Thursday, January 28, 2016

All Dolled Up: The Deeper Implications of the New Barbie on our Young Girls

I teach a self-designed mother-elementary daughter dance line. Each week focuses on an issue key to students’ hearts, two of which highlight varying aspects of beauty. Every time I teach it at least one mom leaves the private conversation with her daughter teary for what she’s heard. My heart was made butter for what my own girls said.

Young girls’ issues are too oft over looked. Don’t believe me? Respond to the email I just did from a twelve year old who fears never being desired by a boy because she’s “fat.” Or, sit in on elementary snack time where students sometimes throw parts of their packed item away to save calories.

Statistics back me up.


The age of puberty in America is on the decline, with more girls developing breasts by 7 than in the past and elementary girls menstruating not out of the norm, drawing more attention to parts and looks as their bodies change than was true in the past.

Can we all take our heads out of the sand now?

We have a problem.

Today Mattel announced that Barbie will now come in tall, petite, and curvy form. This comes on the heals of added skin tones, eye colors, and hairstyles.

It seems likely that this response comes from longstanding criticism over the body-type Barbie projects for the children playing with them. We’ve certainly become a more parent-conscious society, trying our best to prevent problem where possible.

To be clear, I DO NOT think Barbie alone is to blame for the statistical tragedy stated above. I let my children play with Barbie, remember? And, I actually think it can be a good outlet with children to see how they are processing the world through their Barbie interaction and conversational play.

Changing my Barbies is what I most loved as a child. My girls dig the fashionista aspect themselves.

However, as we see the body-image statistics continue to impact younger and younger ages, we must applaud all efforts that contribute to the collective influential whole.

YES! These are things I want to be discussing with my girls.

Despite the positive intent, there is already crazy backlash. In just a matter of minutes, I saw tweets criticizing the ability to use the same clothes on the different Barbies, harsh judgment that we’re projecting adult insecurity on kid toys, and claim if your daughter’s self-esteem is contingent on looking at her Barbie you’re a parent fail. (Interestingly, that came from a non-parent. The only time in life when we know everything about parenting.)

I suppose in purchasing different Barbies there will be need for different clothing styles and a few more dollars required of the pocket book. But, it is time that we at least acknowledge that these are not solely adult insecurities and no self-doubt appears from thin air. It is fostered over time.

Our girls are taking cues from people, media, and toys around them. They are forming perceptions based on what they see and, often, what they hear from mom (sorry, ladies, we have to accept responsibility in this too before anything is going to change). So, if Barbie wants to remind people that their unique shape and size is doll-shape worthy, then let’s CHEER THEM ON.

At its root this is about a plastic doll. We can all agree on that. It is a figure for girls to play dress up with and live out imaginative scenarios. BUT, also undeniable is the way these children are imbibing look, design, and potential from everything they see and hear into their not yet fully mature brain.

ANYTIME we have opportunity to cheer our girls on- to tell them, “You are beautiful,” to explain that they were made perfect by their Creator and that dolls they may play with or images they see aren’t reality- it is a win for all of us. And, if toy makers want to make that effort easier with healthier cues, then I say, “PRAISE BE TO GOD.” One less battle.

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