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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Dear Barbie, Happy 50th Birthday!

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Author Topic: Dear Barbie, Happy 50th Birthday!
Ecofem
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I'm a Barbie girl, in the Barbie world. Life's fantastic in plastic! Do you know or remember that old pop song from the band Aqua?

Love her or hate her, Barbie's got staying power. Barbie's now been around for 50 years and is still going strong, if in many different incarnations, and certainly full of controversy.

Sarah Haskins, the awesome host of the hilarious and biting Target Women segment on Current TV, wrote an opinion piece on the topic of Barbie recently. Click here to read about her recollections of growing up with Barbie.

Now what about YOU!?! Did you play with Barbies when you were growing up? Why or why not, please tell us more!

Here are some questions for starters:

- How did you play with them and what roles they did they take on: pink princesses, professional women, punk rockers?

- How did those around you react to Barbie? Were you overwhelmed by an undesired Barbie gifted by a well-meaning relative or did you always yearn for one only to never get it?

- How do you feel about Barbies now as a young adult?

- How do you think Barbie affects how girls -- and boys -- construct and carry out gender roles in society?

- Etc. Any fun stories to tell -- or things to come clean on, such as cutting off the hair of a sister's -- or brother's -- Barbie? Were your Barbies secretly getting it on? (Hey, it's ok... I think most everyone does this at some point with their dolls! [Wink] ) Did you always want -- but never got -- that Barbie dreamhouse? And what about Ken?

Please share! [Smile]

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September
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Because my mom is awesome like that, my little brother and I always got the same toys for Christmas. If he wanted a new Lego set, we each got the same set. If I wanted a new Barbie, we each got a new Barbie. This was because, no matter what it was, we'd both play with it together, and end up fighting over it if there wasn't one of each. So, yep, I played with Barbie, and so did my brother. His best (male) friend was also a Barbie fan, but they made a big deal about me NEVER telling anyone at school.

As far as I remember, we usually threw everything together. Our Barbies often lived in the Lego castle together with dinosaurs, and had all sorts of adventures. I never saw Barbie as a skinny woman with huge boobs. She was just this character I was projecting my imagination onto. I could just as well use a stuffed animal, or one of the little Lego men, and often enough did.

One thing that's definitely stuck in my mind is that my brother and I lived out a lot of sex fantasies with the Barbies. We each had a Barbie and a Ken doll, and a couple of Barbie children, and we usually started with Barbie and Ken getting married, and ended with them having a bunch of kids. There was a lot of Barbie lying on top of Ken and moaning. We knew the mechanics of sex from school (yay for realistic sex ed in elementary schools in Germany!), but DON'T ask me how we knew about the moaning. I haven't a clue. [Razz]

Honestly, I really don't think that Barbie affected me negatively in any way. I had Barbies, I played with them, but I don't think they influenced my view of the role of women, one way or another. Yeah, my Barbie got married, but I knew very early on that marriage wasn't for me. I also don't feel that I ever had any ambitions to look like Barbie. What I do think is that how Barbie is perceived depends a lot on context. Like I mentioned above, my mother was never bothered with gender roles, so that was never something I concerned myself with.

I also think that the situation is different these days, because dolls like Barbie are marketed specifically to teach girls about gender roles. Bratz and Winx look even less human than Barbie, and their only purpose is to be sexy. (And I actually read an article about this in an Italian magazine yesterday, and now I'll have to go back and find it, 'cause it said a few pretty interesting things.)


[Neat topic, btw! Thanks for posting this, Lena.]

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Johanna
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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JamsessionVT
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In one of my equitation classes, we were discussing the biomechanics of riding and how the rider's body and movements influence those of the horse. When we got to rider fitness, someone mentioned how you will never see a horseback rider, or any athlete (real person, really) who looks like Barbie, because, and I quote, "were a real woman to have the same dimensions as the Barbie doll, she would have about 1/3 of our lung capacity, no room for most of her internal organs and would break like a folding chair at the waist because of a lack of skeletal support."

Pretty funny (though sad) when you consider the number of young women who so desperately want that "Barbie doll body".

I didn't personally play with Barbies. I was much more entranced with plastic horse models and their little rider dolls. The only Barbie I got was from an aunt who I rarely saw, and I'm pretty sure she never left her box. I'm pretty sure I have always been mature for my age, because I never thought of Barbie as attractive or even remotely realistic. She actually kind of grossed me out a little; I had a lot of strong female role models growing up, including my mom, who was a competitive weight lifter, and seeing how she was built compared to a Barbie doll gave me a pretty good indication of what the doll's purpose was...and it sure as heck wasn't to show little girls what real life women look like.

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Abbie
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Bun Bun
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Being a brunette myself, I much preferred Barbie's friend Thereasa over Barbie herself. There was also one that I adored that was darker skinned and had gorgeous reddy brown hair. For simplicity's sake, I'll just refer to all the dolls as "Barbie's" [Razz]

Man did I EVER love my Barbies when I was growing up. I think I only stopped playing with them when I was 12 or 13. One thing I remember clearly about my Barbie obsession was that it really fostered my creativity. It may seem odd saying that, but I since we could never afford to buy me the fancy versions of the doll, or the ever sought after Spice Girl edition, I had to make my dolls special without being able to buy nice outfits or accessories. So what did I do? I cut their hair, I braided it in tiny braids (that's how I made my Scary Spice doll), and I took skirts and turned them into tops! My mom would give me scrap fabric and I'd tie knots or glue gun them together to create some pretty awesome clothes. I had the best looking Barbie's on the block (and their cut hair even looked good!).

