I have never owned a Barbie doll.


Not one.


This was because my Mother was of the mind set that Barbie was a bad role model, portraying unrealistic ideals of feminine perfection (it was the late 70's and early 80's). Funnily enough, despite my Mother's reservations about Barbie's lack of positive career role modelling, she has had every one of the careers that my Mother's three daughters have all grown up to have - Engineer, Architect and Vet. And at last count Barbie has had over 200 different careers, which is far better than any of us.

In London

Of course banning her just left me craving Barbie dolls as a child, and I'd play with them obsessively when let loose with a friend's collection - especially all those tiny plastic shoes. Now with a daughter of my own, I have taken a more relaxed approach to Barbie's physical perfection and I'm fairly ambivalent  - my daughter has one or two Barbies given to her by friends, but is at any rate more interested in dressing up her bigger dolls.

Milan

So while I feel no inclination to purchase a Barbie doll of my own now as an adult, I do, however, find myself hankering after her Wardrobe. Forget the Fashion Insta bloggers - I've been following Barbie Style. Barbie sports the latest looks from all the big name designers, including perfectly accessorised shoes and bags, and of course never has to suffer the horror of a Bad Hair Day. She also seems to jet off to all the major Fashion Weeks, regularly attends Gala Balls and generally seems to have a far better life than anyone else I follow on Instagram.

Paris

But aside from any inspiration Barbie's high fashion style might afford, I came across this recently released ad, which I loved so much I thought I'd post it here. It perfectly captures the big world view of possibilities ahead for a child without the cynicism of the adult projected on it.



28 comments:

  1. Love the ad! Thanks Heidi I haven't seen that. It reminds me of playing with Barbie dolls as a kid, I remember just becoming entranced, that world of pure imaginary play.
    My son was never interested in dolls (although he had a tiger he loved), he went for the trains, he'd play for hours, the different train cars were characters and the dinosaurs were in the mix as well, my older daughter played with those small plastic animals and spent many years creating extensive "habitats" for them either indoors or out. My younger daughter did play more traditionally with dolls but she preferred her larger dolls to the Barbie dolls she had, she had several large Corolle dolls that we still have actually, my nephew played with one of them this summer.
    My theory was to offer all types of toys to my kids, I never wanted to be gender-specific in what I gave them to play with, so they just naturally gravitated towards what they liked.
    These days withe screens and video games everywhere I think the difficulty is keeping kids in that world of imaginary play which is so terrific for brain development. I struggled with it and kept them there as long as I could but I'm sure it is getting even more difficult.
    Terrific post thanks Heidit XO

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    1. I loved that ad so much too Dani. It's funny what children will gravitate to. Neither of my boys were obsessive train players, despite having a large Brio set and me spending hours building tracks for them… they were more about cars. And my daughter loves the Corolle dolls, and also her American Girl doll that Mr AV brought back from New York for her. The only problem is getting outfits to Australia - I have to use a reshipper as they don't post to us!
      So agree with you about imaginary play. It's a constant battle with the screens, and I find the best times are when they've been banned in the house entirely for some reason or another, so they know they don't have them and just occupy themselves building/ crafting/ playing/ reading instead. It is a battle though, especially with the younger ones who are influenced by the older - everything he is exposed to is so much more grown up in concept than what the oldest had at the same age. xx

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  2. Would have shared your mother's reservations about Barbies years ago - but didn't have any daughters so it was never tested or put into effect. Now with grand-daughters I'm much more relaxed about them and when the girls showed an interest a couple of years ago I gave them Barbie presents. But they fairly quickly lost interest.

