A few years ago, I got the opportunity to paint my newly purchased house. I was thinking of a blue-violet with red trim, but when I got the paint cards together with the color red I wanted, the best match turned out to be a pinkish-violet.
A while later – maybe a year after it was done – I asked my boyfriend what he thought of it, and he goes “it looks like a Barbie mansion!”
This was a surprise to me, but immediately appreciated. See, I had always wanted Barbie dolls when I was a kid, but I was denied them.
At the time, my conservative Christian mom said it was because “Barbie is a sex symbol” and a “dating doll”. Years later, when the Heart Family (a Barbie & Ken style doll with two children) came out, I was allowed to have them.
But the thing is, I never wanted to grow up, get married, and have kids (the traditional path expected of “good Christian women”). From a young age I knew I wanted to be a career woman, live in the big city, and travel the world.
Barbie modeled an independent woman character for so many young women. She was single, had her own house, her own car, and of course, a fabulous wardrobe. She had a career, in fact there were over 200 different career Barbies produced!
This past month I started writing some short stories of my memoirs, and I’ve had a few conversations with my mom about Barbie. The first one was me asking her if she remembered how much I wanted Barbie as a child.
She said she denied me having Barbie because she had read an article about how Barbie’s impossible physical proportions were causing self-esteem issues in girls.
I reminded her what I remembered about her saying, that Barbie was a sex symbol and dating doll (odd that Christian women apparently aren’t supposed to date first before getting married, right!?) and that I never asked for a Ken doll. I shared how I felt about not wanting to grow up, get married and have kids, and my desire to become a big city career woman, as well as my fascination with fashion.
I know that my mom, despite her conservative Christian views, tried to raise us with conscious parenting. I remember her emphasis that girls could play with “boys toys” if they chose, and boys could play with “girl toys”, among other conscious parenting concepts she utilized.
It’s interesting how we can be blinded by one point of view so easily – such as my mother overlooking the underlying (and original message) of feminist freedom that Barbie was designed around, and that I intuitively understood even as a small child, because of one article theorizing a potential problem.
That, and how parents so often try to mold their children to fit into their (parent’s) worldview and ideal life path, rather than finding out what the child truly desires and nurturing that in them.
We have this idea that children don’t know what they want. And for some, that may be true, but I clearly remember being a child and having very firm ideas about my life trajectory. Maybe I didn’t know all the details – some things you learn along the way – but I knew the basics of what did and didn’t appeal to me. The big picture.
Don’t get me wrong. My mother was an amazing mom! I always felt loved unconditionally by her – and I’m very aware how fortunate I was to have that kind of love in my life. It’s just important to recognize how even the most well-meaning person can overlook an important idea because of their own biases.
Our very first learning process is play. What we play with and model as children often shapes who we are and who we become.
In any case, I went to see the Barbie movie last night, and it was fabulous!
The movie opened with a short narrative describing how most girl children were given baby dolls, and basically modeled to become mothers themselves, and how Barbie was designed to free woman to pursue any goal and dream, not just motherhood.
The movie deftly explores the themes of feminism, patriarchy, the self-esteem issue, the double/conflicting standards and expected roles for women, and even incel-dom. There were brief, albeit fleeting moments of empathy for men, however the overall ethos was, deservedly, female-centric.
I will say, I expected more from the double-standards monologue than was delivered – I’ve seen more comprehensive memes about it. But altogether the movie was a well-done emotional roller-coaster that (hopefully) causes more of us, both men and women, to question our reality and assumptions about self and our roles that contribute to overall society and culture.
Pictured:Me, in front of my house
Me and my best friend at the theater after seeing ‘Barbie’
Barbie’s origins meme