Come On Barbie, Let’s Go Party!

Drowning Barbie
Drowning Barbie

This year Barbie is having her 50th birthday, and while Mattel is rolling in profits, praise, and some continued criticism, I plan on remembering my own Barbie the last time I saw her-drowning in a pool when I was 10. OK, I know that sounds awful and violent, but seriously, when I was 10 years old I threw a pool party with my girlfriends that we called the “No Barbie Party.” It was that age when we decided that we were too old to be playing with dolls, though I’m sure some of us continued to dress her up in the secrecy of our own rooms. We celebrated and signified our coming of age and growing out of dolls with a ritual that involved taking all of our Barbies and drowning them in my pool.

So while Barbie is celebrating her birthday and women are wishing they could look like that at 50 (or any age), I have my own critiques, criticism and nostalgia about this unrealistic doll that in many ways served as a quasi-role model in my life once upon a time.

1950s versus 2006 Barbie
1950s versus 2006 Barbie

The Barbie doll has undergone many transformations over the years, mostly so she more closely resembles the ideal female in our society, and the fact that she has become an oversexualized, shopaholic, anorexic gold-digger worries me. What message are we sending about our ideals and values with this type of “idealized” image? What message are we subliminally sending to the young girls of today that look up to Barbie the way I once did?

Barbie dolls are made with unrealistic body proportions-oversized breasts, nonexistent waistlines, permanently pointed feet for their high heels, and yet lacking genitalia below the belt (all except for her younger sister, Skipper, who somehow still managed to maintain some girlhood innocence). I don’t remember consciously paying attention to Barbie’s body type when I was a kid (although, I did notice there were no private parts!), I just wanted her clothes, the lavish dresses, her pink convertible, and her mansion. It was my younger brother who liked to undress her and look at her plastic boobs. So while I managed to escape any potential body image problems, looking back, I can’t help but wonder what effect this naked image of the female body had on my brother-or men in general.

I recently asked some male friends what they thought and all their answers were along the lines of I wish I could find a woman that looked like that… if only she could be real. I was shocked!! There was no room for reason in their imaginary fantasy. Despite explaining that if Barbie were blown up to life-sized proportions she wouldn’t be able to walk, stand, or probably even sit up, the crude remarks thrown back in response were that a woman like that wouldn’t even have to stand up… I’ll leave you to ponder that one.

Some people think that the Barbie doll is a harmless toy, but in an era when girls are becoming sexualized too young, women and teenagers are diagnosed with eating disorders in increasing numbers, and plastic surgery has become a norm, it is naive to think that Barbie does not, at the very least, reflect these problem. I only hope that when people are rushing out to buy the 50th anniversary version of Barbie for their niece or daughter they understand that they’re not just purchasing a doll, they are buying a symbol and sending a message. Is this a message that any of us really want to send? You will have to decide.

Olivia's favorite t-shirt.
Olivia's favorite shirt. You can get it from our web site!

— Jaimie

8 thoughts on “Come On Barbie, Let’s Go Party!

    LOL @ “the fact that she has become an oversexualized, shopaholic, anorexic gold-digger worries me”

  2. Not trying to ruin your point, cause I totally agree with what your saying, just about the barbie doll. I’m a guy, and the barbie never had any addictive pull upon my mind. I’ve never been attracted to women who look fake, and barbie’s ultra thin waist is simply freakish, for one her waste is a cylinder, this is probably due to marketers finding it hard to create a doll which can stand adequate on a normal frame, it certainly isn’t attractive, as real “attractive” women have flat, athletic waists, which instead of resembling bolemia resemble health and a level of physical fitness. Her face is rather exotic but on the whole plain. In my opinion its just a cheap attempt at the market. Plus materialistic people sicken me… a lot.

  3. Oh, and I’ve only met one person who thought barbie was attractive, and I think he was joking.

  4. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for your comments and perspective. I agree with you that Barbie is not attractive and is freakish looking. I was not trying to make a cheap attempt at the market, nor do I believe that all men, or men in general, are affected by Barbie. However, this is a true story. The point I was making is that negative images about women effect both genders and that there are men who do view Barbie as a female ideal–I’m glad you’re not one of them. I do know men (the one’s I was quoting) who do view women solely as sexual objects and that would like a woman that is a cookie cutter image of the Barbie stereotype–blond hair, extra large fake breasts, super slim waists, with loads of facial plastic surgery. I hope this gives you (and other readers) a better understanding of my approach.

  5. Your article is great. Hopefully, that fella in West Virginia that is trying to ban barbies will actually succeed! AND he is a dude….that is what amazed me! It is my opinion that men say these things dont really matter to his wife, his daughter or his girlfriend, but steps away and the real man comes out!

  6. The drowning Barbies at a pool party, reminds me of my favorite lyrics from the song When I am Queen by the band Jack Off Jill:

    “When I am queen, I will make it drowning dollie day. And all the tears that we have cried, will suck back into our eyes.”

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