I have a confession. And once again, it’s going to kick me out of the feminist club. (I get kicked out of there a lot, don’t I?)

Barbie doesn’t bother me.

She never has.

I agree her proportions are totally ridiculous. I agree she’s not normal. Her tits are too big. Her waist is too small.

But here is my big secret:

None of that EVER occurred to me as a young girl. Not once.

She was simply a doll. And I got her naked and cut her hair and took her head off.

I write all of this because my uber-conservative sister-in-law just wrote me to ask that I not send my niece any “Barbies, Ariels, Belle’s, or Mulans” for her upcoming birthday. She says it’s “because of the message they send.”

The Disney girls all pissed off their parents. Barbie…I dunno??? She has a career??? She dumped Ken-who had no dick anyway??

My question is this…are we over analyzing everything these days? I certainly don’t want my daughter growing up with any body issues. And I don’t want to contribute to them with a super skinny, big boobed barbie doll.

But…is it really just a doll, and are the only ones noticing the tits and waist us???

I’m at BlogHer today!


  1. I dislike Barbies because I have ALWAYS not liked them. I think I had 2, and I cut off their hair, and never played with them ever again. I hated putting clothes on them and off again, and playing with makeup. I was a my little pony, strawberry shortcake, rainbow brite, and cabbage patch kid kinda gal. Of course I only owned 1 cabbage patch kid.

    As for my girls, well, I don’t care too badly, so long as they aren’t just into it to dress them up. Which they aren’t. I usually buy them Disney Barbies, though, just because.

  2. This topic always interests me.

    I had a variety of Barbies (my favorite being Western Barbie who blinked her blue shadowed eye when you pressed the large button on her back) – I knew she was beautiful but I never took it be a reflection of how I was *suppose* to look.

    When my son was 7 or 8, he asked for Rock and Roll Barbie – I had bought him a couple of dolls in the past, and loved the way he “daddy’d” them. When I found R&R Barbie on the store shelf, I knew why he wanted her – she was in a short skirt and thigh-high boots. She was hot.

    It wasn’t long before I started finding Barbie without her clothes on. I would re-dress her time and time again only to find her skirt in the back of the closet, a long legged boot behind the door….

    One day, my son had some friends over to play. An older boy, about 10, came across the hot Barbie. “What’s THIS?!” I heard him exclaim just as I was walking by the room. I peeked in and saw he was holding the semi-nude doll above his head, his faced poised, ready to make the most humiliating comment ever when I interrupted. “Oh no”, I said, “Your cousin Amanda is going to be upset that she left that here.”

    To this day, my son has never appeared so grateful as he did that day. His little eyes full of relief that mom had saved him. He came to me that evening, after the kids had left, and told me to get rid of the doll.

  3. I’m with Ann – always hated Barbies. Not sure exactly why. I think it was because I preferred soft things like rag dolls. Someone gave me a Barbie for my 5th birthday and I said, in front of my whole birthday party and their mothers, “But Mommy, I don’t *like* Barbies!” She shushed me and we moved on… hee hee.

    But I think you’re probably right, it’s just the adults who have the issues with the body stuff. Maybe kids can have that too IF THEY ALREADY HAVE BODY ISSUES from their parents (or whoever). But I seriously doubt the doll brings it on all by herself.

    The only plastic doll I ever liked was Skipper, because you could make her go through puberty – remember Skipper? Arms around one way, she’s a flat-chested, prepubescent. Arms around the other way – Look, she’s got boobs! Loved it. ha ha!

  4. A doll is a doll. Nothing more. If you wanna have self-esteem issues based on a plastic toy, that’s your business.

  5. I used to have fun taping barbie and GI Joe to bottle rockets and launching them into space…

    Anyway, I’ve never had a problem with barbie, I agree with Leon.

    Personally I’ve always wondered about the mental health of someone that could feel threatened by the proportions of a plastic doll. People like that need to get out more and get a life. There’s enough out there to worry about without inventing stupid shit like that.

    How about teaching our kids to accept themselves REGARDLESS of what size they are or the color of their hair? Isn’t that more important?

