Monday, September 14, 2009

Barbie World

I am featured in a student documentary about Barbie dolls and their impact on young women. It's in two sections below - I'm mostly in the first half of the second section. For some reason as soon as I start talking about feminist issues all the cats in the neighbourhood show up - it's like they know that secretly I'm their leader...


Unknown said...

Interesting documentary!

What was slightly sad for me was the predictability of the kids' behaviour... all the girls dressed up in pretty dresses (mainly pink) waving Barbie around; the only critique ("She does nothing and so she should go in the bin!") coming from a boy. I would've loved to have seen a little girl say "I prefer action man" or SOMETHING along those lines at least. Sigh.

Perhaps the issue as to whether Barbie dolls damages little girls' self esteem comes from the emphasis placed on them... I had many Barbies as a kid in the 80s (I don't remember Doctor Barbie!) but I never thought they were supposed to be lifelike. They were just characters in my many games etc... but maybe some little girls get damaging messages from their parents/family/etc along the lines of "Isn't Barbie pretty - wouldn't you like to be like Barbie?" etc.

sian and crooked rib said...

amy - i agree! i couldn't believe all the girls in their princess dresses! the woman making the film concluded that barbie influence was minimal but then - the influence is there in the way they all wanted to dress like princesses.

i worked on a barbie game site in my last job and it drove me nuts., the game was to dress barbie up in a dress and design your dress for barbie. i agree with you kate that barbie was never about telling women it was ok to be a doctor, that was an afterthought to appease the rise in feminism. i wonder if you can get doctor barbie now?

altho i agreed with the woman from the priory that eating disorders are caused by a range of factors and cannot be pinned down to one media influence, i think we cannot ignore the prevailing cultural atmosphere that barbie style women = good and successful and aspirational, and the opposite of barbie, i.e. reality, is bad.
i'm not sure what the answer is tho.

Cruella said...

I totally agree that is very troubling but in fact I thought in terms of the documentary that was the most powerful scene. We'd heard women saying they weren't important and they were a small part of culture and they were just harmless fun and all that stuff and then BLAM you see the reaction of tiny tiny little girls to the subject and you realise that the influence Barbie has is massive. That's the moment I think when you realise what a big part of young kids culture Barbie is and how devastating her impact can be.

Cruella said...

oh and also of course eating disorders are caused by a range of things (i don't think i was ever trying to pin the whole problem on Barbie) but then all these cultural things are inter-linked: Barbie influences what goes on the catwalk and in magazines and on tv and all those things influence what Barbie does and it's all really a vicious circle. Barbie is a good starting point for change to me though because she's aimed at such young children who deserve to be protected, I feel that if we give young women a good start in life they will grow up to reject the other nonsense the media throws at them as they get older.

Anonymous said...

I have made a point of never buying my daughter Barbie. Aside from disliking the huge marketing ploy (buy the doll then buy the accessories - and keep buying until your wallet withers) I hated the way Barbie appeared to characterise women as blonde bimbos obsessed with clothes, shoes, plastic paraphernalia and being skinny.

At the same time I have been careful to never explicitly refuse my daughter a Barbie (not that she has ever asked for one). She is now eight and has only ever had two Barbies - both given to her for birthday presents by well meaning, heat-reading mums with party-princess daughters. Both Barbies languished at the bottom of her toy box for a few years before she decided to give them to charity - because, as she said: "I don't like plastic toys - they don't look real."

My daughter eats well, is healthy and has high self-esteem. Her Barbie loving friends seem neurotic by comparison - and many of them already seem to have weight problems (either too thin or going on obese).

I don't know if Barbie is a force for good or evil but I am glad I chose not to fall for the sales patter and parental peer-pressure.

Blessings for a simple life.

Father Ignatius Brown

Unknown said...

"I wonder if you can get doctor barbie now?"

Probably not... but I bet you can get 'Pole Dancing Barbie'... :( :(

This all reminds me of the 'Lisa vs Malibu Stacey' episode of the Simpsons. We clearly need a Lisa Lionheart or equivalent type doll! I've no idea what toys are around these days, not being a parent and all, but there must be some manufacturers out there who do non-sexist stuff... surely?

I suspect there's a bit of a peer pressure element exacerbating things, which must be frustrating for any parent wanting to avoid the influence of Barbie on their daughter...

sianandcrookedrib said...

hi kate - i know you weren't denying the multi faceted causes of eating disorders, sorry if i gave that impression!

amy - i'm not sure what toys are out there at the moment but last year with bristol feminist network i went around newsagents and we counted mags that had idealised images of women on them (we are doing it again this year) and the mags aimed at little girls were horrifying.
princess mags, disney princess mags, they were all pink and when you sat them next to the bridal magazines the styling was uncanny. whilst we stood looking at them my friend said "what do you do if you don't want to gt these for your children". this mother came up to us and she said it was impossible to buy anything alternative, all that was out there was these style magazines. it is terrifying!!

we are doing a special children's media section as part of the project this year to look at the way magazines, toys and tv appeal to and attracts a child audience. women's aid have also done some interesting work on chidlren's toys and socialisation.

i don't think it was as bad when i was little. i at least had horse magazines for kids that encouraged girls to be active!

Anonymous said...

Sian and Crooked Rib - you are so right about the dreadful, highly sexualised and commercialised magazines aimed at young children in general and girls in particular. (Great work by the way.)

I tried getting the National Geographic Kids magazine for my daughter (hoping it would be like the main magazine but more accessible) but stopped it after a few issues, outraged at the blatantly exploitative advertising.

There is only one magazine worth getting for children and that is Acquila (see - it is simply brilliant - a bit like the old "Look & Learn" (if you are old enough to remember that - as I am).

Intelligently written, challenging and engaging, and blissfully free from ads (save for the occasional book promotion). Acquila is well worth the subscription and is ideal for bright children aged 5-15.

There is always another alternative - it's called NO.

Blessings for a tat free future.

Father Ignatius Brown