February 12, 2014

Barbie Dolls It Up

The New York Times: Barbie’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Causes a Stir Online

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue
My oldest sister had a Barbie doll. She and the next sister sewed fashionable clothes for it. By the time another sister and I came along, Barbie looked like she had passed out in a ditch on her way home one morning.

Our youngest is a girl. When she started school, she asked for a Barbie. And kept asking. I counseled that real women do not look or act like Barbie. My daughter, nonetheless, said she wanted one for playing with her Barbied girlfriends.

Conveniently, Target dedicated an entire aisle to Barbie and her accouterments. My daughter carefully studied each version - model, party girl, celebrity, party girl, model, and on the bottom shelf in back, doctor in a fitted lab coat. I scanned the packaging, wondering how many twist-ties were used to strap down each doll onto cardboard. (Answer: enough to make you feel good or bad, depending.)

Finally, my daughter selected a black Barbie with long, shiny, black hair. Being white, living in a predominantly white suburb, it never crossed my mind that she’d want a black doll. Turns out she put some thought into stirring the pot at play dates and elsewhere. For the duration of this doll’s stay, we/she got the look from every shade of cashiers, fellow shoppers, play mate mothers, and strangers on the street: “You DO know that’s a black Barbie*, right?” As if we didn't know or realize she was playing with the wrong doll.

* To the best of my knowledge, Mattel has never produced a non-white doll named Barbie. Instead, they sell dolls of color to function as her posse.