  6. I had dozens of Barbies as a child, and I plan on letting Ella play with them as well. Although I don’t agree with the way she looks, I don’t think I want to pass on my paranoia and insecurity to my child. She’ll have enough issues of her own to deal with.

  7. I’m gonna say I have to agree with you- a doll is a doll. I had TONS of barbies, played with them constantly, and never wondered why her tits were huge and her waist so small. All I cared about was making her and Ken hang out in thier hot tub or the dreamhouse. I agree that her proportions are completely unattainable, but that’s an adult’s perspective on the thing. A little girl isn’t looking at a piece of plastic and thinking, “Gee, I hope my boobs are that big when I get older.” If a girl has body issues, it comes from other places- not from a friggin doll. So- yes, a doll is just a doll.

  8. It’s funny, but no one ever mentions the completely unrealistic body proportions of male dolls…er, “action figures”. You’d figure if one caused issues the other would, too.

  9. I loved playing with Barbies. My children (both male and female) can play with Barbie and Ken if they want to.

    That being said, I have horrible body image problems.

    I don’t know if there is a connection or not.

  10. It’s a barbie and princess world. My daughter has tons of them, and so far has great self esteem. I think self esteem comes from a variety of issues and is not determined solely by whether or not you play with barbie dolls.

    Enjoyed reading your site!

  11. My daughter had Barbies AND the Disney girlie dolls. I grew up with Barbie and I don’t have a body image problem. I also grew up playing with trucks in the dirt and climbing trees…some might say that would turn a little girl into the “butch” type.

    The problem isn’t really with the toys…it’s with society wanting to be pessimistic about everything. Chill people.

  12. I had plenty of Barbie dolls growing up. Plenty of baseball bats, too.

    You know what I’d like to see? A doll that looks like me with a pair of hips and a badonkadonk (much revered in my culture – thank GOD) and is STILL attractive. Apparently, I don’t have body images and am relatively comfortable being 50 pounds overweight. That is NOT an exaggeration.

    Well, having said that, now I am having some body image issues. I’m gonna take a bat to my old Barbie dolls.

  13. While I’ve never had any problem with Barbie, I also never played with them either. I think it had more to do with the fact that I hate the eye-searing pink color that is on every. single. thing. of hers.

    We currently have two Barbies for Cordy: one is the Irish Princess barbie (I really wanted that one, because she’s just pretty). The other is the Secret Spells Barbie, because it lasted on the shelves for about a week before Wal-Mart got complaints and removed it. Can’t have Barbie promoting witchcraft, can we?

  14. I used to blow up my Barbies with firecrackers.

    (Andria you rock)

  15. I always liked Barbie. When I was a kid, I could never get enough of her.

    I think your relative is silly. All she’s going to do is allienate her daughter because her daughter can’t have everything her friends do.

    I say you head over to White Trash Palace and send her daughter a Turleen doll.

    Cut and paste, I can’t figure out the link. 😉

  16. I laughed because that is stupid. It’s a doll. IT IS A DOLL. I have a tip. TALK TO YOUR KID. Your kid and all the other kids are going to see crap and images EVERYWHERE. If you talk to your kid, then, well they”ll know Barbie is not the norm. LOL.

  17. I am very sure that my sister-in-law plans on sheltering her children from all of those evil (hahaha) things until they are “firm” in their (parents) faith.

  18. Amen, sistah.

    I had Barbies – and all the trimmings (bubble bath, swimming pool, car, etc). I never once thought about the size of her boobs or waist.

    I also did a bit of hair cutting/coloring. 🙂

  19. KAISER, great point. Never thought about that. It’s true, you never hear anyone mention the unrealistic male dolls. But if they did, they’d have to say the words “nonexistant penis” out loud together. ha ha!

    MOCHA, I’m dying to know what a “badonkadonk” is.

    QUEEN, sigh… I’m tellin’ you (although I know you don’t need to be told this), keep the door open for that poor girl if (hopefully WHEN) she gets ahold of her own brain and life.

  20. We wouldn’t let our oldest daughter have a Barbie until she was about 5. Not because we have feminism issues with Barbie. We just wanted her to be able to keep Barbie’s clothes on.

