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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Friends With Barbies


By Tracee Sioux

My daughter went to her best friend's house yesterday.

She has Bratz, Princesses and Barbies at her house, my daughter informed my husband and I the other day. My husband looked at me and asked if I had spoken to her parents about our play rules.

We played with Barbies the whole entire time! she blissfully informed me.

No, I haven't forbidden the playing with Bratz, Barbies and Princesses at friends' homes. No, I don't plan to speak to her mother about it. I honestly don't think my daughter is confused about my objections. I'm secure in the knowledge that my rules forbidding them in our house and the reasons why have seeped irrevocably into her psyche. She adores when I read Growing a Girl: Seven Strategies for Raising a Strong, Spirited Daughter out loud to her. She gets it, to the degree any 5-year-old can.

But, these plastic girl-toys are the foundation of her little girl culture. I'm not crazy enough to believe I have the power to create a self-enclosed box, devoid of negative girl messages.

Besides, the completely forbidden is that much sweeter and a breeding ground for rebellion. This, I can speak to, from first-hand experience. My daughter is too much me, for me to ignore the attraction of rebellion.

20 comments:

jen said...

That is a really nice pic. Love it! ITA about not being trying to create a bubble of protection around her. It's hard when 50% of the girls at school will be sporting Brats wear from head to toe, but one day I think she will thank you for it!

Stacks said...

Yeah, I was that kid whose parents had lots of rules about television and toys, and I think it just made those things seem more interesting to me.

I don't have kids, so this is academic, but I think I lean more toward the idea of putting energy into providing a full spectrum of toys and experiences rather than banning any one type of toy.

I think you have done a great job at helping Ainsley understand that "girly toys" are just a narrow and somewhat limiting slice of what it means to be a girl. It seems like a natural progression to let her explore the topics a bit on her own with friends now that she is getting older.

Anonymous said...

I understand the Bratz and Barbies....but princesses???

So Sioux Me said...

Of course Princesses - I'll refer you to Cinderalla Should Have Saved Herself http://traceesioux.blogspot.com/2007/05/cinderella-should-have-saved-herself.html, Ariel - The Little Mute http://traceesioux.blogspot.com/2007/06/arial-silenced-and-isolated-victim.html and Belle - Battered Codependent http://traceesioux.blogspot.com/2007/06/belle-battered-codependent.html .

Disney's Princesses are anything but empowering for girls.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I get the Barbie ban.

Barbie is single, successful and self-supporting - all images I like for my daughters. She has her own car, toys and house (you notice it isn't Ken and Barbie's Dream House) and she is always trying new things.

Barbie was one of the first toys for girls that didn't try to teach "domesticity" or mothering skills but allowed them to dream about careers. Barbie went to college in 1965, long before the women's movement, and has had over 70 careers including airforce pilot, surgeon, U.S. president, veterinarian, UNICEF diplomat, paleontologist, firefighter, astronaut, WNBA player and yoga instructor.

Is it the ballgowns?

So Sioux Me said...

She also has completely distorted body proportions that make girls feel bad about the bodies God gave them. No one's breasts naturally grow naturally like Barbie's, especially the Barbi of my 70's generation. She did get some plastic surgery of her own, reducing her breast size and increasing her hip size. Mattel said it was so low-rise jeans would look better on her.

Perhaps all the plastic surgery women are having is Barbie's fault? I definately believe she had something to do with it.

Unrealistic body proportions on dolls make girls feel bad about the bodies they do have. There is nothing wrong with the bodies girls have. Why doesn't Mattel make Barbie proportionate to the average girl?

I agree, with all the other competition Barbie is looking better and better. She's had quite a dream life. Some of it empowering.

But I still don't like her much. In Barbie For President, http://traceesioux.blogspot.com/2007/06/barbi-for-president.html , I readily admit that my dislike for her might not be rational, it could be pure envy.

Angela said...

Please enlighten me. Why won't you let your daughter play with dolls?

Anonymous said...

Doll play is healthy. It lets girls act out the stories of their lives and "try on" traits and personalities. I've always been curious what dolls you femmimommies DO let your daughters play with.

I like those American Girl dolls, but they are ridiculously expensive. I've given Groovy Girls as gifts, but if you are looking for realistic bodies, they are all still very thin.

Any other favorites?

So Sioux Me said...

She plays with baby dolls. I like American Girl Dolls too. But, she doesn't have one yet.

