Warning! Rant Following!
I hate Barbie. I realize how strong that word is and I really hate Barbie. I hate her tiny little high heels that end up lost and then mysteriously reappear, impaled into the bottom of my foot at 3am as I make my way to the bathroom. I hate her stupid pink convertible that has given my daughter ideas about what her first car is going to look like. And most of all I hate that ridiculous fake “sparkle” in her eyes that look like she’s knocked back one too many martinis. Look, here is a doll that is marketed to little girls who is freakishly, disproportionately perfect, wears clothing that I’m fairly certain people in certain professions wear to work, and spends her days lounging by the pool with boys at her “Dream House”. You may disagree with me, and that’s fine but I personally feel that my Suffragette Sisters of the late 19th century did not have Barbie in mind when they began the long fight for equality. I just have a real issue with indoctrinating little girls into the belief that the sum total of their worth should be based on beauty. And then we wonder why our teenaged girls have so many self-esteem issues…but I digress. Back to me…of course, much to my chagrin, my 8-year-old Coconut LOVES Barbie! Loves her clothes, her car, her house. So, the strong woman/mom in me rises up and decides that this is a perfect teaching moment.
The following events occurred between, oh pretty much the last 2 weeks of our lives and looks like it’s going to go on until the rapture. I decided instead of just lecturing her on desiring to be like Barbie, that I would instead gently show her examples of strong, beautiful, independent women in history that didn’t resort to skimpy clothes or a convertible. Women who bucked the system, refused to go along with everyone else and societal norms of their time, and made a huge impact. So although I wanted to sit her down and inform her that the path to be like Barbie could result in becoming a “kept” woman with 75% of her body becoming plastic, I did realize that 8 might be a little young to introduce that concept. Instead, I pulled out her kids bible. I had her read the stories of Ruth, of Esther, and Deborah. We talked about what made these women beautiful and powerful. Then I began to introduce her to the likes of Amelia Earhart, Sojourner Truth, Eleanor Roosevelt, Florence Nightingale. All my heroines! She poured over the stories. She began to regal me with the exploits of these amazing women from an 8-year-old prospective: Here is some of the most disturbing, I mean entertaining:
“Mom! Did you know that Florence Nightingale was called the Lady of the Lamp?” Me: “Honey, that’s the Lady WITH the lamp…huge difference!”
“Mom, mom…did you know Eleanor Roosevelt worked for Human Rights? Who worked for people like you mom?” Me, “what are you talking about??” Her: “You know, Human Lefts.” I finally figured that one out. I am left-handed. I guess we lefties need our own personal crusaders.
“Mom, it says here that Sojourner Truth was one of 10 or 12 kids. Which is it? 10 or 12? Surely her mom knew how many there were that came out of her….unless she lost count. Do you think she lost count Mom?
But what was so cool is that she seemed so genuinely interested! Buh Bye Barbie!! Suddenly images of her and I standing up for young women’s self-image issues, campaigning together on the importance of modesty, and advocating the gravity of education danced through my mind. I could see us now, the worlds greatest Mother and Daughter team, crusading for higher values. We would get capes made and matching outfits! That is until she informed me that Florence Nightingale could have gotten around much easier in Barbie’s convertible and then asked me to please print her off a Barbie picture to color. I was crushed!!!! I thought I was doing so well. I asked her if she was enjoying the stories we were reading. Her response? “Oh yes Mom! But Barbie has more fashionable clothes.”
I had been deflated. My heart was breaking. Until she walked into the room with that smile of hers that lights up the world, my nemesis in one hand, and reaching out the other, asked me if I wanted to play with her. I realized right then and there that I must be doing something right. She still wants to hang out with me. And as long as she wants to hang with me, I can be sure to put the meat in along with all the fluff the world wants to feed her. And that for now, at least, she still thinks I hung the moon and values what I think. As long as I’ll play Barbies with her. We might not have capes but we still make a good team. You’ll have to excuse me now, I’m off to fix Barbie’s hair for her date and be sure Ken is taking her to church.