Thursday, 13 December 2012

I'm a Barbie girl.

When I was a little girl, I loved to play with Barbies. I loved my Playmobil and baby dolls too, but my Barbies were quite high on the favourite toys list. I had the whole 'shebang' when it came to Barbies; I had the lounge, the bedroom, and I even had the pregnant one with the removable stomach and tiny baby. My only version of Ken was my dad's old Action Man from when he was a boy, so he was obviously very busy in my little Barbie world. But I didn't just brush their hair and put pretty pink dresses on these dolls, I was more interested making realistic scenarios for these girls. I loved making the dolls reenact how I thought adults behaved, and they didn't just go shopping or have sleepovers. They lived gripping story lines as young widows with my Shelly doll and the tiny baby as their young families, and they only had tiny one bedroomed flats to live in because that's all the furniture I had. And the majority of the time they had to earn their own income for this young family because I only had one Ken and sometimes I couldn't find him. But it was okay because a woman doesn't always need a husband in order to survive, she can do perfectly well by herself.

However, despite these heart wrenching stories I contrived with my Barbie dolls whom were all independent, confident women, obviously, I am being told that by now I should have terrible body image because of them. Because whilst I was playing out these lives the ridiculously unrealistic bodies the dolls have were greatly affecting me, and some day I would be upset I didn't have arms that didn't bend properly. Fortunately I am not looking into surgery that will make my hands cease movement and become spatulas at the end of my arms because of the dolls I played with as a child. When I was an 8 year old I did not see the old fashioned misogynist view of how a woman should look in my Barbies, I just saw tiny plastic figurines that would be fantastic to play with. I laughed at the fact that their boobs were like odd looking cones on their chests, and that their feet would in no way be able to stand them up. I was annoyed, in fact, that they could not stand for themselves because it was a great obstacle in the stories as you could guess.

I can understand why some are becoming concerned in this day and age with the image that Barbie dolls portray to young girls, or boys. But I completely dismiss the claim that the toys are the root cause for my bad body image. I hold that blame entirely to the media. Whilst Barbie has the skinny waist, beautiful smile, gorgeous legs and luscious, long blonde hair it is not these features that were the focus in my play with the dolls. As you can see, I was far too busy making soap opera like scenarios with them and the one lone Ken/Action Man doll. I believe that adults have forgotten what it's like to be little, to not have the concerns and damage that the world brings on them. That a little girl playing with her Barbies dolls in the bath is just innocence, and to her it is just a trip to the pool or beach and not the display of 'perfect' female bodies that she will long for at 8 years old.

I agree that the stereotyping nowadays of Barbie dolls has gone a little too far, and I wouldn't have cared less if the box she came in was blue or neon green and not pink. It was the endless stories and games that the doll had the potential for I was excited about. I refuse to be labelled as 'girly' for playing with the dolls, and that cutting their heads off with blunt scissors and flushing them down the loo would have been any more morally sound. At the time I can remember my favourite colour being red, and that if I was given a remote controlled car or something boys were 'supposed' to play with I would have been equally as happy. I don't regret playing with Barbies and it hasn't made me into a 'girly' girl who only functions for the existence of pink fluff and sparkles. The dolls have not made me buy makeup when I go shopping or hair products or nail polish, in fact I usually buy books.

Therefore, I loved to play with my Barbies and I am proud to say I have not been mentally damaged by them. I have grown up sane and with a grasp on reality, almost. And I do not blame my often awful view of my body on the toys I used to play with as a little girl.