*Originally posted in a forum for “American Pop Culture.”
Instead of going into this forum talking about how if a woman chooses this, or listens to that, or has an upbringing such as (fill in the blank) that lead to this, I will just tell the class a story about me. Generalities are all nice and fine but I think my perspective is telling of how I have developed my own identity as a female at the age of 45. When I was a small child, I began reading at the age of two years old. My parents instilled a love relationship with education and reading because they didn’t have a lot of money to spend on me in the early years. My Grandparents (I learned later) typically bought the Christmas, Birthday presents for me. What was interesting growing up as a child in the 1970’s and as a teen in the 1980’s is I was besieged with advertisements to look pretty, wear these Calvin Klein jeans (remember Brooke Shields?) or as a child, own a Barbie.
Interestingly enough, my Mother would absolutely not allow me to have a Barbie. Every year as a child I would beg my Mom to please buy me one but to no avail. Her reasoning was that she did not want her daughter to grow up thinking that these girly dolls lead to just being a “pretty face” i.e. Wife, Mother and that’s it. My Mom wanted me to have a career and to be successful. Hence the readings early on as a child, making me learn how to do things on my own at an early age. I would suppose because my Mom was a stay at home kind of gal. She had been brought up in the 1950’s mentality that you go to High School, get a Husband, and have babies.
I’ve read an article called “The Negative Effects of Barbie on Young Girls and the Long Term Results,” Barbie is blamed for body dysmorphic disorder causing teens and women to obtain the “ideal Barbie-doll body.” (Hoskins) Diana Crane points out in “Gender and Hegemony in Fashion Magazines: Women’s Interpretations of Fashion Photographs” ‘that media images of women are always directed at men and that women are encouraged to look at themselves and other women the way men do.’ (Crane, 1999) Again, Barbie had the perfect life, beauty and clothes which I believe my Mother wanted me to avoid. Of course, not have a perfect life because that does not exist, but not to mold my mind to what advertising culture says that women should do and wear. What I found fascinating in Michael A. Messner’s journal “Barbie Girls versus Sea Monsters: Children Constructing Gender” is the reference of the ‘Adult Divisions of Labor and Power:’ that it seems “rational for adult men to serve in positions of knowledgeable authority, with women serving in a support capacity.” Hence “Structure” is the current practice. (Messner, 2000 ) Maybe this is what my Mother wanted me to avoid all along, following along the path of women who are assigned roles based on their gender instead of creating their own self.
I was a Wife (for a period of time) and a Mother (all the time) without the assistance of having a Barbie doll. However, I will tell you that I was much more in tuned to things that were important as a child and teen such as reading, writing and a solid education than trying to impress men or making sure that I looked ‘perfect’ in school. So the Barbie Ban probably worked after all.
Crane, D. (1999). Gender and Hegemony in Fashion Magazines: Women’s Interpretation of Fashion Photographs. The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 40. No. 4, 541-563.
Hoskins, S. (n.d.). The Negative Effects of Barbie on Young Girls an the Long Term Results. Retrieved from Divine Caroline: http://www.divinecaroline.com/life-etc/momhood/negative-effects-barbie-young-girls-long-term-results
Messner, M. (2000 ). Barbie Girls verses Sea Monsters: Children Constructing Gender . Gender and Society, Vol. 14 No. 6, 765-784.