Rant: Barbie’s Not So Bad


playing barbies isn't so bad

One little doll, lots of drama.

With her feet permanently shaped for the highest of heels and her not-so-realistic dimensions, Barbie has stirred up a boat load of controversy over the years. But I’ve gotta say, the girl’s not so bad.

My older sister and I didn’t just play with Barbies–we were pretty obsessed with them. I had all the members of her awesome ’80s rock band (and listened to their tape until it wore out!), wore Barbie lip gloss, colored in Barbie coloring books, and even skinned my knees in Barbie roller skates. And you know what I turned out to be? A healthy feminist who doesn’t hate her body.

Does My Little Pony make real ponies feel ugly? Probably not.

Of course Barbie doesn’t look anything like a real woman, but why is that such a big deal? My Little Ponies don’t exactly look like ponies, Care Bears bear zero resemblance to actual grizzlies, and even other “people” dolls, like Strawberry Shortcake, have totally bizarre proportions that would be impossible to attain in real life.

The reason why I think all of that is totally fine is that when you’re a kid, play time is about using your imagination. Children don’t take things as seriously as you or I do, and definitely not as seriously as some of my Women’s Studies professors did! They know that their dolls and stuffed animals look different than their “real world” counterparts (they’re not stupid, after all!), and that’s what makes it fun.

I love that little girls can invite bears, bunnies, and yes Barbies, to tea parties in their bedrooms. It would be a really sad world if creativity and imagination were stolen from children–if they were forced to only have dolls that looked “real” and did “real” things, like studying late into the night or getting cavities filled at the dentist (ouch!).

Barbie had to study astronomy and physics to get this gig!

Plus, in some ways, Barbie is a fantastic role model. During her lifetime, she’s held 125 careers, including a doctor, an astronaut (you’ve got to be smart to go into space!), and a U.S. Army Officer. This girl has goals and she goes for them! Also? Barbie, unlike some other dolls, teaches girls about friendship and being cool to each other. I can’t recall a single Barbie doll or accessory that ever encouraged girls to be bitchy or look down on other people.

Yes, eating disorders are a huge problem. I have friends who’ve suffered through them, and I’ve seen just how devastating they can be–but let’s not blame a nearly 12-inch, not-so-realistic doll here (Strawberry Shortcake’s giant head and teeny body are even more unrealistic, if you ask me!).

Barbie has very little to do with how she sees herself.

Parents, teachers, and mentors have more influence over how a girl views her body than a plastic toy does. When we constantly tell little girls they’re pretty or comment on how they look–which happens all the time!–it teaches them to focus on their appearance first, because they think that’s what people care about most.

So instead of burning Barbie, let’s take a little responsibility here and start telling girls how smart, funny, and strong they are–and then let them go back to playing Barbie on Mars like they wanted to in the first place.

What do you think about Barbie? Did you play with Barbie dolls when you were little? Tell us everything in comments!

Click here to see the tattooed Barbie that came out this year. I think she’s amazing!


Posted in: Being Yourself, Body Image, Spotlight On, Uncategorized, Your Life
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  • Ashley

    I have TONS of Barbies (and Bratz too) and personally I think there’s nothing wrong with them. At seventeen I have no body issues beside the monthly ‘ugg I feel chumby…’ I also don’t really think Barbie is racist, cause my favorite barbie was the Bernette and the asain (and Sasha). I was never upset I didn’t get ‘blonde barbie’ I wanted the one dress like an Indain Sari or Cleopatra. I think the parents are a WAAYYY bigger influence, I remember taking Barbie on hikes with my mom and reading ‘Barbie goes to space’ books. Basically what I’m trying to say is Barbie CAN be a bad influence, but so can tv, books, and most of all PARENTS. Let them play with Barbies, but play with them so you can teach them what you want them to learn.

  • Twouty

    I am 10 and I love barbie and will never stop. Most of my friends hate barbie and I have to hide away a secret which I hate doing since they are my friends. I think that your speak was touching if only my friends were here.

  • luvmartie

    when i was little i was obsessed with barbies. i still love them but im more into american girl now

  • Tyree

    I never played with Barbies when i was younger Bratz were me and my sister’s thing :)

  • TheMusicNerd

    I played with Barbies all through my childhood, in fact I’m seventeen years old, and me and my friend, who’s eightteen going on nineteen, got hers down the other day and had fun dressing them up and playing with their hair. Neither my friend nor myself have body issues and we have VERY different body types, while she’s tall and slim with hardly and curves, I’m short, thicker than most and rather curvy. We both love our selves enough to know our out ward appearances are only a fraction of who we are. I wish more girls knew that beauty is confidence and vice versa. I guess what I’m trying to say is this, playing with dolls as a child has nothing to do with how you view yourself as a person. If your entire life all you’ve heard about is what you or other girls look like then you’re going to only think about what you look like. If anything putting this huge emphasis on Barbie’s appearance is more damaging than if they’d just let the girls play.

  • EmoGirlsRule!

    Some girls just get the wrong idea and think there bodies should be like hers. Just cause you find it ridiculous doesn’t make it not true!!!!!!!

  • CaseyGurlEH9494

    THANK YOU!!!!! I’d play with Barbies right now if they weren’t in the attic (thanks, Mommy)

  • beccahh

    i had an obsession with them,and i have alot of confidence now at 14. i still love barbie=’)