Since Maus first became aware of Barbie, she has known that her mother will not have Barbie in the home. At some point last year Barbie appeared at her grandparents house, and Maus is able to play with her there, but she doesn’t come home. We had Barbie under control I thought, the Barbie-boundaries were drawn. What I hadn’t counted on was that the Barbie pervasiveness of marketing towards little girls would work away at my daughter and would subsequently culminate in tears in her eyes as she showed me the Barbies in the consignment shop and asked why she couldn’t have a Barbie. I was not feeling a star mother as we headed on to the grocery store afterwards, and although she seemed to forget about the whole thing fairly quickly, it stayed with me. Why was I so against Barbie? I had a couple of Barbies as a child, handed down from our babysitter I think. I don’t think they made the move from Germany with us though when I was 8 and my sister was 6, I suppose Barbie never stood a chance against the He-Man action figures we also had…
But the Barbie of the early 80’s isn’t quite the glitzy Barbie of today. And I am fairly certain that when I was Mausi’s age there was no such thing as Barbie underwear for little girls. This article sums up the Barbie dilemma quite succinctly, and this one is also quite good. In fact, a google search will show that I am hardly alone in wanting to keep Barbie at bay. The first article had referenced the Lottie doll as a suitable replacement for Barbie, and I had in fact come across her a year or so ago when looking for possible substitutions. Unlike Barbie’s dimensions, that are physically impossible for a healthy woman to achieve, let alone something I want my 5 year-old daughter to internalize, Lottie’s body proportions are those of a 9 year-old girl. And what is more, Lottie can stand on her own 2 feet, an ability that Barbie seems not to have mastered just yet. When I noticed that Lottie had a small series of ‘STEM’ (science, technology, engineering and math) inspired dolls, I was suitably impressed. Although, to be honest, I am not sure that ‘butterfly protector’ Lottie is outfitted well for field ecology. But she does have rubber boots, and that has to count for something! Of course when I showed Maus the Lottie selections she thought she might like the ‘snow princess’ doll best, I find that that is a battle not worth fighting. I would be fine having the sparkly snow princess Lottie doll in the house.
To answer my daughter’s question of why. I’m not sure I yet have an answer that a 5 year-old could grasp. That I think Barbie is a useless role model, that I want more for my daughter than the superficial desire of cheaply made brand-names, and that I feel that Barbie represents the over-sexualization of young girls, are all topics that are perhaps a little above where we are in our heart-to-heart discussions. How do you explain these things to little ones? Or maybe I should just leave it at mum doesn’t approve of Barbie, and that we don’t play with Barbies in our house.
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