A few months ago, at the age of two, my daughter Audrey was given several Barbies, a Barbie mansion, various Barbie accessories, and questionable outfits.  Although something deep within me didn’t feel right about Barbie, I went along with having the dolls around.  For a while.

When something makes me wince or wonder or question, I am wired to investigate.  Through weeks of reading and research, I uncovered so many of the reasons why my spirit was dampened at the sight of that blond plastic bombshell.

Today, Barbie makes up about 60% of the fashion doll industry, with the newer “Bratz” dolls taking the other 40%.  Bratz, in my opinion, are intrinsically worse than Barbie, but that’s an entire other article.  In short, Bratz are stylized with a much more sexual look and are proud to be outwardly ‘skanky-chic’ (as girls call it).

When asked who they would see as having “the perfect body”, hundreds of thousands of females responded, “Barbie”.  And, these aren’t just little girls.  These are teens, young adults, and middle aged women.

Whether we want to admit it or not, Barbie is a symbol of femininity.  Most girls spend countless hours dressing, undressing, dressing again, doing hair, doting, adorning with accessories, and playing out life-scenarios for and with their Barbie dolls.  So, what’s the big deal?

Some things you may not know about today’s girls:

  • Young girls’ body image and self-esteem are at an all-time, devastating low. We are living in an age where 4-year-olds are worried about looking ‘hot’, 8-year-olds are obsessing about being ‘fat’, and 11-year-olds are performing oral sex on boys in school buses to gain social status among peers.
  • Girls are being targeted by marketers of beauty products and name brand clothing lines at preschool ages.
  • Girls are being HUGELY influenced by negative ‘role models’ like Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus.
  • Eating disorders are on the rise among younger and younger girls
  • Teens are engaging in sex earlier and with less precaution than in past decades
  • More teen girls than ever have anxiety, are depressed, and suicidal.

So, BARBIE CAUSED ALL THIS!  No.  That’s not what I’m saying.  What caused ‘this’ is a myriad of issues, including – destructive media messages (and the media is the TOP influencer of the majority of preteens and teens), broken and disconnected families, young people more reliant on their peers than their parents (and parents who aren’t there), an overwhelming lack of purpose in millions of young people, and the list goes on.

But, let’s not be naive about the role these dolls play in the lives of young girls, because it’s a huge one.

If, during a child’s most formative years, she spends countless hours enthralled with fashion dolls like Barbie and Bratz, she is bombarded with an overwhelming passive-aggressive influencer about what being a beautiful and successful ‘woman’ means.

And, unfortunately, what these multi-billion dollar corporately controlled dollies are preaching is:

  • Beautiful is abnormally SKINNY but oddly CURVACEOUS. The ironic tragedy is, we have millions of girls who view Barbie as having ‘the perfect body’ but her body is completely unattainable. A recent research project done by Rader Programs suggests that if Barbie were a real woman, she would be approximately 6’ tall, 100 lbs, and wear a size 4.  Her measurements would be 39, 19, 33.  Her body fat % would be so low, she would not be able to menstruate and would never have babies with that hunky Ken.  Any girl who actually achieves anything close this “Barbie body” is both a genetic anomaly and often a fabrication of technology.  And so, girls desperately strive to attain the unattainable (enter the marketing of the multi-billion dollar beauty products, dieting, and weight-loss industries). Because the ideal is almost never achieved, girls grow up unhappy with their bodies on a whole, constantly striving to fill the “gap” that their lack of confidence leaves.  This contributes greatly to our society’s materialistic lifestyle(s).
  • Beautiful is WHITE. “But, there are mulit-cultural Barbies and Bratz!” argue many.  Yes, there are.  But visit the Barbie website and every Barbie character (15 I counted when I logged on today) on the home page is white with blond hair.  Although we have come a long way from previous generations on our view of multi-cultural beauty, we are still very trapped by the ‘white girls are prettier’ notion.  Studies have shown that over 75% of lead characters and personalities on TV are white.  White Barbies far overpower Barbies of any other culture in stores and online.  This is damaging for both white girls AND girls of other ethnic backgrounds – one (the white girl) could subconsciously form the view that whites really ARE most desirable, and the other (a young girl of another ethnic background) could grow to view her cultural roots as a barrier to beauty and overall acceptance and success.
  • Beautiful is all about WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE. There isn’t much else to DO with Barbies but dress them up and do their hair.  Then we sit around and shallowly discuss how ‘pretty’ they look.  I remember my daughter looking up at me with all her white skinned, blond Barbies in row, perfectly primped.  “They’re BEEE-eautiful!” she gasped.  I cringed and smiled weakly.  Sure, I remember my Barbies going to the mall or the beach, or for a trip in their awesomely cool red Barbie Ferrari.  But before each outing, they got redressed and restyled and it was always about making sure Barbie looked good.  Barbie is the epitome of Western beauty.  She’s ridiculously skinny and flat-bellied but big-boobed and round-bootied. (Say that 10 times fast!).  She’s tanned and toned.  She’s also got the ‘perfect face’ – high cheekbones, straight white teeth, well-shaped brows, and big, bright eyes that project symmetrical perfection.  Reality is, this is only the picture of beauty because we’re conditioned to believe this way.  Just over 100 years ago, big round cheeks, small eyes, white skin, and lusciously chubby legs and bums with cellulite were signs of rare beauty (I don’t know about you, but I wish those times would make a come back!).  All jokes aside, young girls are being conditioned to view beauty in a certain way, period.  This view of beauty is false, narrow, and can be life-altering and destructive to girls who do not fit the mold or frantically spend their lives trying DESPERATELY to squeeze in.
  • Beautiful is SLUTTY. Barbie ain’t who she used to be.  I have a huge issue with branding children.  Selling and marketing adult-like clothing to kids has slowly become the norm over the past few decades.  Now, it isn’t uncommon to see a girl, age 7 or 8, walk by in a halter top, short-shorts, and platform sandals.  Really!?  I know there are many parents who don’t see a problem with this, but I do.  Our children are losing their innocence WAY too young.  We have 5-year-olds watching videos like “I Can’t Be Tamed” by Miley Cyrus, and third graders idolizing pop-stars like Kesha – raunchy, rude, and promiscuous to scratch the surface.  And they mimic these ‘stars’ by dressing like them.  Barbie is no different.  If she is a permanent fixture in the home and a friend to young girls, they will look at the way she dresses and draw from it.  There are fewer and fewer Barbie outfits that are modest or suitable for young girls.  More often, Barbie wears extremely tight, short, midriff bearing clothes with stilettos or hooker boots.  And then we tell our daughters their Barbie looks “so pretty”.  What are we saying here?  Not exactly the message of modesty I’m hoping to relay to my sweet 3 year old (and beyond).