    C the Younger received a dog robot for her birthday last Friday and it responds to voice commands - so much more high tech and sophisticated than a Barbie! But it's quite unemotional of course and now she's hankering for a real dog. We'll see what happens.
    You'd have loved the special Barbie couture exhibition at the Monte Carlo Doll Museum some years ago - they were all dressed in couture by the leading designers, everyone from Karl down. Stunning! Glad Barbies are career dolls now! How funny though! Pammie

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    1. I think maybe it was the fashionable viewpoint at that stage? I also remember we had a lot of gender non specific toys - train sets, lego, farm sets, cars etc… but I did used to love my dolls the most regardless! That exhibition sounds fab - right up my alley. As for the dog, well, we have someone asking for a puppy for Christmas… not sure what we'll do about it, but Scruffy doesn't want to come home to us (prefers it at Dad's), so we may well have to get a dog at some point in the future (but not for Christmas - maybe one of the ones dumped post Christmas at a shelter). xx

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    2. Was never so pc that I gave A a doll. Ken doll or otherwise (probably a bit the equivalent). He loved cars, bikes, boats, cricket bats, lego, footballs etc. Still a boy at heart and likes these things now - but the bigger versions. But also gave him farm sets, hospital sets etc.
      Family is busy looking up breeds of dogs and studying pictures of cute puppies. Lovely DIL though much prefers cats (they already have two - rescue ones) - so she's a bit dubious and worried that when all the novelty is over she'll be the one to look after a new pup. Probably right. They've already asked if they can bring the pup for us to look after when they go away for a week or more. So I've already put in my request that they don't buy a yappy nervy little dog (some of the ones the girls thought were cute - fit into this category). At the moment they now seem struck by the bichon frise. So far from my research it seems rather a good choice.
      Can understand why Scruffy doesn't want to come home - after he's tasted the freedom of your Dad's. Good luck with your future family pup. Pammie xx

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  3. Great post Heidi - the Barbie commercial is fantastic. The Barbie dolls I had as a child all ended with really short hair, which I may or may not have cut!! Barbie has some pretty fabulous outfits (especially the ones in your pics above). Hope your garden plans are coming along nicely - looking forward to an update. Enjoy the rest of the week. Jo xx

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    1. I had a friend who we used to cut her barbie's hair! She told me it grew back, and I believed her. Garden is looking good - just waiting on a few more plants as the nurseries haven't got them in yet. I'll try to take some decent photos this weekend (by decent I mean not iPhone ones. Can't guarantee they'll be very special at any rate!). xx

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  4. Fun post! I have a Mary Poppins Barbie and a Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz Barbie! They are both beautiful! But then I do love the whimsy! And I would love her wardrobe, too!

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    1. Are they newer barbie releases Wendy? They sound fun. I have to say that I do envy barbie's wardrobe, and her ability to wear incredibly high heels all the time. But some of the outfits on that insta feed are so good! Just need to find them in adult sizes.

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  5. I'm with you, not one Barbie in my childhood. However, the Brits had their very own secret weapon in Doll Land - Pippa. Pippa had all kinds of fun friends, was pocket-sized, had beautiful funky 1970's era outfits which I delighted in matching to her little shoes, transported me to all types of worlds, and when I got tired of playing with her, would store her in her red carrying case which doubled as her wardrobe. I loved Pippa! I took such great care of her and her friends that they survived my childhood and became my daughter's dolls.

    I just showed her the video you included in this post. We both delighted in watching it. It was so well done with such a great message.

    Thanks for this great post (PS: Loved the second Barbie's outfit - so elegant).

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    1. I'm not sure we every had Pippa here CD - I certainly don't remember her, but she sounds great! So lovely too that you were able to pass her on to your daughter. I do seem to remember another Barbie alternative - Sindy or Cindy? Not sure where she originated from though (and she was banned as well!).
      So glad you enjoyed the link - I just loved it. Such a clever commercial with a great message too. xx

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  6. What a fabulous commercial. I had Barbies as did my daughters growing up. They were play things and I have never really understood the bad rap. Absolutely banned the Bratz dolls though with their goth makeup, tats and piercings!

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    1. I don't know why they got a bad rap - I think often adults project things onto toys that kids maybe don't see? At any rate I think Barbie is pretty tame compared to some of the things around today- like the Bratz dolls as you said. They are truly hideous with their spooky giant eyes and piercings etc. Actually a lot of the revived toys have had the big eye treatment - My Little Ponies are pretty wide eyed now too. Barbie with her careers and smart non- tarty wardrobe is not exactly bad to aspire to by comparison to some of the other toy offerings… xx

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    2. Think it was probably because of the early keen feminists of the sixties - they looked at the Barbie doll - body apparently modelled on one of High Heffner's favourite girls - and didn't see it as a realistic figure for a young girl to try for - or an aspirational lifestyle they wanted for their precious girls. Can you imagine the Germaine Greer of those days giving out Barbie Dolls to friends' daughters?

