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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Barbie Wasn't Broken

Feminism has taken on a whole new form over the past year or so. Like, it's been a thing for about 50 years, but recently it seems to have blown UP. I’m wholly grateful for the women who are spearheading the movement to get me paid as much (or more) than my male counterparts, because I have expensive taste and plan to buy what I want by my own damn self.
Political affiliations aside, I think it’s pretty sweet that the likes of Carly Fiorina and Hilary Clinton are legitimately considered for presidential candidacy. It’s neat that we could potentially have a First Husband, or First Boyfriend, or First Guy I’m Talking To. It’d also be cool if Madame President had a First Lady.
In something that probably should’ve been bigger news, the Buffalo Bills recently hired Kathryn Smith to fire up the squad as the league's first full-time female assistant coach, and they’re not even making her wear a crop top and shake poms to do it. This is progress.
                It’s important to teach young girls that they can do and be whatever they want to be, because bitches get stuff done and the way our world is currently operating, they’re going to have a lot to work on in the coming years. I think it’s just as important to build up your fellow woman as it is to side step the 32-year-old Hot Mess doing lines off a toilet paper dispenser in a bar bathroom—I’m proud of her for doing her thang, but if she’s unable to function at her well-paying job in fashion, I will gladly nail the interview that names me as her replacement. I’ll applaud a ditz as quickly as I will a genius, as long as they’re doing something noteworthy. I’ll throw a “You go girl” towards just about anyone deserving, whether she has a rock solid bod or a pair of well-rounded hips. I’ll look at what she’s doing, not what she’s wearing. I never realized that this wasn’t the norm.
                As such, this whole Barbie Makeover is kinda funny to me. Not funny like a clown, it doesn’t amuse me, but funny like “Ugh, my future kids are going to have some pretty pathetic play dates.” Listen, I am by no means some unicorn who grew up carrying glittery saddlebags of confidence: I was short; had hairy arms that earned me the nickname Werewolf from ages 5-12; had a literal snaggle tooth; displayed intricately-wired braces for 3 ½ years; and was overly rambunctious in social situations. I wished I was pretty and had straight teeth and that boys liked me, but that’s because other girls were pretty and had straight teeth and boyfriends. I wanted to be like them. You know who I had the wherewithal not to worship? A goddamn toy.   

                I had an entire storage tub dedicated to Barbie and her gang of uniquely-named friends, plus two Kens. My favorite was one who wore a hot pink mini skirt and white t-shirt with pink hearts, her voluminous hair perfectly coifed and her lips glossed the perfect bright rose. She was gorgeous, even when she had been picked as the favorite so often that her hair was unbrushable and the plastic on her toes started to peel (she never wore shoes—such a Bohemian spirit).
Thissss bitch
She didn’t have a specific name, because none of them did, because they were all Barbie, because Barbie is it all and does it all. When she wasn’t helping my brother’s Spiderman action figure save a Beanie Baby from a case of animal abuse, she was base jumping over the stair railing with a plastic bag as a parachute. One of the Kens lost his leg in a horrific accident that I can’t even speak about to this day because I just don’t remember what happened, and this Barbie stuck by his side while maintaining her adrenaline-fueled schedule because while she had compassion, she found it important to pursue her own interests. 

Not once did I hold this Barbie in my hands and whine, “Why don’t I have a 16-inch waist?” She was a doll. This was understood from the get-go.
Her legs were freakishly long and her neck could not adequately support her huge head were she a living, breathing human. She was not. She was a doll.
She didn’t have lady parts, and hardly ever wore underwear. She didn’t need to. She was a doll (maybe a bit on the slutty side, but still).
I invited all of my friends to come over to my house and play Barbies, and they reciprocated, and we had a blast. I do not recall one conversation in which a group of three 9-year-olds sat around silently admiring their toys and casually saying, “Damn, this is the goal, amiright?” Maybe I had really cool friends, or maybe my parents did a fantastic job of allowing me to build my self-worth through more beneficial avenues like sports and piano lessons than through the unnecessary veneration a 6-inch tall plaything, but whatever the case may have been, I always knew that Barbie was a doll. She could be impossibly proportioned. It was allowed. I wasn’t going to be called pretty until I was 19 no matter what the fuck that girl looked like, she might as well be able to celebrate it until I could, too.
Can't compete with this
Now, I’m not saying that Mattel is wrong for this. In fact, it’s pretty cool that they took the time to acknowledge some of society’s sensitivities to beauty standards and wanted to accommodate the delicate feelings of children – namely little girls – in order to make them feel good about themselves. That is an incredible step to take for their industry. However, toys are toys, and if you can’t communicate to a girl that Barbie and her outlandish boob-to-butt ratio isn’t a deal-breaker in the grand scheme of life, maybe take the doll away entirely and have an actual conversation about why she, as a person, is important.
Barbie went to the moon four years before Neil Armstrong, became a surgeon, was a Marine Corp Sergeant, and ran for President in three separate decades. She can be Argentinian, Nigerian, Navajo, Cambodian, Moroccan, Polish, and Greek. She’s owned upwards of five Dream Houses and even an Austin Healey. Meanwhile, I’m a white marketing professional who takes the subway or walks everywhere. I’m also happy. So strange how I’m able to achieve that, right?
We like women that are strong-willed, unique in their initiatives, articulate, and relatable. We seek inspiration from these women, but don’t want their goals and/or achievements to be so out of our personal reach that we don’t feel equipped enough to participate. We want to put them on a pedestal because gaining visibility for themselves and their goals is really bringing light to the issues that face us all, and we can enthusiastically shout phrases of support like, “YAASSSS QUEEN.” In my eyes, that has always been Barbie. She helped me develop an ability to tell stories, provided a way to bond with friends, and gave me something fun to do before I went to soccer practice. She could have 29-inch hips and I could simply be a kid with a toy. Pretty solid trade-off, if you ask me. 

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