She has a Dora Doll, a Madaline Doll, a Bob the Builder Doll. She also has My Little Ponies.

I've never heard of Groovy Girl.

I don't have an anti-doll rule. I have an anti-overly sexualized doll rule. I have a you-need-someone-to-come-save-you doll rule.

I used to let her have these toys and here's how the play went, "Oh Prince, Oh Prince, Come Save Me! Smooch, smooch, smooch."

That's negative play in my opinion. The message was that she needed someone to "save" her, because there is something inherenly wrong with her to begin with? Because she's incapable of taking care of herself?

How many marriages are made up of women who want someone to save them? How many divorces? Maybe it's just a bad expectation to teach girls?

Play has consequences.

Anonymous said...

Dolls only play out the stories we give them. I am curious why you took away the Barbies instead of helping initiate better storylines.

Your daughter chose to act out being saved, but she could just as easily have played out being the hero herself.

So Sioux Me said...

Yes, and I was letting her read, watch and play with all the Disney Princesses at the time. Those were the stories I was giving her. In those stories the feminine role is not the hero. She is only the damsel in distress.

I didn't take Barbies away. She decapitated and dis-membered them and I decided we weren't replacing them. Barbie with better story-lines is a great idea. Lawyer Barbie, Doctor Barbie, all great better story lines.

But, I think the misproportions of her body are a problem. My daughter is extremely unlikely to look like Barbie when she grows up. Because virtually no girls look like Barbie without plastic surgery.

jen said...

Once while visiting at a friend's house, who had all girls, I caught my three year old son playing with dolls. He was so into the plot of his story he didn't even notice me standing in the doorway trying to stiffle my giggles while a naked Rosie O'Donnel "barbie" doll nursed a horse that was four times bigger than her.

The Rosie doll looks just like I would imagine her to look naked in real life.

True story.

Stacks said...

"Dolls only play out the stories we give them."

Why did I always want to make my Donny and Marie "barbies" smoke, drink liquor and skinny dip?

Stacks said...

I had to look up the Rosie Barbie after I read that! Found it on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Rosie-Odonnell-Friend-Barbie-Doll/dp/B00001R3WC/ref=pd_sxp_grid_pt_2_0/002-9892914-0698468

The best part were the comments. One said that it looked more like Monica Lewinsky. Another lamented that you cannot change her clothes because regular Barbie clothes do not fit Rosie.

blue milk said...

Good post, I really enjoy reading how a feminist mother handles these problems that I am a about to encounter. I liked your reasoning and your decision.

J Morgetron said...

Personally I think that what you are doing is great. We too have house rules, and then the children adapt to other people's rules when they are at other people's homes. Now, there are exceptions to that. For instance, if my twelve-year-old was at her friend's house and the family sat down to watch Nightmare on Elm Street, she would know to leave the room and call me, but that just goes with teaching your child good judgement. But both girls know they're going to get a heckuva lot more TV at grandma and grandpa's than they do at home.

shauna said...

Bratz aren't allowed in our home either. I just don't think little girls' dolls should look sexy. And I don't care what story those dolls have, they still can't play at my house. I also agree with you on the Disney princesses, although those are allowed at our house. We've had lots of conversations about how they could have saved themselves instead of waiting for a prince to save them. We LOVE Mulan and watch it more than the others.

I enjoy this comment-provoking post! Thanks!

Leanne said...

Hmmm. Thanks for posting an interesting point of view.

I must admit I'm not a big Bratz fan either, thank goodness my girls agree so it's not an issue.

Do you know your BlogHer Ad is running a Princess DVD ad though? Lol.

Inner Doris said...

What a great post! I'm so glad to have found your thoughtful writing on a difficult subject. I have a now 9-month-old baby (boy) and I have been just shocked at how quickly so many of my principled positions have been worn down into compliance with the consumerist norm, generally because of convenience or consistent pressure from family. The socializing to a strongly gender-coded world just starts so young, and so constantly, and it's frustrating how our children's personal development seems to be so transparently hijacked for the purpose of lining some corporation's pocket. And how many parents support them in it! Barbie is no blank canvas for children's play. She's a caricature of the person who adult women are hounded by magazines and beauty ads into thinking they should look like. More to the point, perhaps, she was modeled on a German cartoon prostitute. (You know...single, and self-supporting!)

So Sioux Me said...