      At that time many of these ambitious mums-to-be wanted their future daughters to aspire to a different life style and career that didn't rely on a man's money/moods/interests. It was a different era. Bratz dolls didn't exist. Barbies weren't terrible of course and lots of little girls loved them - but they worried some mothers. Barbie makers soon caught up with the zeitgeist and began giving Barbie brief cases and suits. But amongst the group influenced by the 60s feminists it was terribly non pc to buy barbies. Seems silly now. But again, it was a different era.
      Of course like women today - the women of those days had such high hopes for their daughters (and sons). But this was also the generation that had to resign from teaching jobs or the public service on marriage (the marriage bar). They also as a matter of course received significantly less money than men for the same work. The ceiling wasn't glass, it was cement. So these women wanted something different for their daughters and many of them were fighting for a better future for their girls (boys too of course - but they didn't have the same barriers women had then). They were afraid the girls might be side-tracked by what barbies seemed to represent. Strangely enough in my own family it was my father who was the feminist and wanted university and a career for me. Pammie xx

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    3. Well, that was my Mum! She'd had to resign from teaching once pregnant with my older sister I think. I do remember she was working after marriage. Mum had also had to fight to go to Uni - her brothers were expected to, but her parents didn't think it was necessary for her. So I guess that was something she was pretty passionate about. She always wanted my sisters and I to have careers so that we didn't have to rely on a man for our standard of living, and were able to make choices in our lives. There were a few other toys on the banned list as well. I seem to remember Cabbage Patch Kids (although I was getting a bit old by then), but I think that's because she thought they were so ugly! x

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    4. In most states back in the old days women teachers had to resign on marriage and were then sometimes taken back on staff as casuals. I guess they probably couldn't get superannuation contributions though - and wouldn't have been eligible for promotion before the marriage bar was lifted.
      Resignation on marriage was standard across the old Commonwealth Public Service. Including the Department of Foreign Affairs. I used to know one of the few women career diplomats from those days. She'd had to resign but later after the policy changed she got her job back. Not many did though. So, many women just didn't marry because it meant being forced to give up a career they'd worked hard for and probably enjoyed. Some might have had discreet boyfriends - but if they become pregnant - would have been dropped very quickly. Also there were other lingering chauvinist customs, like not sending women officers to difficult posts. This had serous implications for their future career as it meant they'd almost certainly be promoted more slowly and not trusted with difficult work. One of our friends fought for the rights of women to be send to dreadful places. She was successful and went somewhere awful. But she was brave and resourceful and made the most of it. She did reach the senior echelons and was a career ambassador in many great places - but sadly never married. Even though it was no longer forbidden - it was almost impossible for an ambitious married woman with a family to become a senior diplomat unless her husband was prepared to sacrifice his own career and become the chief nurturer in the family, as certainly happened very successfully in some cases, but not many.
      Nowadays I hear young women criticise the feminists of earlier days and insist that they're not feminists themselves. But they don't realise what their grandmothers and mothers had to go through with all the barriers against women in the workforce and how many women fought for the better conditions (although often far from perfect) that women today enjoy and take for granted. End of sermon! You can be so proud of your Mum! Pammie

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  7. I had Barbie and Ken and we luffed playing with them (my sisters and I) and it didn't stop me getting a law degree or hauling myself here into the Coalface for 21 years without a break. I loved all the clothes and the creativity of inventing the stories. My kid doesn't like dolls but I love to see what he creates with Lego and blocks and other stuff. Anything away form the tv or ipad is good I think.

    x

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    1. I tried a doll on H when I was pregnant with #2 as it was supposedly good for the first born to have a doll to get them used to being caring. Or something. It was interesting to see him playing with it. Completely different to how girls play with dolls (in general). It was a sort of alter ego for him (he was 2 at the time), and he named it after himself. He soon lost interest though. So envious of you and your sisters all getting to play with Barbies!! xx

