Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Barbie: The Quintessential Bimbo?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Barbie: The Quintessential Bimbo?

Article excerpt

THIS year marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Barbie doll. But Barbie isn't getting many good wishes to celebrate the occasion. My friend Susan exemplifies the feminist response. Susan went through the Christmas season staunchly refusing to buy her six-year-old daughter the desperately desired doll.

"I can't get her a Barbie," Susan explained. "It'll teach her women are airheads. Look at the stuff in the store, look at the ads. All Barbie cares about is buying clothes and getting her claws into Ken."

That sums up the public judgment on Barbie as she enters her fourth decade: the quintessential bimbo. Yet attacks on Barbie's qualities are equaled only by paeans to her profitability. If Barbie is such an undesirable role model, why does she sell so well? And why do I - an unapologetic feminist - recall so fondly the countless hours I spent playing with her?

When Susan told me that she refused to give her daughter a Barbie doll, I felt sorry for the girl. I pitied her, bereft of such a marvelously concrete alter ego - one who had to be clothed and accoutered, yes, but one who was ready to go fearlessly to any place a child dared envision. For me, Barbie's bimboism is in the eye of the beholder.

The way I see it, Barbie, like all of us, has choices. She can live life at its adventurous edges, or she can sit in her scale- model pink Corvette and wait for Ken to stroll by. My own Barbie was no pampered ing'enue. The only manufactured clothing she ever owned was the swimsuit she arrived in. After that, I clothed her, resulting in swift development of my fabric arts skills. My Barbie was little concerned with clothes, and even less with upholding a popular image. She was far too busy exploring the Amazon, discovering strange new planets, engaging in horseback Western adventures and espionage plots. She coincided with "Star Trek" and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." - and she was the three-dimensional embodiment of the female hero that TV refused to provide.

My best friend and I enacted never-ending dramas centered on Barbie and her associates. These adventures were often communal projects. …

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