You’ve probably heard by now that Mattel Inc. — the manufacturing company responsible for cranking out all sorts of wonderful playthings —recently announced its release of three new Barbie doll body types: curvy, petite and tall. Of course, there are also rumors that a plus-sized doll is on the way. And a transgendered-cyborg Barbie. Just kidding about that last one. In addition to the new body sizes, Barbie dolls will now also be available in seven different skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles. On a side note: I had no idea there were 22 eye colors.
I guess you can’t really blame Mattel for this. They’re just trying to stay progressive and keep up with modern political correctness. Honestly, I couldn’t care less about the body shapes or skin tones of plastic women sitting on the shelves at the local Toys“R”Us. In fact, Mattel could make a biracial midget Barbie or a morbidly obese Barbie and it wouldn’t make any sort of difference to me. I don’t have kids and all of my younger cousins have outgrown dolls and action figures. Truthfully, my only experience with Barbie dolls was dismembering them to torment my little sister while my brother and I blamed our G.I. Joe action figures for the gruesome murders.
Anyway, I noticed on Twitter yesterday that the hashtag #TheDollEvolves went viral and a lot of young women were sharing personal stories about how the skinny Barbie dolls caused them to suffer from all sorts of psychological disorders and emotional ailments — body issues, identity crises and so on. And now the mothers believe that their daughters will also be affected. Somehow I just can’t believe any of that is true. Well, at least the part about the inanimate doll being the problem. Call me crazy, but if your kid is going through emotional trauma because of the shape of her doll, the issue is more likely to be parenting techniques than the Barbie’s waistline measurement or cup size. I think our hypersensitive, whiny and eternally-offended culture has placed this absurd emphasis on the physical appearance of toys when, truthfully, kids who are raised under sound morals and principles in stable homes are far less likely to struggle with “body issues." If you’re teaching your daughter that she is valuable and ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ as a beautiful child of God, I suspect she won’t be in therapy for the rest of her life just because her plastic Barbie doll has a tiny waist and slim hips. I voiced this opinion on Twitter the other day and apparently over 50 folks agreed with me:
Of course, not everyone was convinced and some even resorted to playing the ‘sexist’ card:
I guess the notion that a single guy could have an opinion on good parenting is just horribly offensive and radical. Never mind that I was raised by parents who took the time to instill the right priorities in myself and my siblings. If nothing else, I’ve at least seen and experienced godly parenting for almost 30 years of my life.
In any case, the doll itself isn’t to blame. The doll didn’t make your daughter experience body insecurity. The doll didn’t actively or passively or subconsciously or magically contribute to her emotional issues. The doll is just a doll. Period. That’s all. That’s it. Nothing more. There was never a day when Barbie suddenly sprung to life, kicked down your daughter’s door and called her ‘fat,’ causing her to burst into tears and run screaming down the hall in a desperate attempt to escape a demon-possessed talking doll with blonde hair. But, if this did happen, I suspect it would make for a great Toy Story horror flick.
The point is: if your teenaged daughter is experiencing "body insecurity," it’s not because she played with Barbie dolls when she was three. For God’s sake, the vast majority of children are barely conscious of gender features at that age. Obviously there are plenty of external factors that can contribute to this sort of thing: bullying from classmates and peers, premarital sex with boyfriends and unhealthy media consumption/exposure just to name a few. But in all of these situations — peers, sex, media, whatever — parents have a responsibility to teach their daughters that a woman’s worth and value is not found in her physical appearance but is instead found in her value as a unique individual — a child of God. If you’re instilling virtues like self-respect in your children and teaching them the differences between right and wrong and between reality and fantasy, odds are you won’t have to take them to a psychiatrist for $250 an hour therapy.
Speaking of fantasies, there’s certainly no doubt that various forms of media — movies, TV, music, magazines, pornography — can and do influence the way many young girls perceive femininity and womanhood. Of course, we have our godless culture to thank for much of that. After all, if little Susie lives in a morally-bankrupt home environment where she might occasionally walk in on dad masturbating to Internet porn, she’s probably more likely to develop some issues; more likely to think that emaciated girls with breast implants are the true definition of beauty. But, again, this is a parent problem and dad obviously needs serious help and counseling. As far as movies and TV shows are concerned, it’s pretty much impossible to get through a 30 minute family sitcom or two hour film these days without encountering some form of female objectification. Whether it’s a joke laced with innuendo, an actress wearing a skimpy outfit or a full-blown sex scene, it’s bound to be there one way or the other. So, unless you’re planning to keep your little girl in a plastic bubble until she turns 40, you might as well raise her under sound morals and principles and teach her to exercise Scripture-based caution and judgment when she’s old enough to go to the movies with her friends or watch TV on her own. Then, even when she does encounter these sexual objectifications in the media — and she will — she'll recognize them as wrong, immoral, unrealistic, stupid, silly or whatever. She won’t have a mental or emotional breakdown because of it. Again, this is a parenting issue.
Do you see a pattern here? Even if you were to argue that Barbie is part of the American media culture, perhaps because she has her own cartoons and coloring books, it all still comes back to proper parenting. If you’re instilling the right values in your child from an early age, she’s less likely to be thrown into psychological confusion and emotional turmoil over a damned toy.
I think that, if anything, this sudden outburst of grown women claiming that they suffer from body insecurity because of their childhood Barbie dolls is just a reflection of our culture’s desire to heap blame upon anything other than ourselves. It’s Barbie’s fault. It’s Playboy’s fault. It’s Michael Bay’s fault. They’re the ones we should supposedly blame for millions of women who now suffer from body insecurity and depression. But, God forbid we actually consider the possibility that with a little sound parenting and a healthy home environment, the vast majority of young girls will grow up learning to appreciate their unique physical qualities and the characteristics that make them different from everyone else — regardless of how their toys are shaped or how the media portrays women.
If you don’t want your girl playing with Barbie dolls, no one is forcing you to purchase them. (Funny how that works.) But, if you blame the dolls for what is clearly a parenting issue, you’ve become less of a mother and more of an activist. And at that point, you’ll have bigger problems than the size of Barbie’s thighs.
NOTE: If you're reading this post in your e-mail inbox and would like to comment, please feel free to reply via e-mail or click on the post title above and leave a comment on my site.