    But by the time our second girl came around she was already playing with sis’ Barbies, so we had to give up. Barbies gallore around here.

  21. Oh yeah, I forgot to ask – what message does you-know-who think that Mulan sends? She’s like the only strong female Disney character there is! Is it simply that she disobeyed her parents? Or does she send a cross-dressing message? Maybe both of those? And the fact that she saved her country and was based on a real person only makes it worse? I’m so curious.

  22. I’m a feminist mom who is raising two feminist daughters and I will allow them to play with Barbie dolls. I will not let them watch Disney movies, though will expose them to the characters through my own evil design. I actually think that you should teach that ALL body types should be respected and valued. I will allow my daughter to play will barbie, just as I will allow her to talk to the lady who lives two houses down and has breast implants.

    And you are correct, Barbie is just a doll. There are bigger issues than Barbie to tackle. Send her over to me and I’ll be happy to speak to her about where she can put her energy! Smirk!

  23. I was so pleased to read this post, since its an issue that just resurfaced recently with a friend. I just got thinking- since when did we try to look like the cabbage patch kids, or the smurfs? Honestly- Barbie is just a big boobed doll with fancy pretend outfits!

  24. For those of you that don’t allow Disney and/or Barbie-or anything else for that matter…I’d love to know why.

    VV-I didn’t ask. I assume it’s because she disobeys her parents, and you know…God hates that.

  25. barbies in my house always ended up with punk makeup and mohawks.

    i think the damaging image of barbie can be easily countered with an occasional chuckling, “that barbie! her body is shaped so funny. real pretty girls are shaped like you” from mom…

    that’s what i got.

  26. Kristen:
    A little girl isn’t looking at a piece of plastic and thinking, “Gee, I hope my boobs are that big when I get older.”

    “And I hope my nipples disappear.”

    Once, when my little sister and her friend were playing with a dollhouse, I picked up a naked Ken doll and invaded the dollhouse with it. Affecting a deep, manly voice, I said, “Hi, I’m Naked Ken. How’s it going?” The girls shouted, “Eew, go away, Naked Ken!”

    Your Majesty, since you’re willing to challenge feminist dogma, I wonder if you have any additional thoughts on the issue of male reproductive choice that I brought up a while back. (See also my own blog post on the subject.)

  27. Almost all of my doll-related ire is reserved for the abomination, the true evil, that is the entire “BRATZ” line.

    I don’t think I need to say more.

  28. I love Barbie. I recently purchased for myself the Barbie Plane from the 70s.
    I believe as an intelligent Post-Feminist everyone should embrace my choice to enjoy toys that promote silly girlisms.
    And yes, the Bratz dolls seem to promote poor makeup choices. There is just enough of that already in the world, we didn’t need dolls for it.

  29. Good observation Queen. Sometimes the parents of today have taken a good idea and gone too done far with it. Fantasy play is healthy and creative. And you’re right, girls don’t see the proportions. I think that I sort of thought of her as a grown-up that i could control(Let’s see what you’re going to wear today!)and live through her (I have to go to the office today), etc.

  30. … too DARN far not too “done” far (I live in NW Ontario Canada for heaven’s sake – not the deep south!)

  31. Belinda beat me to it on “Bratz” dolls. They are the skankiest things I have ever seen and are totally forbidden in my house.

    My older daughter always wanted Barbies for Christmas and never played with them–she prefers “huggable” toys–but her younger sister plays Barbies. I have even given her some of my old beloved dolls.

    What REALLY bugs me is that “Bratz” were touted as dolls for school age girls because Barbies are now seen as “little kids” toys. I remember playing with my dolls well into 4th or 5th grade openly, and MUCH later in private. But now they’re being sold to 3 and 4 year olds. What’s next–newborn Barbie?

