Our incredible intern and CRS camper, Mariah Papy, wrote this beautiful post about how Barbie effected her sense of self-worth.
“I want the Barbie with the cats!!!!” I tell my mom, marveling up at the stacks upon stacks of Barbies in Target, each trapped between a clear piece of plastic. Like millions of girls across the world, I got attached to Barbie, despite the sexist messages it condoned. Recently, I asked my mom why she let me play with them, even though she knew it played a part in the sexualization and negative representation of women. “I tried to discourage you, but you loved them too much. It wasn’t a battle I wanted to fight,” my mom told me. This is a large social issue, and Barbie is playing a role in this social injustice.
When watching Crisis in Masculinity: “Be a Man,” which is a YouTube video about how masculinity has been adapted into tool make boys to suppress their emotions, I contemplated how the opposite is true. Girls, from a young age, get bombarded with messages to be thin, like pink, have long hair; be a girl. In Crisis in Masculinity: “Be a Man,” he talks a lot about how in the end, it does not matter if you are “a man,” what matter is that you have had loving relationships and been successful, completing your personal goals. I think that with men, “being a man” is less destructive for guys than “being a girl” is for women. Guys are told to make money and become successful, meaning get rich and be smart, witty, and creative. Where as, women’s traditional view of success is to settle down with a husband and become a stay at home mom along with giving up a successful career or being both a caregiver AND in the workforce. How is this not a double standard? And Barbies do nothing but reinforce this unrealistic view of women. When I was a kid, the only kind of Barbies one could get were wearing dresses with pink overpowering any other color. By the time I had outgrown Barbies, some doctor Barbies were coming into Target, but even their outfits looked more like what strippers would wear, not a strong women. And for little boys looking around at “girl toys,” they get the message that girls should be objects and its ok to sexualize them. Is this right? Giving our next generations the outdated values of the past?
Barbie comes in about one size, skinny, white, blonde, and perfect. From Barbie to Barbie the skin color might lighten slightly or the hair might lengthen a little but the Barbie mold is almost unwavering. When I was little, I always wanted to have blonde long hair, just like Barbie. Now I realize that beauty does not come in a mold, it comes in confidence and inner strength. But how are we going to teach our girls that, when Barbie signifies beauty to them?
I want this essay to open people’s eyes and for them to realize that Barbie is not portraying women correctly. Never in my life have I met this “perfect women” like Barbie, but I have met many strong women who have been great leaders to me, way better than Barbie has ever been. I sometimes wish my mom would not have given up the fight with me and made me find another kind of doll, one that give girls better morals. In the end, I am glad I played with Barbies so that now I realize how plastic and fake Barbie is, and that is not who I want to be.