Caricature - exactly.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Friends With Barbies


By Tracee Sioux

My daughter went to her best friend's house yesterday.

She has Bratz, Princesses and Barbies at her house, my daughter informed my husband and I the other day. My husband looked at me and asked if I had spoken to her parents about our play rules.

We played with Barbies the whole entire time! she blissfully informed me.

No, I haven't forbidden the playing with Bratz, Barbies and Princesses at friends' homes. No, I don't plan to speak to her mother about it. I honestly don't think my daughter is confused about my objections. I'm secure in the knowledge that my rules forbidding them in our house and the reasons why have seeped irrevocably into her psyche. She adores when I read Growing a Girl: Seven Strategies for Raising a Strong, Spirited Daughter out loud to her. She gets it, to the degree any 5-year-old can.

But, these plastic girl-toys are the foundation of her little girl culture. I'm not crazy enough to believe I have the power to create a self-enclosed box, devoid of negative girl messages.

Besides, the completely forbidden is that much sweeter and a breeding ground for rebellion. This, I can speak to, from first-hand experience. My daughter is too much me, for me to ignore the attraction of rebellion.

20 comments:

jen said...

That is a really nice pic. Love it! ITA about not being trying to create a bubble of protection around her. It's hard when 50% of the girls at school will be sporting Brats wear from head to toe, but one day I think she will thank you for it!

Stacks said...

Yeah, I was that kid whose parents had lots of rules about television and toys, and I think it just made those things seem more interesting to me.

I don't have kids, so this is academic, but I think I lean more toward the idea of putting energy into providing a full spectrum of toys and experiences rather than banning any one type of toy.

I think you have done a great job at helping Ainsley understand that "girly toys" are just a narrow and somewhat limiting slice of what it means to be a girl. It seems like a natural progression to let her explore the topics a bit on her own with friends now that she is getting older.

Anonymous said...

I understand the Bratz and Barbies....but princesses???

So Sioux Me said...

Of course Princesses - I'll refer you to Cinderalla Should Have Saved Herself http://traceesioux.blogspot.com/2007/05/cinderella-should-have-saved-herself.html, Ariel - The Little Mute http://traceesioux.blogspot.com/2007/06/arial-silenced-and-isolated-victim.html and Belle - Battered Codependent http://traceesioux.blogspot.com/2007/06/belle-battered-codependent.html .

Disney's Princesses are anything but empowering for girls.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I get the Barbie ban.

Barbie is single, successful and self-supporting - all images I like for my daughters. She has her own car, toys and house (you notice it isn't Ken and Barbie's Dream House) and she is always trying new things.

Barbie was one of the first toys for girls that didn't try to teach "domesticity" or mothering skills but allowed them to dream about careers. Barbie went to college in 1965, long before the women's movement, and has had over 70 careers including airforce pilot, surgeon, U.S. president, veterinarian, UNICEF diplomat, paleontologist, firefighter, astronaut, WNBA player and yoga instructor.

Is it the ballgowns?

So Sioux Me said...

She also has completely distorted body proportions that make girls feel bad about the bodies God gave them. No one's breasts naturally grow naturally like Barbie's, especially the Barbi of my 70's generation. She did get some plastic surgery of her own, reducing her breast size and increasing her hip size. Mattel said it was so low-rise jeans would look better on her.

Perhaps all the plastic surgery women are having is Barbie's fault? I definately believe she had something to do with it.

Unrealistic body proportions on dolls make girls feel bad about the bodies they do have. There is nothing wrong with the bodies girls have. Why doesn't Mattel make Barbie proportionate to the average girl?

I agree, with all the other competition Barbie is looking better and better. She's had quite a dream life. Some of it empowering.

But I still don't like her much. In Barbie For President, http://traceesioux.blogspot.com/2007/06/barbi-for-president.html , I readily admit that my dislike for her might not be rational, it could be pure envy.

Angela said...

Please enlighten me. Why won't you let your daughter play with dolls?

Anonymous said...

Doll play is healthy. It lets girls act out the stories of their lives and "try on" traits and personalities. I've always been curious what dolls you femmimommies DO let your daughters play with.

I like those American Girl dolls, but they are ridiculously expensive. I've given Groovy Girls as gifts, but if you are looking for realistic bodies, they are all still very thin.

Any other favorites?

So Sioux Me said...

She plays with baby dolls. I like American Girl Dolls too. But, she doesn't have one yet.

