Like most girls my age, I grew up loving Barbie.
And as I grew into a teenager, I began to hear about how Barbie was evil. How she sexualized children at a young age, and gave them unrealistic body expectations, and I began to think I had been, well, damaged by my Barbie love. I thought about sex…that must have been Barbie’s fault! I love fashion and jewelry and makeup…blame it on Barbie! I decided I didn’t want my daughter to have a Barbie, which I found conflicting because, truth be told, some of my favorite childhood memories came from the epic story lines I created for my dolls, and the clothes my mother lovingly sewed for them, and the elaborate hairstyles I created by twisting her synthetic hair and securing it by shoving straight pins straight into her head.
t became evident that my daughter is as girly as I was, and her love of princesses and fanciness is every bit as much nature as nurture. I softened my stance against Barbie, but I maintained a hard line against other dolls, like Bratz. You have to have some standards, right?
Bratz horrify me. Where Barbie looks like a sweet, overly perfect girl next door, Bratz are not of this planet, but I feel like girls think they should be. It reminds me of how Tina Fey sums up what Beauty has become. In the 7os and 80s , it was enough that a woman be attractive but :
“Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass…the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to achieving this is Kim Kardashian, who was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes. Everyone else is struggling.”
So it was safe to say…no Bratz. I mean, they are called…Brats! I am pretty sure none of them ever carried a pink briefcase unless it was filled with 20 pounds of doll cocaine.
Then came…Monster High.
And I felt tripped up. On one hand, they are even more body dysmorphic than Bratz. Their limbs are impossibly thin, with giant bulbous heads. Their faces are identical, more of that beauty on steroids look where every feature is impossibly big or small. But again…they are Monsters!! My inner goth geeked a bit at the thought.
And I was even more conflicted when everyone my daughter knew was getting one. Her best friend at school. Her cousins. My mother even bought one so she could fit those impossibly tiny clothes on their fragile limbs. Alice took to playing with her Grandma’s doll and I could tell…she was smitten.
Once I picked Draculaura up and said in a twee voice, “Oh hi, I’m Draculaura! I have an eating disorder! I need a sandwich!” And then I told Alice, “I want you to know these dolls do NOT have normal bodies. This is not what a normal woman looks like. She looks sick. She’s too thin.”
And Alice looked at me like I was CRAZY and said “Mom, it’s just a doll.”
Yes, my four year old laid it out. She wasn’t looking at Draculaura and envying her body. She liked the crazy redstreaks in her hair and her fun shoes. And I was being paranoid, and silly.
Would I have picked up Raggedy Ann and said “Alice, I want you to know you will NEVER have button eyes and yarn hair. This doll is NOT NORMAL?”
Of course not. BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE CRAZY.
It became more evident to me that this was not a battle I needed to concern myself with when Alice started pretending to be pregnant and giving birth to busty, blonde naked Barbie dolls which she wrapped in blankets and pretended to nurse. A doll is a doll is a doll to Alice!
I realized that I know woman who could pass for Barbies themselves, and many of them are unhappy with their bodies and looks. And I wear a plus size, and I am extremely confident. How can this be, when my whole childhood I played with wasp-waisted Barbie with her huge breasts and knee-length blonde hair? Why don’t I hate myself?
I don’t know why. But if Barbie didn’t ruin my life, I am not going to worry that Monster High is going to ruin my daughter, who at four is far savvier than I ever realized. She’s never going to look like Barbie, or Draculara (or Raggedy Ann!) either, and that’s fine. She knows she is smart, and beautiful. She envies no one, and as long as she keeps going the way she is going I am not going to worry. We might have to re-evaluate someday, who knows? But I’m not going to create a body dysmorphia where none exists. And when Draculaura joins the family, I hope she’s cool with sleeping in the baby doll cradle.