When I tell people we don’t allow Barbie in our home, they raise one eyebrow and grow this incredibly confused but somewhat mocking look on their face.  (Don’t worry, I’m getting used to that look).  They just can’t wrap their mind around why Barbie is such a big deal to us.  Most people say something like, “Pfft, Barbie is just a doll… besides, I played Barbie – didn’t ruin me!”

My response to comments like these lies somewhere between, “OPEN YOUR EYES!!!” and “Hm, ok.”

We live in a sex-obsessed, materialistic, unhappy, culturally and socially stunted environment.  Families are falling apart all around us.  Girls are living with more challenges than ever before.  I am just a Mom who wants the best for my kids.  I want our daughter to grow up with a sense of self-worth that goes far, far deeper than the surface.  That will come from her foundation in faith, growing up in an unconditionally loving family,  and having a rich life filled with wholesome education, out-ward focused activities, and a sense of belonging and purpose (among other things, I’m sure!).

Will having Barbie as a friend completely ruin her?  Nah, probably not.  But, why give her something we know is potentially destructive and negative and then cross our fingers it doesn’t affect her ‘too much’?  That kind of parenting makes no sense to me.  I’d much rather take a proactive role and stand firm in the truth I know lies behind the multi-billion dollar dolly industry that hopes to passively invade our daughter’s heart and mind.

An interesting story I found while researching:

From AnitaRoddick.com ->

“In 1998, The Body Shop debuted its self-esteem campaign, featuring the generously proportioned doll we dubbed “Ruby.” Her rubenesque figure graced windows in The Body Shop windows in the UK that year, along with our slogan, “There are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do.” She went on to appear in stores in Australia, Asia, and the United States, where she captured the imaginations of consumers weary of the rail-thin heroin-chic of the beauty industry’s advertising messages.

Ruby was a fun idea, but she carried a serious message. She was intended to challenge stereotypes of beauty and counter the pervasive influence of the cosmetics industry, of which we understood we were a part. Perhaps more than we had even hoped, Ruby kick-started a worldwide debate about body image and self-esteem.

But Ruby was not universally loved. In the United States, the toy company Mattel sent us a cease-and-desist order, demanding we pull the images of Ruby from American shop windows. Their reason: Ruby was making Barbie look bad, presumably by mocking the plastic twig-like bestseller (Barbie dolls sell at a rate of two per second; it’s hard to see how our Ruby could have done any meaningful damage.) I was ecstatic that Mattel thought Ruby was insulting to Barbie — the idea of one inanimate piece of molded plastic hurting another’s feelings was absolutely mind-blowing.

Then, in Hong Kong, posters of Ruby were banned on the Mass Transit Railway because authorities said she would offend passengers. (Granted, Ruby often appeared without clothes on, but like Barbie, she had no nipples or pubic hair.) Of course, the much more seriously offensive images of silicone-enhanced blondes in other ads were permitted to stay on the trains.

And there, in a nutshell, is my relationship with the beauty industry. It makes me angry, not only because it is a male-dominated industry built on creating needs that don’t exist, but because it seems to have decided that it needs to make women unhappy about their appearances. It plays on self-doubt and insecurity about image and ageing by projecting impossible ideals of youth and beauty.”

I agree whole-heartedly.

God Bless, all!