an unrealistic body image role model - but then again most toys aren't exact depictions of real life
Sorry late in responding. I never had a Barbie, I had an Action Girl who i can remember even at that very young age feeling it was more me, more gravitas and more meaningful than Barbie. I liked the horse and the activities of action girl better than Barbie. Perhaps a little unfair but i also associate Barbie with an image of women that I don't like. However she is successful and driven.. i think of Barbie as plastic and associate her with plastic surgery, unsurprising given the woman whose name I cannot remember who has had years of plastic surgery to make her look like Barbie. I also think part of me envies how she always looks cool and well turned.no matter what the occasion.
I feel that Barbie has been stereotyped. When you look at what she does in the cartoons and the media images (I have a 4 year old who loves Barbie) she looks pretty and is concerned with hair make up etc but she is also a successful worker, teacher, academic, sibling, friend, fabulous dancer etc and does all of this without smudging her lipstick! She is a good listener and also does change her image, attitude or actions so that she doesn't make people feel out of place. Wow! what a fab role model! I agree with Tracy that she doesn't have a realistic body image and frankly being fab all the time is also unrealistic so possibly she isn't post or anti feminist but liquid?! A liquid feminist who can be whatever she wants to be and hence you can interpret her in any way you wish to
I never thought that Barbie would be influential. She was a vehicle for the stories that were woven around her, wore what she was crammed into - I was always amazed that small fingers could dress her. Barbie didn’t argue unless in her character of the day, she did what she had to just like the rest of the crew, teddies, a hard plastic monkey, loads of them. They knew their place. I did wonder if Barbie moved around when nobody was looking, that stare and the perky plastic…but a role model? Nah. Marketing Dream.
Anti feminist role model which together with general media and cultural has reinforced that women are about what they wear and how they look and Ken is the strong man. Unfortunately having seen the increase in mental health issues in young girls regarding their body shapes I feel that Barbie re-enforces the need to go to all lengths to achieve the Barbie look.
Barrie has been completely ignored by 3 generations of women in my family largely because we find her unappealing. Her need to have so much stuff, so many accessories, outfits, houses, animals, cars, bikes and planes made the people we knew who liked her, want them too, either as toys or as the real thing. Perhaps they were supposed to be alternatives but she certainly looked like she was having it all! Do we now think that having it all means doing it all? For me she's not a feminist but simply uses opportunity that feminism has given her to buy more stuff.
Having grown up with barbie .. I Used to aspire to be like her long legs tiny waist flash car gorgeous man by my side and endless pool parties ... But the reality is she is plastic ... And if I want be be like her I'd have to change who I am... Something barbie wouldn't do ... But if you look deeper ... She probably has low self esteem and society has created a doll whom looks good and seemingly has everything .. They have created a life style that gives children a desire and need that you only get what you want if you look s certain way ... It's so negative and yes it's just a doll but as children learn through play we are surely teaching them wrong values of how to obtain a positive mental attitude about themselves and how to achieve things in life ...
Of course Barbie is an anti-feminist stereotype isn't she- an unrealistic body shape, an unachievable and over glamorised body shape and hair and surrounded by all that reductive tat designed to keep Barbie in a feminised, non powerful, domestic box. Except that when I see her, I have a visceral flashback to holding her, coveting her and all her tennis rackets, pony, crazy nylon peppered and Velcro-ed clothes. She was a mini fantasy of an aspect of me. I'm no Barbie but in those early years she, and Sindy and Bunty and Judy, helped me work out who I was.
I have seen Barbie from many perspectives as a both child and a parent. As a child I had few toys as I preferred to play outside, climb trees, ride my bike and swim in the river. My friends and I only played with dolls when the weather was far too bad for us to go outside. Barbie seemed very glamorous to us as she was different to any of the other toys that we had and she had many different outfits (mainly made by my Mum) and hair that we could style. My favourite doll was Tressy which belonged to my friend. I was fascinated by the doll as her hair could grow! I had no idea what feminism was, had no desire to be like Barbie or to live a particular lifestyle. Our parents and family were our role models.