  32. I’m reading through a few of your posts because 1. they are often pretty funny, and 2. I like seeing what other women are doing out there. On this Barbie post. Is this not very much like your later post about throwing the tank away sending the note to the family members making sure tanks for your son stay off limits? On Barbie you wrote “I write all of this because my uber-conservative sister-in-law just wrote me to ask that I not send my niece any “Barbies, Ariels, Belle’s, or Mulans” for her upcoming birthday. She says it’s “because of the message they send.” And on the tank you wrote “I realize this may seem a bit extreme to some of you. And I know you may not agree. But I just really don’t want that kind of “War” toy around here. I don’t like the message it sends….Why on earth would anyone find that acceptable???”. Some moms may feel letting their little girls see huge boobs and a 2 inch waist all their childhood is unacceptable for future potential body image issues. Just wondering. It seems like a contradiction. For your SIL, she may not like the “message” the Barbie sends. No biggie. You don’t have a problem with it. But you say “My question is this…are we over analyzing everything these days? I certainly don’t want my daughter growing up with any body issues. And I don’t want to contribute to them with a super skinny, big boobed barbie doll. But…is it really just a doll, and are the only ones noticing the tits and waist us??”

    On the tanks, couldn’t it be really the same? No little boy’s really envisioning blowing the guts out of a war enemy, or a beheaded little sister, but just the cool shape, and the pretend bang bang it could make in his imagination? Just like you find this play unacceptable, I guess your SIL finds the potential body image of Barbie unacceptable.

  33. Most were exposed to the same rugged treatment as my GI Joes. They were exposed to rain, snow, dirt, and dust. As I grew older, I made sure that the collector editions were taken care of better. Having no sisters, it was not acceptable behavior. The perception that some how a plastic toy would decrease my masculinity; cause gender confusion; or create homosexual tendencies was very evident in my parents and siblings thinking. However, this was unfounded on the fact that I being an individual with a strong sense of self would never be unable to differentiate the fantasy of a toy with the reality in which I exist. All toys are inferior to the real things. Toys only allow us to dream. Our actions determine what we will become. The shopping and accessories associated with how girls play with their dolls was not a part of my childhood. However, I did learn why it takes some females longer to get ready for dates, appointments, and so on. Therefore, I knew how to allow extra time for my dates to get ready to go out. There was no stress about how long it had taken because I understood the preparation needed for them to get dressed. For some reason, my sibblings expect me to be ashamed or embarrassed about having dolls from a preteen until now. The truth is that I am not. Nobody controls me like some puppet on a string. If you don’t like it, then get over it. Telling little girls that action figures; toy cars or trucks; robots; or lego type toys are only for boys denies their indviduality and limits their creativity. I enjoy my toy diecast collection of ships and planes though in reality I cannot swim nor fly because of my fear of extreme heights. One has no bearing on the other. Though I have action figures with their extreme muscular bodies, that could never be attained by me in reality. So I do not waste my life trying to be like them. People can either accept me or reject me. That is their problem and not mine. Being healthy is more important than being popular for me. I have seen some really attractive people at funeral homes. They were dying to be popular. I never thought Ken was better than my GI Joe. Ken just seemed too wimpy. However, I dont hold that standard to real guys because they are not made of plastic. Because of Barbies, I am more independant, stubborn, determined, and understanding. This would not have been the case had I not permitted the toy to influence me in this way. NO TOY has that power unless you willing allow it.

  34. First of all, I liked what you wrote. Barbie “is a TOY! A child’s plaything” ( this was said by tim allen in toy story) Throughout my childhood my barbies were placed on ceiling fans and spun around, dropped in pools, tossed on the garage roof, many, many times. One barbie was left in a tree for an entire winter, and when I found her, in the summer, she was still intact. Barbie isn’t a realistic representation of a human being, because she isn’t one. Her hair doesn’t grow back when you cut it, she doesn’t need to eat, sleep, or do anything. She doesn’t cry when you drop her, bleed when broken, get older or change, unless the kid playing with her changes her. Toys are there to be played with, not be realistic . Young children have real role models, moms, dads, grandparents, friends, neighbors, teachers, etc. Most kids don’t see Barbie as a role model, but a toy.

  35. The problem isn’t really with the toys…it’s with society wanting to be pessimistic about everything. Chill people. A doll is a doll. Nothing more. If you wanna have self-esteem issues based on a plastic toy, that’s your business.

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