A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Affirmative Action Barbie?

Mattel has recently released a Computer Engineering Barbie in the hope of doing their bit to encourage girls to get out of more traditional occupations. In doing this, it is likely that the powers that be at Mattel believe that their favourite money spinner has just enough political clout to influence young impressionable minds.

Much as I hate to admit this, Barbie, unlike most other commercially driven playthings, is also a kind of cultural icon. Furthermore, as a kind of cultural icon, her various incarnations is a reflection of the times. Computer Engineering Barbie may not set the world on fire but she informs us of shifting attitudes in the public square. Not surprisingly, this particular version is a logical consequence of political correctness which is now so pervasive in our culture. However, because she emerges from the same mould as the Barbie Princesses (for example), she is still fundamentally the same physically curvaceous fantasy figure. The geek part is merely the window dressing. Even if Mattel is trying to promote the idea that geek is a new kind of sexy, ultimately the buxom torso and skinny waist is still the underlying fantasy... except that it's also okay to add-on a pair of groovy glasses.

On a personal note, I'm ambivalent about Barbie as a toy mainly because I was never really into Barbie growing up. (I was more the books and music sort of girl) But I knew many girls who were and they haven't turned into depressed adults who have unhealthy self-image issues. The truth is, I have never had to spend hard-earned money on any of her incarnations despite being harangued and harrassed by the 8 year old over the years. Fortunately for me, other people have spent their hard-earned money instead which makes Barbie less objectionable in my eyes.

I suppose women's rights activists and their ilk object to Barbie because of her near-anorexic figure and that could have long-term repercussions on a young person's view of herself or of the feminine ideal. Okay, that I get and even have some sympathy for. I agree that we shouldn't encourage our children to obsess over their outward appearance but the truth is, they will anyway... whether they play with dollies or not. I say that from experience of myself and DD#1. I didn't play with Barbie much even though my sister had one and I doubt she played with Barbie much either. DD#1 was preoccupied with getting compliments about her looks way before she even knew anything about Barbie. She pretty much only wanted a Barbie because everyone else had them and then when she actually had one, she took off all of Barbie's clothes and promptly went on to wrap the doll in tissue or ribbons, making her the star attraction of her version of The Mummy or whatever else her imagination led her to. As for me, I was a very self-conscious child, particularly because of my short hair and propensity to be clumsy but for some bizarre reason I thought brains was more important than beauty.

I also agree that Barbie should not be elevated as our vision of what the feminine ideal should be. The truth is, dolls have zero personality and a buxom figure with a stick figure waist does not a personality make.
(Oooh, ooh... I love trashing Barbie... all the cool kids are doing it right?) Dolls are imputed with personality by the child playing with it so it is up to us as parents to teach our girls and boys what feminity should look like. It's a sad day really when parents rely on inanimate figurines to teach their children what real people should be about. As a Christian, I want my girls to fulfill their potential and to become women that God made them to be. If they want to be housewives, so be it... if they have ambitions to design rockets, that's okay too. But that doesn't make them more or less feminine.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful... (I Peter 3:3-5, NIV)

Of course, we can't depend on Mattel for help here. They are afterall a business and their first priority is the bottom line. But as a parent, I need to affirm my children and remind them that they are made in the image of God and ultimately their value as people come from him.

(HT: SquiggleMum)

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