The Barbie Chronicles

Posted by barb on Jun 22, 2003 in Books |

A Living Doll Turns Forty
Edited by Yona Zeldis McDonough

McDonough has collected 25 pieces on that most loved, and most hated, doll, Barbie. While many of the essays blasted Barbie for (take your pick):

  • giving girls an unrealistic picture of the female body
  • showing girls that fashion, above all else, is the most important thing in a girl’s life
  • being a negative role model for girls
  • being racist,

many of the pieces in the book took a more balanced approach to Barbie.

No one disputes that Barbie was modeled after a quasi-pornographic doll sold primarily to men. Nor do they dispute that her measurements are unrealistic for a healthy woman. On the other hand, blaming the downfall of civilization on Barbie seems a bit much for her perfectly sculpted shoulders to handle. Barbie has held many jobs not traditionally seen as “female” jobs — astronaut (the first time in the ’60s), paleontologist, veterinarian, and dentist. In addition, Barbie is the one doll out there that lets girls explore their lives without babies. Baby dolls imply that a woman’s job is to have and care for babies, whereas Barbie shows girls that they can live their lives with or without babies.

I’ll admit to being somewhat on the fence about the “Barbie-issue.” I know that she’s unrealistic, and even in her non-traditional careers, she has to be absolutely fashionable. Let’s not even mention the whole “Math is hard” debacle in the early ’90s. On the other hand, I played with Barbies, and I seem to have turned out just fine — in fact, I’m quite independent and shun fashion trends and make-up with a passion. Maybe I’d have turned out more fashion conscious if Mattel had made an astrophysicist Barbie.

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