I grimaced when I saw Girl Scouts holding up Barbie dolls on TV the other day, my son nodding in approval of my distaste. Two groups — the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for a New American Dream — want Girl Scouts of the USA to end a partnership with Mattel that puts Barbie patches on uniforms and Barbie activity books in their hands.
And then after the segment, the anchor said something that stopped me.
“I used to love playing with my Barbie doll when I was a little girl.”
Like a flashback in a movie, I was sitting on my bedroom floor with my Barbie fold-out airplane and listening to record albums as I dressed up my dolls and acted out scenes. I suddenly remembered spending hours with the Barbie styling head where I could put makeup on her and do her hair. Then I recalled my Barbie townhouse with miniature record albums I kept inside and pretended to play when Ken or G.I. Joe came over for a visit.
I didn’t share this with my son, it all came back to me so fast, but it got me thinking about the kneejerk reaction I had about the iconic doll — the only doll I enjoying playing with — and the reaction that anti-Barbie advocates are having about the partnership. “Holding Barbie, the quintessential fashion doll, up as a role model for Girl Scouts simultaneously sexualizes young girls, idealizes an impossible body type and undermines the Girl Scouts’ vital mission to build ‘girls of courage, confidence and character,’ ” said Susan Linn of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
Barbie was never a role model for me, as I suspect it isn't for millions of other girls, now or in the past. She's a doll, and I think most kids are able to keep that in perspective. Although I did bleach my hair a few times over the years, have wanted to be thin and love dressing up, I embrace the body I have and celebrate it. Barbie never changed that either way.