Being a new Mum to a little girl, I’ve finally, reluctantly, sat down and had a good hard think about the important stuff. Will Rei Baby, yay or nay, be allowed to play with Barbie? Is Barbie a bad influence?
For many people, this question is a no brainer “Why wouldn’t I let her play with Barbie?”. But for many others the answer is an emphatic “No”. I however, have always wavered with making a decision on this topic. On the one hand, I was a big Barbie girl as a kid and I turned out reasonably well-adjusted (seriously, I’m not that bad), but on the other hand, I know that Barbie represents a perfect, unattainable idealised woman. So I had to battle through my conflicting emotions, thoughts and memories to determine the role I want Barbie to play in Rei Baby’s life as she grows.
There are so many claims about the negative effects that Barbie has on young, impressionable minds lending weight to the argument that yes, Barbie is a bad influence. These claims indicate that Barbie may be responsible for:
- Setting fashion trends that young girls want to emulate
- Being too skinny and perfect which leads to children as young as 4 worrying about their weight
- Her idealistic weight and looks lead to eating disorders during teen years
- Influences girls to spend hours working on make-up, hair and fashion
- May lead to serious body image issues and a desire for plastic surgery
- Low self-esteem
- A desire for material objects ie the dream house, car, pony etc.
The intellectual part of my brain is screaming “Those are the reasons why Rei Baby can’t play with Barbie. How can you even ask: is Barbie a bad influence? Damn right she is!”
But then I stopped to think about my childhood and the impact that Barbie had on me. I was actually quite surprised to realise that Barbie played an active role in my development:
- Permanence – like many kids I chopped away at Barbie’s golden locks only to discover she would now look like that forever
- Braiding hair – Barbie was my patient customer that I practised my new-found desire for braiding hair on
- Sewing clothes – It was a want for new clothes that had me pouring through Mum’s sewing basket and books to expand Barbie’s wardrobe
- Sharing – At some point my Barbie collection became our Barbie collection and I had to share with my little sister
- Mortality – the day I came home from school to discover my little brother had broken the head off every single one of my beloved Barbie dolls
- Life is unfair – I could never understand the seemingly minimal punishment said brother received after destroying my entire Barbie collection. THIS is the reason that drunken me is still harping on about it…
And yes, I remember thinking about how pretty Barbie was and how I wanted to be like her when I grew up. I also remember thinking that my Mum was the most beautiful woman in the world (don’t get me wrong, she’s good-looking but the most beautiful is probably a stretch), I thought I would be an opera singer (trust me the whole world dodged a bullet there), I thought that 30 was really old, I thought I would never have cellulite (please!), presumed I would marry Sale of the Century’s Tony Barber (being 38 years my senior was irrelevant) and for a while, I thought car putty, or bog as we called it, was my favourite food. Yep, you read that right, my favourite food was bog (although my Dad always stopped me from eating it I knew it was my favourite food. That was until the day I snuck a bit and came to the realisation that it wasn’t my favourite food. As I skipped away across the grass humming the theme to the Sale of the Century, I decided bog would now be my favourite smell…). My brain just took a skip down memory lane to the tune of the Sale of the Century 🙂
My point is, that while Barbie may have influenced me, I also had many other, sometimes loony-bin-crazy influences as a child. But along that journey, I had the constant, correcting influence of my parents and that is what has shaped me in to the woman I am today. Not Barbie. Not Tony Barber (my first crush *sigh*).
If Rei Baby does play with Barbie and grows up wanting a Barbie inspired wardrobe, one thing is for sure. I will not go shopping with her to buy plastic stripper shoes. Ugh! I can’t stand those plastic, platform heels that people wear. But we’re still hoping that she’ll grow up to be World President. We did consider Leader of the Universe, but felt that may be putting a wee bit too much pressure on her #FirstTimeParents. And if you’re wondering, yes, that is an actual parenting discussion The Big J and I had. The World President part, not the bit about shopping for plastic stripper shoes. Stripper shoes is NOT the type of thing that you EVER joke about with Rei Baby’s Daddy.
Is Barbie a bad influence? Whilst I won’t be encouraging Rei Baby to play with Barbie, I also won’t make her feel wrong if she chooses to do so. In fact, my main motivation to avoid Barbie isn’t because of the sexualised, unattainable body images her plastic body may represent. No. For me, it’s the fact that her body is plastic. It is my preference that Rei Baby grows up with a few handcrafted, non-plastic toys rather than a truck load of plastic-fantastic junk. In the future, if Rei Baby asks for a Barbie for her birthday or christmas, then yes, she can buy one with her money. But we won’t be introducing Barbie to her toy box without her asking. I also don’t want people to buy Barbie, or any other plastic toy, for her either.
So finally, we get to the crux of my decision: Is Barbie a bad influence? Whilst I don’t think Barbie herself is a bad influence, I do want to influence Rei Baby to be conscious about the impact her decisions have on the environment. Although we all know plastic has a negative, long term effect on the environment (Scientific American wrote a great article on the subject), I think the consumerism driven world we live in makes it all too easy to put the environment’s needs on a back burner.
Although it’s too late to put a plastic ban on Rei Baby gifts for this christmas, going forward, christmas and birthdays gifts will have a #SayNoToPlastic requirement.
In the end, I’m really glad that I have taken the time to think through the Is Barbie a bad influence dilemma. If I hadn’t, then I wouldn’t have ever realised how strongly I feel about limiting the plastic in Rei Baby’s life. Whilst the solution will differ from family to family, I think it is important that each family do what feels right for them. I’m yet to sift through my thoughts on girls and the princess epidemic…
Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to slap on some blue eyeshadow and ride a shiny white pony into the sunset, along side a man who has no genitals.