Saturday, July 16, 2011

Why a Feminist Mother plays Barbies with her Daughter...

Yes, I know, she's not anatomically correct. And she has lots of stuff, including clothes and beautiful long hair. Her not being anatomically correct could easily be seen as a physical "defect"(we all have them) and her pretty hair is then her best feature.

However, when the question of Barbies came up, I referred back to my own childhood. I had played Barbies and have been a feminist my entire adult life, so what harm could there really be? Although I realize that there were certainly other factors that brought about my own feminism. My daughter received a couple of Barbies as gifts when she was even too young to play with them. So I began my quest to properly outfit a Barbie collection, which proved to be quite easy! I found more than enough to fill up the playroom at thrift stores, yard sales, and swap meets. Ready for the complete Barbie lifestyle, I only had to wait until the request for a Barbie playdate was made.

When it did come and the Barbie town was set up, I saw that there was an opportunity here. My child was young and under my guidance and influence. I use it elsewhere, why not during play? So playing Barbies became a lesson in being a strong, independent, accomplished woman. Our Barbies were doctors, librarians, writers, professors, business owners. They went skiing, surfing, snowboarding, running, etc. They also attended the opera, poetry readings, DAR meetings, took educational classes and did volunteer work at their local library. I never made a big deal out of what my Barbie was wearing, except that it be practical for whatever activity they were doing. Their hair was brushed and styled, but with no more emphasis that we have in our own daily life. And though there was one Ken doll in the collection, he's a friend- there were never any weddings. Not that there's anything wrong with marriage, but that needn't be the focus of Barbie play.

Imaginative play is important for children, but parental involvement can and should guide our children. An occasional hands-on approach allows us to demonstrate to our children our values. Barbie's gender-cliché building ability can be tamed and redirected with much success...and plus, it's just fun!

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