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Friday, December 12th, 2014
These days, it seems like Barbie just can’t catch a break. From showing up on the cover of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue to the recent controversy with the illustrated book, Barbie I Can Be a Computer Engineer that was all over the Internet recently, as someone who grew up adoring the doll, I’ve been disappointed to say the least.
If you haven’t heard, the book, which was originally published in 2010, was thrust into limelight when author Pamela Ribon wrote a post on her blog about finding it at a friend’s house.
At first, the book’s premise sounds great. Barbie has officially entered the 21st century and is creating a computer game for school. Cool!
Unfortunately, the book’s plot quickly takes a turn for the worse. You can read more about all of it here. The line that got to me (and I think many other women too) most was when Barbie decides that rather than learning the information she needs on her own, this happens: ” ‘It will go faster if Brian and I help,’ offers Steven.’Great!’ says Barbie.”
As a girl who both grew up playing with Barbies and studied informatics in college, and also once had an assignment to create a computer game just like Barbie did in the book, this was just embarrassing. Yes, learning to code is challenging. But that doesn’t mean you can just drop your whole assignment on someone else!
Fortunately, Mattel has since pulled the book and made a public apology for the book’s contents. The book’s author has also spoken out. “Maybe I should have made one of those programmers a female – I wish I did,” the book’s author Susan Marenco told ABC News. “If I was on deadline, it’s possible stuff slipped out or I quietly abided by Mattel without questioning it. Maybe I should have pushed back, and I usually I do, but I didn’t this time.”
Despite much of the controversy though, growing up I’m thankful for all of the creative play time I had with my Barbies and believe that time was truly well spent developing my own imagination. The thing that I loved most about my Barbie dolls was that I could shape their stories into whatever I wanted. I had no interest in following the story lines set by the paper boxes my dolls came wrapped in. I had dolls that were doctors, small business owners and high-powered executives (and actors and models and fashion designers).
As parents, it’s always important to observe what kinds of messages our daughters receive — from books, movies, TV, whatever. No reason to hate on Barbie all together! After all, even without Barbie, just about a decade after my obsession with the doll waned, I registered for my first computer coding class.
Image: Little girl and her doll via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
For the record, I was obsessed with Barbie dolls as a little girl. My mom still has bins and bins and bins of my old Barbies and Barbie-related accessories in our basement, half for sentimentality and half for the times my younger cousins need a distraction during long family events. Even if they weren’t Barbies, if there was a figurine that I could manipulate into an unnatural gymnastics pose, or dress up in shiny velcro outfits, or give an impromptu “hair makeover” to, I most likely owned it.
And like most young girls, I used to have major self-esteem issues when it came to my body. I didn’t (and still don’t) have stick-thin legs with a gap in-between, I most definitely didn’t have bright blonde hair (I’m more of a mousey, stale chocolate brown), and my skin isn’t creamy, tan, and flaw-free like Barbie’s. But as a child, this wasn’t something that consciously ran through my mind—I just stuck with the fact that I would forever be a pudgy girl with crooked fringe, gapped teeth, and bruised knees—and I continued to play with a doll that had warped proportions.
Luckily, some have opted to change the toy-doll landscape for the better; enter Lammily, a doll that touts the slogan “Average is Beautiful.” The doll made waves in March when she was first conceptualized and introduced by her creator, artist Nickolay Lamm. Lamm’s goal was to create a toy that utilized the proportions of an average 19-year-old woman so that boys and girls alike would have something to play with that actually looks like a normal girl.
Plus, Lammily can be customized with stickers that feature freckles, scars, tattoos, bruises, and other marks of the real, honest-to-goodness side effects of adolescence. Some of the stickers included, such as acne and stretch marks, aren’t pretty, but they’re authentic—which is exactly the point of the Lammily doll in the first place. She looks like a sister, a friend, a classmate, your babysitter; she can look athletic, bruised, eclectic, or artsy. What’s more, her flexible limbs bend in ways that allow her to do things normal Barbies can’t.
Although some think that the Lammily doll won’t make much change, I wish that I would have at least had the option to choose a doll that wasn’t a total reflection of the extreme physical standards girls constantly face. “It’s just a plastic toy, it doesn’t make girls have self-esteem issues!” is a common echo across the comment sections of articles about Lammily, and true, it is just a doll. But the point is that now children have options for how they play and what they play with.
When given the choice, kids maybe won’t always jump at the politically correct toys, but at least now they have the freedom to choose at all. The new market for toys that empower girls, like GoldieBlox, is an exciting prospect. I’m hopeful that Lammily will take off (seeing as she already has over 22,000 preorders in place, it’s a good bet) and continue to evolve with even more dolls in all shapes, colors, ethnicities, and sizes.
As an experiment, a group of second-graders were given a Lammily doll to examine and review. The results? Overwhelmingly positive. See for yourself below.
Image of girl holding doll via Shutterstock
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Barbie, body image, Brooke Bunce, dolls, fashion dolls, goldieBlox, Lammily, Nickolay Lamm, self-esteem, toys | Categories:
Big Kids, The Parents Perspective
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014
Barbie is adding a new hobby to her resume: she’s joining the Girl Scouts. As the dolls roll out in stores this week, real life scouts can also earn a Barbie “Be anything, do everything” participation patch—the first time Girl Scouts has ever worked together with a corporate sponsor. And as you can expect, some consumer groups are upset about the partnership, saying that putting the unrealistically perfect Barbie in the wholesome uniform sends a bad message.
“Barbie is basically a terrible role model for girls, and she’s not about what the Girl Scouts’ principles are, which have to do with leadership and courage,” Susan Linn, a psychologist and direct of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, told Today.
Both the Girl Scouts and Mattel stand by the new doll, saying that Barbie inspires young imaginations and encourages girls to follow their dreams. In fact, earlier this year, Mattel released Entrepreneur Barbie, and in the past, the doll has been everything from a presidential candidate to a firefighter. It seems only natural that she would don a green patch-covered vest eventually.
Yet the debate continues.
If the Girl Scouts feel the new doll fits their ideals, why can’t that be good enough for everyone else? As a child, I played with Barbie dolls often. I wasn’t looking for a role model; I simply saw it as a chance to invent new characters and stories with my sister. The toys allowed our imaginations to bloom. (We were both Girl Scouts at the time, and I’m sure we would have loved to dress our dolls like us.)
As for the little ones who aren’t involved in a scouting program, this new doll will raise awareness about the organization. If it encourages youngsters to check out the Girl Scouts and learn more about leadership and courage, then really, what’s the harm?
That’s not to say that none of the concerns are legitimate. I do understand the worries about shoving product placement in front of young children, and sure, I’ve never seen such a stylish Girl Scout uniform in real life. But let’s face it: little girls are going to continue playing with Barbie dolls. If my 5-year-old niece develops an interest in becoming a Daisy Scout after picking up one of these toys, I’d say the good far outweighs the bad here.
Tell us: would you buy a Girl Scout Barbie doll?
What career will your child have?
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