I’ll admit it, I liked playing with my Barbie dolls. I liked rearranging my dollhouse and finding new knick-knacks to put in it. However, now that I’ve gotten older and moved my dolls from my room, I’ve realized just how messed up Barbie dolls are. The doll that’s meant to inspire girls has several problems, yet each of them is completely ignored.
First of all, what is Barbie meant to teach? Barbie was originally created by Ruth Handler, who wanted a doll that could teach girls that women could make their own choices and accomplish their goals. Barbie is an astronaut, a teacher, a veterinarian, a baker… She can do it all. But what does she really teach? In every set, there’s fashion written all over it. Fashion and boyfriends. To make things worse, the Barbie show is filled to the rim with relational drama. I recently read a child development book called Nurture Shock. On page 180, the author, Po Bronson, states that such relationally aggressive shows caused more problems than violent ones: “They were increasingly bossy, controlling, and manipulative. This wasn’t a small effect. It was stronger than the connection between violent media and physical aggression.”
Consider Barbie’s appearance. Barbie is pretty. She’s tall, impossibly thin, and has extremely easy hair to play with. That’s the problem. She’s unrealistic. Girls don’t have such sucked in waists or perfect faces. In fact, if a girl had Barbie’s body type, they would have biological problems; she’d be unable to reproduce. Also, the Barbie world lacked racial representation. To my relief, Barbie is just now making changes. Dolls are coming out that are from different minority groups. The doll’s body types are just now beginning to change, too; after 57 years, Barbie has finally released a series of “curvy,” “tall,” and “petite” dolls, with some changes in the male figures as well.
In summary, Barbie is wrong. These dolls were the wrong way to teach girls about the world around them. It made male dolls extremely masculine and female dolls completely unrealistic. Doll play is a great way for kids to stretch their imagination, understand the world around them, and learn socialization. Because children use dolls to explore their world, the more realistic the doll is the better; this means the dolls should have different body types and skin colors. Much to my relief and satisfaction, the Barbie company is finally catching on.