As for the situations I put them in... Well it varied. I remember though that they had a helluva lot of sexual relations, and not just with the Ken dolls, mind you. My Barbie's liked the ladies too [Smile] . I had a couple of horses for them and I always made up storylines with them being famous horseback riders. I also loved making them singers who liked to party a lot (aka, dancing to Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys with a bunch of other Barbies). I think the funniest thing was that when I played with my neighbor, Ken always lived in a trailer. Once it got hit with a tornado.

As for Barbie's affecting boys and girls, I really couldn't say. I think it really depends on the person and the other influences in their life. For the majority of my childhood, I always had a parent around to guide me and I know a lot of girls and guys don't anymore. I've noticed that usually both parents are working, and that kids go to daycare. Judging from my own 2 week experience in daycare when I was about 7 or 8, and what I've heard from others, it's not exactly the best environment to grow up in. You don't get that one on one time with an adult who can sort out what is real (your body) and what is fake (Barbie!).

I was just thinking about it too- Didn't Barbie really defy a lot of gender roles too? I mean, at least in my memories, she was never really tied down to Ken. He was always sold separately. She was a doctor/vet/horseback rider/what have you, never really a housewife or anything like that. I always thought Barbie's were great for that- You could make her whatever you wanted!

Oh, and does anybody remember the whole Midge fiasco a couple of years ago? Midge was Barbie's friend who was pregnant! Her stomach cavity opened up and you could take out the baby inside. Only thing is, her husband Allan (though, she originally didn't have a ring on her finger, but they changed that) wasn't sold in the same box. Controversy ensued, and she was pulled from the shelves at Walmart. Personally, I find this ridiculous.

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StrangePudding
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The main thing I did with my Barbies was play out sex scenes. I didn't have a very good idea of what sex was but knew the basic 'genital areas touch' kind of thing. My sister and I had two Kens (one had only one leg and the other's head could be pulled off) and an Action Man we stole from my brother, and we (mostly me) would construct elaborate sex stories. The male and female dolls were usually married, but not always. My dolls often got into situation where they would both desperately want each other and make out and get hot and heavy...but had to wait til marriage (DEFINITELY me playing out my own perceptions of my sexual feelings [Razz] ) My favorite Barbie was one with wavy brown hair and blue eyes who came with a horse-riding set. She had movable joints, which also meant she could get into better sex positions....

Other than acting out sex, we didn't usually actually have a whole lot of storylines. We had a bunch of stuff - surf store, house, horses, car, etc. I preferred just getting the Barbies looking really good and getting their houses and horses looking good, rather than having them do anything of substance. I did have the capacity to do other things than make my dolls look pretty and have sex (I'm a pretty decent writer, did the whole fanfiction thing during high school. We also got walked in on by my Dad once while the Barbies were getting ready for dates and I had to think really fast and make up a fashion show storyline), but I just never did. What does that say about what was on my preteen/child mind? hehehe

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Wise Janet Weiss
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When I was about five and under, I HATED sharing my barbies with anyone else.

Mostly, I had 8 different Barbies and only 2 Kens (the Ken dolls always looked weird to me...), and usually 4 Barbies would share Ken, only under a different name. (That got confusing when I later shared Barbie with other kids who were used to having an equal amount of Kens/Barbies, "Wait, is she kissing Nick or Tino?!)

My Barbies stories varied; it depended on what the were designed for. Princess Barbie was Princess Barbie until I got bored and had the Doctor be the Princess, and vice versa. Jobs also varied, my Barbies were everything from a sex worker to a marine biologist. (Other than that, Barbie mostly got in various positions with Ken/Nick/Tino).

I was never left wanting for a Barbie, I usually got one after I got bored with "new" one [which was usually after six months]. My family didn't support nor oppress my Barbie craze... Though I do believe my grandmother had second thoughts, when at the age of five, she saw Ken ontop of the Ballerina Barbie. "Whats he doing?" she asked. "Telling her he loves her" I responded. :p

They were also in a lot of damge. Ballerina Barbie broke her leg (that had NOTHING to do with Ken), a Ken's head/leg would pop off...

My favorite had been the pregnant Barbie doll. I had lost her somewhere, went back to the states, only to find her MIA. It was tragic... the magnetic belly was really fascinating for some reason...

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Typical Young and Dumb Teenager?
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From the time I was two until I was about four and half, I absolutely LOVED babydolls. You wouldn't have caught me with a Barbie in my hands, but once I turned five, they became my new obsession. It wasn't long until I grew out of them, though, because by six and half, I was riding our mini "four wheeler", fishing, attempting to hunt, and over all, just being a tom-boy. (I can't really say I like doing any of those things now, though, except four wheeler riding occasionally.)

However, from what I remember when I did play, I would bring out one of my many "magnificant" dreamhouses and set everything up. (My favorite one had lights and made sounds, which was pretty cool at six.) The beds were all made, tables set up, dolls picked out. I'd then attempt to play the typical "family" role with the dolls, holding one in one hand and one in the other. The mom was usually cooking something (I guess I thought the children were always hungry) and the husband was super-sweet, funny, and charming, and occasionally, they would have "s. e. x.".. for hours on end. My favorite dolls were the children, though, because I'd like to make them run around and just have fun.

Years past, and because my dad didn't get to see me much, he continued to by me Barbies long after I liked them. So, by the time I was 10, I was cutting their heads off. He still hadn't got the point by Christmas when I was 11, but when I turned 12 a few months later, I didn't get a Barbie.. So something eventually made it sink in.

Today I think of Barbie as a children's toy. It's an innocent way of having fun, that only seems to be innocent when you're young. After all, Barbie does sleep with a lot of men. [Wink]

[ 03-09-2009, 06:36 PM: Message edited by: Typical Young and Dumb Teenager? ]

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Young and Dumb.
"Life is a balance of holding on and letting go." - Keith Urban

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