As I grew older, I started hearing the rumors that one of my best life long friends was secretly a bitch out to ruin me… after all we’d been through. And I was still only in elementary school!!
Through whatever mainstream media here and there slipped the gossip over time that my girl Barbie had been trying to covertly push eating disorders and body dysmorphic complexes on me. The betrayal! With Barbie I had owned a joint vet’s office and pet shelter (incorporating Littlest Pet Shop of course), become a successful artist (she did large format paintings via coloring book pages), experimented with lesbianism (why can’t Barbies kiss other Barbies and not just Ken?), and even killed off an abusive boyfriend (I guess I watched too many soaps with Nana)… and this whole time she was a mole for the patriarchy!?
I never fully bought it, but as I grew up and into my pubescent, curvier, lumpier form, I grew apart from Barbie. She became large tupperware box full of dolls that I donated to the Youth Emergency Shelter in my teens. I could never live up to her form, but I never felt the need to. Instead, perhaps, I only gave myself high expectations for my own success based on my childhood adventurous scenarios with my Barbies. Maybe it’s because of my amazingly encouraging and open minded/hearted mother that it was this way for me.
In college, I learned of Barbie’s nefarious origins. Unsurprisingly, she was designed after a pre WWII german doll meant to be a masturbation aid. And the misogyny only both spiraled and camouflaged thereafter, apparently.
I now acknowledge the bitch Barbie was made out to be… but she was my bitch and I’m not a worse person now for our time together whatsoever. I don’t know if I’ll buy and introduce my maybe one day daughter a Barbie, but if her little friends play with Barbie and she wants one for her birthday or something, then she’ll get one and I’ll do my best to be as supportive and awesome of a mom as mine was.
For those unfortunate little girls out there that do end up having problematic body issues, I hope they find healthy and healing solutions. If blaming Barbie is a part of the road to healing, so be it. But I am left wondering when it comes to dire problems with westernized youth today about the assessed proportions between blaming our kids’ toys, video games, and music interests as influences (and corporate responsibility therein) vs. personal responsibility of parents, teachers, and caretakers.