I don’t like the fat barbie dolls. And what’s with the acne and stretch marks.
I don’t think I would have played with them when I was a kid. They don’t look fun. They look like they’re trying to teach something about acceptance and tolerance, but in a really obvious way. Kids get that shoved down their throats constantly. I know I’m always reinforcing it with my daughters. They get special presentations at school and TV shows.
I don’t mind them playing with anthropomorphised pets, zombie vampire hybrids or idealised human toys. Yes, Littlest Pet Shop and Monster High are big in the Lighter Heart household. They know when they are being preached to, and I want their playtime to be free of societal expectations. I want their imaginations unleashed. Having said that, I don’t want them roleplaying anorexic suicide pacts, but I’m not sure a barbie doll would provide much of an influence either way.
I enjoy the spontaneous quality conversations we have. I like to think they have a deeper and longer lasting impact on their forming psyches.
I was watching something trashy on Youtube one day. It was one of those random things where you’ve clicked on something and then clicked again and ended up somewhere you never expected. It was an excerpt from an American talk show and it had black women who wanted to be white. One had gone to the lengths of changing her name to be less ‘ghetto’, changed her hair, bleached her skin and moved cities to get away from her family. They had bought on her cousins to berate her. My nine year old started watching with me and commented “Why doesn’t she want to be herself?”
Well that started an hour long, fascinating discussion that covered generational self hate, identity and prejudice. I covered a bit of the history of race relations in the US, and how even though it’s outlawed it still exists. This woman had been told since she was a child that she was inferior due to her appearance. Miss Nine commented “But didn’t her Mum tell her she was beautiful?” I replied, “Well that would be fine if her mother had high self esteem. But what if she had also been told that she wasn’t as pretty or smart as white people? What if society told them they weren’t beautiful?”
I then took her on the computer and we simply put into google “Beautiful faces”. There appeared pages of sexily posed white people, mainly young women. There were three black women, eight Asians and a handful of Bollywood actresses. It was painfully obvious.
We then clarified the search term by googling “Beautiful Black faces”, “Beautiful Asian faces”, “Beautiful Indian faces” etc.
The worst yet most enlightening thing which illustrated my point was our chance stumbling across a video on Youtube It showed young children, perhaps three years old, sitting before two dolls, one which looked like them and one of a different race. They were than asked questions. It’s heartbreaking. These gorgeous, innocent children are asked, “Which doll is black?, Which is white?, Which is good?, Which is bad?, Which is UGLY?, Which is pretty? And then finally asked, Which one looks like you? The looks on their faces when they indicate the ones they had called ugly and bad.
It’s called Doll Test https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkpUyB2xgTM
I’m not a sociologist, I don’t know how to fix this. All I know is how to talk to my daughters and help them recognise bullying and bigotry when they see it. Also to ensure their self esteem is sky high. I also want them to have the critical faculties to know that if asked “Who is the ugly one?” they can reply that everyone has the capacity to be ugly, just as everyone has the capacity to be beautiful.
I’ve kind of strayed from my original point, but I’ll say it again. I don’t like the fat barbie’s and I don’t think they’ll achieve what the makers want them to. The prejudices are formed outside barbie play time.
Meanwhile, here’s a picture of my personal My Child doll that I got back in the 1980’s. I defy anyone to tell me she isn’t beautiful. She sits in my cupboard with my anthropomorphised teddy called Muffy and my crew cut, leather jacket wearing Cabbage Patch doll, Celeste.