Saturday, March 9, 2013

Happy Birthday Barbie!

Some of my Barbies
Wow! The icon Barbie doll made her debut 54 years ago today! And like a fine wine, Barbie has definitely gotten better with time! I loved dolls and I grew up with Barbie and her counterparts. I had Barbie, her boyfriend Ken, PJ, her black friend Christie and Christie’s boyfriend Brad. Barbie and Company was an essential part of my childhood.

 I had all types of dolls. I had baby dolls to play Mommy and Barbies to play Grown Up. I had Julia, the African-American nurse from the TV Show Julia's character. Even though the character was a widow, I borrowed my neighbor's GI Joe when Julia needed a date. I entertained myself with  Barbie and friends well into my teen years. And alas, when I had to give her up along came the doll house of doll houses—the Barbie Dream House. Lucky for me I had nieces who had their own share of Barbies.  So, when they got a Barbie Dream House I could play along under the guise of playing with them—wink, wink--much like those of you who are dragging kids to the movies so you can see the remake of the Wizard of Oz. 

I’ve followed the backlash against Barbie--women who refused to let their daughters play with Barbie because of her unrealistic body measurements, and women of color who didn’t allow their daughters playing with white Barbies—all of which is supposedly tied to self-esteem and body image. Then there was the recent Face book campaign to push Mattel to make a bald Barbie to appeal to those young girls have lost their hair to cancer or alopecia. I understand the criticism against Barbie as an adult, but as a child, Barbie was simply Barbie. I played with Barbie and I don't think I suffered any damage to my self-esteem because of my doll play. 

This Barbie-under fire concept is akin to the feminist rejection of girls' infatuation with Princesses, and while I get the ideology behind the not wanting our girls to be damsels in distress waiting for a man to rescue them, I have mixed feelings about it. But I'll save my thoughts on that for another time. Today is about Barbie.

Barbie is no stranger to controversy as it is something that has followed her from the beginning. When she debuted, she was a departure from the baby doll and represented a different kind of woman who didn’t have to settle for being a homemaker and mom. Barbie was single, childless and very much independent. Barbie was and is me. 

Like Barbie, I neither married nor had children. And the substantial sized rack held up by the small back, and the small waistline is definitely me. Over the years, I always wondered why Barbie had everything but a good bra. Sure, she has some cutesy lingerie, but a bra that lifts and separates is not to be found among everything Barbie. But I understand. As a woman who looks like Barbie from the waist up, I know how hard is to find a bra that fits and perhaps that is why Barbie doesn’t have one, but more realistically because unlike me—she doesn’t need one. She is the first of her kind with a boob job, so hey! there you go.

Even now, I still have an affinity for Barbie as evidenced by the collection of Black Barbies fighting for space in my house. And I’m not the only one. There are Barbie dolls for adult collectors with numerous of sights for collectors to buy and sale Barbies. I recently watched a clip of  Barbie Man , a man in Florida who owns more than 2000 Barbies! Barbie has been around for a while, and with so much that comes and goes, it's nice to be able to hold onto a piece of something that marked the innocence of my childhood.

There are  feminists, reading this and shaking their heads. Yes, I am a feminist and I will not turn in my feminist card because there is no one-size fits all brand of feminism. Barbie and feminism represent the complexity of life, and I embrace that. So, Barbie is alright with me. Happy Birthday Barbie!

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