Have you heard about Barbie’s latest make-over? The iconic doll is now available with a “tall,” “petite,” or “curvy” body. Of course, there’s controversy. But then Barbie’s stirred debate ever since her debut in 1959.
Can Barbie dolls with “more realistic bodies” be the solution to raising the next generation of girls without eating disorders? Will these new Barbie dolls make every girl believe she is beautiful? Sadly, I don’t think so. Barbie cannot single handedly change the relentless societal pressures girls and women grapple with every time they look in the mirror.
While I look nothing like Barbie, even as a child, I never compared myself to her. She was a doll. With pretty clothes. And that was it. Because in the beginning, it was all about the clothes – glamorous, couture creations in miniature, with matching high heels and clutch bags. By the time Barbie became an astronaut and a surgeon, I had outgrown dolls.
Back in the day, there was no such thing as a “playdate.” You just showed up at your friend’s house with your Barbie carrying case. Then you and your friends sat on the floor with the dolls, their clothes, and a myriad of tiny shoes, purses, hats and gloves scattered all around, and played for hours. When it was lunchtime, your friend’s mom would make grilled cheese sandwiches. It was the eight-year-olds’ version of girls’ night out.
Barbie showed me how to dress for any activity or occasion, and how to do so in a ladylike way. She inspired me to create elaborate stories. She taught me how to share, and how to get along with the other girls.
Decades ago, I packed away my Barbies, each doll carefully wrapped in tissue paper, every outfit meticulously matched with its accessories. This vintage collection might be valuable. But I would never sell it. Because it’s priceless to me.