My older girls had Barbie dolls, a doll house and furniture and often played with the toys with their friends. We did have some manufactured outfits but I made most of the clothes as Christmas presents. Barbie was used in many role play situations as my eldest daughter is very imaginative but she is also aware that these are just toys and therefore the stories that she told using their dolls were not real. I don’t think either of my girls ever imagined themselves as Barbie or wanted a lifestyle like Barbie. There were films and television programmes available that featured Barbie but they were not particularly interested in them as they were not very exciting and they preferred to make up their own stories.
My younger girls had many dolls including Barbie, Brats, High School Musical etc. We also had Barbie dolls of a variety of ages, gender and ethnicity. They enjoyed playing with them and particularly liked to change their clothes etc. They used the dolls to copy what they saw in real life so the dolls would have pets so they would need to take the dog for a walk, take the baby out in the pram, feed them at lunch time and put them to be. The male and female dolls would both go out to work and the Grandma and Grandpa dolls would look after the younger dolls etc. I don’t think they aspired to have a particular lifestyle that was suggested by the dolls although one of the girls was disappointed when they went to secondary school because it wasn't like High School Musical but that was influenced by the film rather than the dolls.
I think the media presentation that can surround these toys can have an influence on the way that children play with them and adverts definitely influence the children’s buying choices and that of their parents but the children and adults that play alongside them have a greater influence on how the toys are played with. We always played together and with a variety of toys and had many additional activities to give the children a broad experience of life so to me Barbie is just a tool and not a lifestyle choice.
I never played with Barbie as a child and really didn't want my daughter to have a Barbie as I wasn't sure of Barbies image and the feelings that were provoked especially on body image. However, Barbies came into our lives via presents from family and friends. I remember being slightly shocked as were some of my friends when they produced a pregnant Barbie with a removal pregnant tummy which was held on by a magnet and indie there was a little baby (and I found the both in the Barbie box only the other day). A good friend once asked my daughter to bring some of Barbies to her house as she had made some clothes for Barbie to wear. The clothes were fantastic and very similar to red carpet designs with beautiful accessories. I asked my friend why she liked Barbie and she said she liked the head and arm movements and how you could positions her when dressed. Plus creating different hair styles, and with some of the dolls they could sit on a horse or motor bike and thus they are practical 'play' dolls with movement. My friend did not mention Barbies waist size or other features that are synonymous with her. This feedback changed my perspective and I no longer see her in a negative light. I see Barbie as a toy that made us all look at many things; positive and negative. When she was made (I think in the late fifties) many women stayed at home. However Barbie worked, travelled and had many hobbies and freedom and thus has showed (over the decades) the many roles women could have. In conclusion I feel Barbie is a positive role model.
What very interesting perspectives!
As a semi retired single Mum with 3 grown up children I can say that I never worried about the impact of Barbie or Sindy or indeed Action Man. My three children enjoyed playing with all these kinds of toys and never seemed to have any hang ups with the images these presented. Indeed, they seemed to have most fun when one Sindy or another and a hunky Action Man took off on long trips in one of the Action Man jeeps down the garden and into the bushes and up in the tree house. I do think that children use toys such as these to create their own scenarios and aren't directly influenced in later life. For instance, I adored all the Enid Blyton novels as a child but they didn't affect me other than to give me the the sense of joy and escapism that a book can give. If we don't read or access the rubbish, how can we ever become discerning readers or players?
Like with any toy, a lot here depends on the way Barbie is presented to a child - what does that influential adult think and say about Barbie? Does he or she admire her? Encourage the child to look like Barbie? Dress like Barbie? I don't think we can attach a label of a feminist or anti-feminist role model to a toy, as this can take us
to a completely different world of substituting concepts with objects. For example, we can argue that a
particular computer game is a war propaganda, or a
slice of cake is a symbol of obesity, etc. It all depends
on a specific scenario that allows application of a
concept to an object in a meaningful way. So in summary, I think Barbie can be used as both feminist and anti- feminist role model depending on how these concepts are interpreted and portrayed by certain individuals or groups within a society.
