The Great Barbie Debate: Mother vs. Daughter

Body Image |  

“In the Shadow of Beauty” Photo credit

When my daughter was born, I informed all family members that she would not be allowed to own or play with Barbie dolls. After all, any Google search will lead you to a plethora of articles detailing the improbability of Barbie’s proportions and the negative impact her measurements and weight would have on her overall health.

According to this article, Barbie’s overall body fat percentage would be so low that she would be unable to menstruate and she would fit the criteria for being anorexic. Will my daughter become anorexic or suffer from eating disorders because she plays with Barbie? I don’t think we can really know that. There are, of course, a host of other factors that might determine this – not the least of which is the way media plays a part in the message young girls and women hear about what is considered “beautiful” and “desirable.” Truly, my issues with Barbie go deeper than just her measurements. Her hair, her clothes, the fact that she walks around on her tip toes all the time…I mean, honestly, doesn’t that get uncomfortable?

Since Barbie is persona non grata, you can imagine exactly how obsessed my daughter now is with Barbie. She’s constantly asking why she can’t have a Barbie. And while I do my best to explain my position, my daughter continues to fantasize and dream about Barbie…

By refusing to let her have a Barbie, am I actually giving more power to this little doll than I intend? And where do my own judgments lie about how a woman looks and her worth as a human being? Am I casting Barbie as unworthy because she’s blonde, skinny, and has a big chest? Instead of saying no, could I instead say yes and open the door for conversation about body image, how society judges girls and women, how she feels about her own body, our own judgments about what is and isn’t a healthy or beautiful body, and what really determines her and other girls’ worth (which, in my opinion, is simply their Divine personhood)?

In the discussion about body image, I cannot forget or underestimate MY influence on my daughter. As not only a feminist, but a woman and mother who has dealt with my own share of body image issues, I want my daughter to grow up loving her body. I want her to enjoy moving, feel strong, and be confident in who she is as a person.

More importantly, I want to begin to empower my daughter to make her own choices. She will be faced with millions of opportunities to make decisions throughout her life. I want to empower her in that process and begin a deeper conversation…what does it feel like to honor yourself? To treat yourself as the Divine being you are? Nevermind what other people say about the clothes you wear or how you look or whether or not you can be good at math because you’re a girl. YOU decide what’s right for you…even if that’s having a Barbie.