Don’t blame Barbie


I’m a Barbie girl, in the Barbie world
Life in plastic, it’s fantastic!
You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere
Imagination, life is your creation

I’m a blond bimbo girl, in a fantasy world
Dress me up, make it tight, I’m your dolly
You’re my doll, rock’n’roll, feel the glamour in pink,
Kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky…
You can touch, you can play, if you say: “I’m always yours”



Hey Barbie! Looking hot girl, not bad for a 54 year old babe. So there is something to be said for plastic surgery after all. So what if your face is devoid of expression and your boobs defy gravity? There are a million wannabes who look the same – botox, trout pouts and implants. Barbie may have grown old, but she didn’t grow up.

And why is that such a bad thing? Since when did play become politicised, sexualised, paralyzed? Playing with dolls will not turn a boy gay, any more than playing with guns will turn him into a homicidal psychopath. Letting a girl play with Barbie will not turn her into a subservient hausfrau and strip her of all ambition. I definitely agree there are body image issues being reinforced by Barbie, but she’s not the primary villain, and that’s not the thrust of this argument in any case.

Take toy guns away from boys and they will use sticks. Take dolls away from girls and they will have tea parties with teddies. Make-believe is a necessary part of the human psyche. It is the essence of creativity, growth and development. Make-believe in adults is called science-fiction, research and development, invention, movie-making, innovation. Without make-believe, we would not hypothesise on alternative solutions to our issues. We would not develop new products to ease our lives (and inevitably, waste our time). We would have no movies and entertainment.

Where would we be had not George Lucas chosen to play make-believe on the grandest scale? Star Wars would not exist. Without Gene Rodenberry, man would not have boldly gone, and no infinitives would have been split. Warp drives, worm holes, transporters and Uhura. The world would be a lesser place. Sometimes, though, that creativity is best kept private. Are you listening, James Cameron. Your visioning has caused the sexualising of the Blue Man Group for God’s sake, and you inflicted the pain of Celine’s heart going on and on upon a whole generation of High School prom dates. Though it has to be said, without Jimmy’s vision we would have missed the delicious sight of Kate Winslett sprawled naked across the chaise longue, and getting sweaty in the Rolls.

We all like make-believe, escapism and a chance to control things a little more than in real life. Children – boys and girls – get the chance to have this make-believe in every day play. Barbie, Ken, Action Man, GI Joe. Adults have to find their escapism in other ways. I’m sure there are many men with their own plastic doll plaything tucked away in a wardrobe – but let’s not go there. Instead, though, let’s go online. How many adults play with virtual dolls and call them Sims? However we do it, allowing the child out to play is a critical part of our release mechanism from the stresses of the world. If we can find a way to get our release through play and make-believe, maybe we can avoid seeking our own oblivion at the bottom of a bottle, or shorting our fuses in violence and conflict?

Toys have no innate gender issues. Adults buy the toys and reinforce old stereotypes. Even in the face of the rampant tide of feminism, it is consumerism that wins the day, and we each live our own stereotypes and biases, like it or not. Who do you figure is buying all these plastic dolls to give to their little girls, reinforcing these stereotypes of gender bias? I’m guessing it’s not the dads. The dads of daughters I know (and I speak here as one such myself) are the ones encouraging their little girls to kick some male butt on their way to the top of their chosen tree. These dads are pushing their little girls into sciences, sports and business. They are getting their little girls helping out with handiwork or driving the lawn tractor. The dads of daughters I know are strongly supportive of their daughters becoming their own person.

My girls had Barbie dolls. Every birthday, you can bet there would be a couple more in the party gift pile. They never played with them. They preferred horses, dogs and fluffy toys. I’ve kept the dolls though. They make great little actresses in my dioramas. Make-believe can be so much better than real-life!


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