On Barbies and Backtracking and Being A Big Girl

Be gentle with me on this one, ok?

So you remember the Barbie post?  (If not you might want to jump back and read it here.)  In the post I shared my thoughts about Barbie, and my personal reasons for not purchasing the dolls for my daughter.  The post sparked LOTS of healthy debate.  Some mums agreed with my concerns regarding body image, some shared that while they played with Barbies themselves as kids they don’t want them for their daughters, while others publicly declared their love for the dolls of their childhood.

We are a Barbie-free house.  Backtrack. We were a Barbie-free house.  Somehow, despite hearing nothing about Barbies at home, my daughter has still caught the Barbie bug.  First of all we had this… “Mummy, if I could only have ONE thing for Christmas, I would wish for a Barbie.”  My eyes widened while my husband stifled a chuckle.

And then there was this note from Kindy:

For the Christmas Concert, your child has chosen to dress up as: Princess Barbie. Please provide a suitable costume.

There are some times as a mother when I believe you should stand your ground.  There are also times when I think you should back down graciously.

My opinion of Barbie hasn’t changed. If I’m perfectly honest she still makes me feel a little inadequate. But for the sake of my daughter, I need to take a deep breath and be a big girl.  My issues are mine alone.  She will have enough of her own without taking mine on board as well.  So, I am graciously backing down from this one.

I bought her a Barbie t-shirt to wear in the kindy play.  (Yes, I did cringe handing it over at the checkout.)  She will dress it up with her own accessories and a home made crown.   And I’m considering her one Christmas wish.

As least this Barbie and I have something in common ;-)

17 thoughts on “On Barbies and Backtracking and Being A Big Girl

  1. I heard an interesting perspective on this debate from an older woman (grandmother) which has really changed the way I view it. She pointed out that before Barbies came along the only dolls were baby dolls. The only role girls could take was mother. Barbie wasn’t groundbreaking because of her shape, it was because she owned her own house and had a job and travelled all over the world and Ken was only an accessory. She really is a feminist.

    As for the shape, evidence seems to show that media and dolls aren’t the baddies we think they are. Girls are aware they are fake and their body image is formed by the women around them and how they act, not the media.

    I’ve also gone from being one who didn’t like them to having a few of the generic version around. I’m much more relaxed about Barbie and her friends now.
    .-= Deb´s last blog ..Meet the Sponsors =-.

  2. I too backed down long ago, but Popps seems tom just like the idea of Barbie.

    However I did censor her clothes, one gifted Barbie was in a mini skirt and crop top to go asking the dog. She lost her outfit and found a dress instead!
    .-= Claireyh´s last blog ..A response =-.

  3. Barbies for girls are like toy cars for boys, one is never enough. They multiply! so do their houses, horses, cars …….. lol, have fun making a years worth of barbie craft for your little girls new best friend. Cant wait for the blogs ;) and Cath we all change our minds on things, its part of being a normal human being. It is a far better lesson you have taught Miss 4 that compromise can be a good thing rather than digging your heels in and making her miss out. Though I do like the points you raised in your original barbie post. I will never back down however on the whole pretween clothing range.

  4. Oh you make me laugh. (I say as I still have to finish the crocodile costume for my son) In the last week I have certainly learnt that all our best laid intentions and plans just sometimes have to be scrapped to go with the one thing you never thought you would do. I am feeling for you and understand the apprehension going forward on this if nothing else I am glad you have found the silver lining within the Barbie franchise with the bird watcher and I can see your beautiful miss 4 outside with Bird watching barbie checking out the feathered friends in the yard.
    .-= Fiona Preston´s last blog ..Caleb Plays at The Ashes 2010 =-.

  5. I just had an interesting thought, and i don’t have the answer to this question…do 4-yr-olds really look at Barbie’s shape the way we grown-ups do, and are 4-yr-olds really that concerned about body image? I guess some might be if their mother is, and certainly a 10-yr-old is going to see Barbie differently to a 4-yr-old, but if it’s no biggie for Mama then it may not be a biggie for the 4-yr-old…after all, “man is the son of his environment”.

    I wonder if they just see them as pretty pink dolls…?