I played with barbies as a girl, alongside Cindy - the frumpier counterpart! (Hmmm, Cindy is a whole other issue - no perma tan there!) I can't say that I particularly recall wanting to 'be' like her ... I just liked dressing her up. I most certainly haven't grown into a Barbie doll kind of woman image wise. My daughter likes dolls but Barbie hasn't been her doll of choice. I've never thought about it really, but I know I don't see her an icon!
I had Sindy (not Barbie) who was much more 'British'. And Pippa. The thing for me that was incredibly creative was not the doll but the dressing of the doll, like others have said. I often made clothes for them both, swapped clothes with others, traded and built houses for her. Until I received a REAL Sindy house for Christmas. I saw it as an extension of my imagination; the same as the fairy houses living in crevices that I saw everywhere; or the sports cars adapted for her from Lego.
Now as a critically edged social scientist, I both hate all she represents and admire her fortitude. Perhaps an adult doll is marginally better that the baby dolls that preceded her, fixing women's roles even more firmly, as it allows more space for imagination.
But I hate the wave of domination of girlhood that she was the pinnacle of the most - a domination by sexualised pinkery. It is the closing off of play that most offends me, but it isn't just Barbie's fault. She's victim herself of something else I think.
Just another thing that I am not doing quite as well as i should!
I never had a Barbie so missed the fascination. I quite on purpose didn't buy my daughter one but knew that other people would! So she had a Barbie with all the trimmings and promptly never played with it. But I do worry about the image of hyper slim and glamorous as a role model for girls. My twelve year old talks about being overweight at age 12 and worries about her body shape. This makes me go cold and fret tremendously. I try and promote healthy practices in what we eat at home but must admit am on a permanent diet that I try and hide from her. Contradictions all the time.
I do bang on about feminism all the time to the extent to which my teenage sons roll their eyes. But I can hear in their language that this had had an influence on them for the better.
Hi ! I have to agree with Liana's comments here. It is about how the toy is presented to the child. Growing up I had similar dolls, whilst my sisters had Barbie dolls yet I don't recall us viewing the dolls as anything but that- a toy to play with . As I look at Barbie now as an adult though, I do think that she has the capacity to be viewed in many ways, and it is about how she is presented to children by adults that shape her identity as a feminist icon or not.
I marvel, though, at her resilience- irrespective of her 'identity' she smiles all of the time !
Can a woman not be slim, attractive, well groomed AND be intelligent, well travelled and a good role model??? My daughter never had a barbie but she had bratz dolls. These days a bratz doll can drive, ride a motorbike, join the army, work, have bratz babies, go to school....... I totally agree with the comments about how the doll is presented. In my opinion, I say 'go girl!!!!!'
As with so many toys, cartoons, videos etc I believe very often it is the parents that make and shape the child's initial views/perspectives of them. I constantly feel like I'm shaping my sons opinions of the world around him whilst also making sure he has his own views...a difficult balance. I have a niece who has huge issues regarding her own body image and this was not influenced by her parents but peers later on in life-we as parents cannot control and monitor our children viewpoints throughout life but can only guide them...it's a difficult job but someone has to do it! ;0)
Barbie - I had two as a child. The doll is ok if out of proportion! The aspiritis she created was something else. I found myself wondering (as I was on my allotment) why I never got a horse. What the f. Is that about?! It's about Barbie and her horse box! Do kids have an equivalent today? She was new. My mum didn't want to give me one but an aunt gave me one from S Africa. I think we also had one with darker skin? Did I imagine it?
I had 'Pippa' dolls, but the same thing - a way of educating little impressionable girls on how women should look, act, dress, behave etc. All accessories were geared towards how society saw the women's role. Obvious when we look back, but it certainly did the trick at the time - and had long lasting effects.