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  8. I loved (love) Barbies! My dog's name is Barbie. My sister never liked them but I did. I had so so so many. I always loved setting up their houses--surprise, surprise. I was a very imaginative child so they were a perfect toy for me. I would set up safaris for them with toy animals. And they were glamorous, which I was always attracted to. I would cut their hair and color it too. I used markers and would let them dry overnight so they wouldn't bleed onto my hands! But in my Barbie world, Barbies were always single being powerful women. Because the kens were always too busy living together. sharing a bed.

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    1. I remember a friend with the Dream House, and I was so green over it!! It was enormous though. And that Barbie Campervan, which I always wanted. And Barbie had hot tubs and horses and a convertible - she was definitely glamorous. Love that you started off cutting and colouring her hair! A life long passion was born. Ken had a great wardrobe of pleather bomber jackets back in the 80's. So funny yours were all living together. I have to say that I always got that vibe from ken too :) x

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  9. Really interesting post, Heidi!

    I had Barbies as a child.....certainly played with them quite a lot. I think my favourite was 'Peaches 'n' Cream". Then there was another whose skirt flipped from day to night attire with the twist of dial!
    My daughter has never shown much interest in any dolls really! She is much more into creative pursuits.
    However, I do feel that Barbie's physique is rather unrealistic and I do wonder what subliminal messages this sends to little ones. I heard about a woman who has been 'makingunder' Bratz dolls, and I like her work.


    Here is her web link:
    http://www.today.com/health/bratz-dolls-makeunders-go-sale-ebay-etsy-2D80438894

    I think a balance is important, a little bit of everything...

    My favourite toy from my childhood was the fabulous Fashion Plates!!!

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    1. Were those fashion plates the ones where you had templates of dresses to draw over the figures and you'd colour them in?
      But I remember the Peaches n Cream Barbie! She had a big boofy ball skirt. That skirt mechanism is still in action - my daughter has one that is a ballerina and her tutu changes when you swivel her around.
      Have to agree with you about her physique - she has a thigh gap like no other! Off to look at that link x

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    2. Yes, you could mix and match the tops with the pants or skirts and so forth! Then you put a piece of paper over the whole ensemble, and rubbed over the top with pencils (akin to leaf or money rubbings - more childhood memories!!!) you were left with the impression!

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  10. I had to make do with the Sunshine Family, a family of hippie dolls who lived in a van and made pottery. I kid you not. The anti-commercialism of my youth is probably why, as an adult, I'm obsessed with all things stylish. Meanwhile, i've kitted out my daughter with American Girl supreme and she could not care less. Reverse psychology: the most powerful tool on earth! xo

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    1. Jen, that is seriously the funniest thing with that doll family. Pottery!! So hilarious. Agree with reverse psychology - Mum was so pleased with herself for banning Barbie, but I just so desperately wanted one as a kid as a result. xx

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  11. For all the talk about Barbie having an unattainable body habitus, I think there are far more pervasive threats to the wellbeing of girls and women. Go Dr Barbie!

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  12. I am intrigued, I was never allowed Barbie's either. To this day I feel a smidgeon of resentment towards my mother for forbidding me from something that at the time I desperately desired. I wasn't allowed a Cabbage Patch doll either (over that one now though!) or to dress in black, or have my ears pierced, until I was sixteen. As an adult I now have a collection of books about Barbie. I also insisted we visit the American Doll store on our last US trip, as you can imagine there was outrage from all the males in the family, I loved it though! xx

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    1. Emma - did we have the same mother???!!! I wasn't allowed a cabbage patch kid, had to wait until 14 for ear piercing, and no black was also the mantra.
      Too funny about the American Doll trip. I haven't yet been in there, but Mr AV is a regular for E whenever he is in New York for work. Always makes me laugh thinking about him selecting things in the shop. Actually, E was just asking for more shoes for her doll on the weekend - apparently the 5 pairs the doll already owns are not enough! Apple doesn't fall far from the tree… xx

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