  6. Hehehe – too funny Cath – great post! We received a similiar note from kindy regarding a Spiderman costume! We have never played spiderman at home and have no spiderman costume so we purchased a spiderman tshirt and came out with some creative ideas for a web hehehe! A great thing to know when to compromise! Such a tough one!

  7. I rememeber the post well, andthink it may have been the first one I commented on.

    Often on my blog Barbie makes an appearance as she is very popular here. On the bookshelf there is a whole shelf dedicated to her, filled with dvds and books. I even found a Golden Book older than me which is on there.

    What Barbie has taught me this last year is:

    * Although one Barbie is usually a Princess (we have 8! With more on the way) most of them have careers such as swimming teachers, hairdressers, office workers and a doctor.

    * Barbie has to deal with real life situations. Barbie and Ken are divorced and Barbie is a single mum. Luckily, she has a great network of other Barbies to help her look after her two kids.

    * Each Barbie looks different and has a different body shape (which can make it hard to put clothes on!).One of ours is a surfer girl and her body shape is very different wit wider hips, thicker legs and feet that can only wear her own thongs (flip flops).

    * She inspires a lot of great narrative play which can last for hours, even without my input.

    * Her website has lots of games that show her at work in many different fields and helps my girl develop observation and problem solving skills.

    So my feelings towards her have softened. I still don’t like playing Barbies myself (how times have changed from my youth), but she is encouraging my girl to develop in so many ways that I can’t really resent having her around.

    (Oh, and as an aside, when choosing gifts for the wishing tree to give away, her choice for a girl was Barbie because she knows how much she loves hers and thought a girl would like one too. For a boy, a Mater car (from the Cars movie. I love that she chose to give something that she would love herself :) )

  8. So when are they bringing out Debate Barbie!?! She always seems to start one. I think awareness is the start – you certainly won’t be going on about how pretty Barbie is, you’ll be pointing out her other meaningful characteristics. There’s plenty of negative things that we have to manage. But I too cringe at the thought of my niece bringing a barbie over to play! I guess you’ll go through the same again when my nephew wants a toy gun…

  9. Great post Cath. That cracked me up! :-) I too have resisted Barbie as much as I can, but Amelie has received three barbies over the years as birthday presents from friends and rellies and has been super excited about receiving each one. Funnily enough though, she doesn’t actually play with them much, and I don’t encourage her to.

  10. Really? Barbie is divorced and has two kids? Well I never…..Sienna came into our room yesterday with a barbie catalogue – no idea where it came from and was pointing out different things. She can say barbie now and was more interested in the accessories than anything else!!

  11. Jude, one of the Barbies in our house definitely is. Which surprised me as we really only know one divorced person, but there you go.

    Doctor Barbie did also gfeel the need to clarifiy whether any vampires lived with her patient the other day, and I have no idea where that came from! ROFL

  12. I did the gracious back down too when my SIL gave my girls their first Barbies… since then she has certainly multiplied in our house. I try to steer the girls towards the fantasy barbies (fairies and fairy tales) and those barbies that I feel portray more positive notions rather than just fashion (they got a vet barbie for their birthday from a friend who’s Mum is a vet who they idolise).

    We also talk about how Barbie isn’t real, about how nobody really looks like that… we have similar conversations about TV and movies etc.

    But I’ve learnt to let them enjoy Barbie in their own way and I attempt to leave my own agenda at the bedroom door… mostly :)
    .-= katepickle´s last blog ..Stretched =-.

  13. oh and can I add…. I think I am more scared of my boy starting kinder next year and learning about ‘Ben Ten’ and other more violent ‘in toys’ for boys than I am about Barbie…. I’m going to need a lot of help to be gracious about that!
    .-= katepickle´s last blog ..Stretched =-.

  14. I was never allowed a barbie as a child, until a friend gave me one for my birthday – mum couldn’t really say no then.
    As a teacher my concern is not the body image but the way girls play with them. Play tends to be all about dressing up and ‘older’ themes rather than the imaginative play I see with other types of dolls. I see girls manipulate the barbie to play with other barbies, but with other dolls the girls play with each other with the dolls as props in the play (hope that makes sense). So as long as girls have other dolls not just barbies i think thats ok. At least barbie is a bit better than Bratz.
    .-= Erin´s last blog ..Teacher Erin =-.

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