The other woman
The other woman By Alison van Diggelen A tall blond recently moved into our house. She has long legs, rock-hard abs and a plunging cleavage that she frequently displays. Occasionally she goes completely naked around the house. Some mornings, she even appears in our bed. Needless to say, my husband was delighted by her arrival. He said, “I’d no idea she was so sexy.” Yes, our house became home to Ballet Barbie this year. Barbie was top of my three year-old daughter’s wish list for her birthday. Barbie is now part of Tanera’s arsenal of dolls and, I may add, it has not produced a marked change in her self-esteem, personality or aspirations. Tanera still appears to want to become CEO of a fortune 500 Company, or else President of the United States. For some, Barbie seems to epitomize society’s fixation with commerciality and sexuality and should be kept away from our kiddies’ little fingers at all costs. For others Barbie is simply a toy their kids crave and they see their role as satiator of this passion. One thing is for sure; the question of Barbie (to buy or not to buy) seldom elicits an apathetic shrug of the shoulders. It’s the timeless hot potato issue in most parenting circles. In a recent unscientific poll of my girlfriends, I found a whole spectrum of views regarding Barbie, which I’d characterize as “Anti-Barbie fundamentalist” to “Pro-Barbie-why don’t we buy the full collection and visit the Barbie museum in Palo Alto while we’re at it.” Some moms don’t object to Barbie per se, but fear the Barbie pink-wash taking over their child’s world, so that every belonging from bedcovers to backpacks must bear the Barbie colors and logo. One of my girlfriends, an attractive redhead with Barbie length hair and curves to match, issued a serious warning to friends at the time of her daughter’s third birthday: “Don’t buy her a Barbie. I don’t like them.” As a joke from friends, guess what her daughter got? Not just one either. Now, my girlfriend proudly announces her daughter never plays with them. Another friend, a retired pathologist says, “Barbie is harmful to girls. The body of Barbie together with the Playboy Bunnies is responsible for changing the desired body image of women in the U.S.” Yet she let her daughter have Barbies over 20 years ago knowing she couldn’t overcome peer pressure. A different view is offered by a girlfriend who is an at-home mom. “Barbie is just a tool for their imagination,” she says, “I don’t see what all the fuss is about. A three year-old girl knows perfectly well the difference between imaginary play and the real world.” To me, it’s interesting that the male dolls, Action Man, Power Rangers and Superheroes don’t stir up the same emotion as Barbie. Perhaps that’s because there isn’t a widely popular archetypal build for men. There’s no consensus on whether fit and lean is preferable to muscle bound. Like it, or loathe it, Barbie appears to epitomize some general definition of perfection for the female body, as emphasized by magazines such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan. I think within the spectrum of Barbie haters and lovers there’s room for some balance and acceptance. Acceptance of the fact that Barbie is just made of hard plastic and metal screws. She may have impossibly long legs, and a chest you could balance a tray on, but she is make-believe. Yes, she’s anatomically incorrect, but then so are Madeline and Pooh Bear. No one seems to complain about that, perhaps because they are cuddly and not threateningly curvaceous. Barbie stirs up so much passion because she’s sexy. But she’s just a doll. Barbie is hardly the role model our daughters will aspire to any more than they will want Madeline’s body or French accent: “We love our bread, we love our butta, but most of all we love each udda….” We mothers provide the principal role models for our daughters. It’s what we do with our lives and how we treat others that matters; our cellulite-loaded, varicose veined or sylph-like bodies are not the issue. We are their reality, imperfections and all. By the time our daughters are ready to jump into their own jeeps, (be they pink, piebald or purple), and choose the career path that’s right for them, Barbie will probably be the last thing on their minds. That is until their daughters write their first wish list. © Alison van Diggelen welcomes your comments. She can be reached at siliconmom@Earthlink.net.