She has a Dora Doll, a Madaline Doll, a Bob the Builder Doll. She also has My Little Ponies.

I've never heard of Groovy Girl.

I don't have an anti-doll rule. I have an anti-overly sexualized doll rule. I have a you-need-someone-to-come-save-you doll rule.

I used to let her have these toys and here's how the play went, "Oh Prince, Oh Prince, Come Save Me! Smooch, smooch, smooch."

That's negative play in my opinion. The message was that she needed someone to "save" her, because there is something inherenly wrong with her to begin with? Because she's incapable of taking care of herself?

How many marriages are made up of women who want someone to save them? How many divorces? Maybe it's just a bad expectation to teach girls?

Play has consequences.

Anonymous said...

Dolls only play out the stories we give them. I am curious why you took away the Barbies instead of helping initiate better storylines.

Your daughter chose to act out being saved, but she could just as easily have played out being the hero herself.

So Sioux Me said...

Yes, and I was letting her read, watch and play with all the Disney Princesses at the time. Those were the stories I was giving her. In those stories the feminine role is not the hero. She is only the damsel in distress.

I didn't take Barbies away. She decapitated and dis-membered them and I decided we weren't replacing them. Barbie with better story-lines is a great idea. Lawyer Barbie, Doctor Barbie, all great better story lines.

But, I think the misproportions of her body are a problem. My daughter is extremely unlikely to look like Barbie when she grows up. Because virtually no girls look like Barbie without plastic surgery.

jen said...

Once while visiting at a friend's house, who had all girls, I caught my three year old son playing with dolls. He was so into the plot of his story he didn't even notice me standing in the doorway trying to stiffle my giggles while a naked Rosie O'Donnel "barbie" doll nursed a horse that was four times bigger than her.

The Rosie doll looks just like I would imagine her to look naked in real life.

True story.

Stacks said...

"Dolls only play out the stories we give them."

Why did I always want to make my Donny and Marie "barbies" smoke, drink liquor and skinny dip?

Stacks said...

I had to look up the Rosie Barbie after I read that! Found it on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Rosie-Odonnell-Friend-Barbie-Doll/dp/B00001R3WC/ref=pd_sxp_grid_pt_2_0/002-9892914-0698468

The best part were the comments. One said that it looked more like Monica Lewinsky. Another lamented that you cannot change her clothes because regular Barbie clothes do not fit Rosie.

blue milk said...

Good post, I really enjoy reading how a feminist mother handles these problems that I am a about to encounter. I liked your reasoning and your decision.

J Morgetron said...

Personally I think that what you are doing is great. We too have house rules, and then the children adapt to other people's rules when they are at other people's homes. Now, there are exceptions to that. For instance, if my twelve-year-old was at her friend's house and the family sat down to watch Nightmare on Elm Street, she would know to leave the room and call me, but that just goes with teaching your child good judgement. But both girls know they're going to get a heckuva lot more TV at grandma and grandpa's than they do at home.

shauna said...

Bratz aren't allowed in our home either. I just don't think little girls' dolls should look sexy. And I don't care what story those dolls have, they still can't play at my house. I also agree with you on the Disney princesses, although those are allowed at our house. We've had lots of conversations about how they could have saved themselves instead of waiting for a prince to save them. We LOVE Mulan and watch it more than the others.

I enjoy this comment-provoking post! Thanks!

Leanne said...

Hmmm. Thanks for posting an interesting point of view.

I must admit I'm not a big Bratz fan either, thank goodness my girls agree so it's not an issue.

Do you know your BlogHer Ad is running a Princess DVD ad though? Lol.

Inner Doris said...

What a great post! I'm so glad to have found your thoughtful writing on a difficult subject. I have a now 9-month-old baby (boy) and I have been just shocked at how quickly so many of my principled positions have been worn down into compliance with the consumerist norm, generally because of convenience or consistent pressure from family. The socializing to a strongly gender-coded world just starts so young, and so constantly, and it's frustrating how our children's personal development seems to be so transparently hijacked for the purpose of lining some corporation's pocket. And how many parents support them in it! Barbie is no blank canvas for children's play. She's a caricature of the person who adult women are hounded by magazines and beauty ads into thinking they should look like. More to the point, perhaps, she was modeled on a German cartoon prostitute. (You know...single, and self-supporting!)

So Sioux Me said...

Caricature - exactly.