!! I remember them being teachers, doctors, and fabulous mothers!! Self esteem issues come from a lot more than playing with a Barbie. At least in my field of working with young adults. Never once did I hear Barbie was the blame!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donna – I am not sure where this drive to eliminate Barbie comes from! I suppose it’s from a good place – and you can’t really argue with someone who is trying to help with body image issues in young children… but I do often wonder how much parental involvement is necessary to counteract the social pressures… again, I really do wonder and I don’t actually know – I don’t have kids.

      Like

  2. You ask a very important question. I raised two daughters as a single mom. Not only did I play with Barbies (Barbie and I share the same birth year–1959), but my daughters did, too. Barbie and her friends had houses, cars, horses, and clothes. Most of the fun of Barbie is dressing them up in outfits. I think children are “hip” enough now to know instinctively that a Barbie doll body is a parody. Funny, my oldest daughter is tall, long-legged and big busted and with a LOT of hair–she could be a Barbie, but she chose to be an Aerospace Engineer instead 🙂 What needs to change about our society is the sick socialization by the fashion industry to make us believe that the ideal woman is 5’11” and 100 pounds. When you have children some day, they should be exposed to all sorts of toys and dolls. They will make their own decisions on how to handle life based on your example 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Terri, I 100% appreciate your perspective as a mother. Sometimes I wonder how many of my ideas would change if I were to have children and, more specifically, daughters. I agree about the fashion industry being the main problem behind little girl’s body image issues. It’s even worse now than when I was little!

      Liked by 1 person

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