Should parents ban Barbie?

Babble stages a parental "smackdown" on the topic, but the plastic dolly wins over both sides.

Published January 10, 2009 11:00AM (EST)

On Friday, Babble hosted a parental "smackdown" over Barbie. In one corner: Jeanne Sagera, a parent who once had "feminist outrage" over Barbie but ultimately gave in and allowed her daughter to play with the infamous plastic female. In the other: Mike Adamick, who never wanted a Barbie in his house, but ultimately gave in and allowed his daughter to have one. Let's get ready to rumble agree!

So, despite dubbing it a "smackdown," it wasn't so much a face off between warring parenting views as it was commiseration over giving in to the pull of plastic-perfect doll. Sagera writes that she was anti-Barbie until she witnessed her daughter's joy at receiving a mermaid Barbie. Then she rationalized that, though Barbie has "impossibly big boobs and and impossibly small waist," she is "hardly the only doll to be lacking in realism."

Adamick writes that he was resolved to never allow his daughter, Emmeline, to own a Barbie, because of the toy's "impossible body" and the fact that "some young girls see Barbie, want her body and then destroy their own." But then Emmeline's grandparents gave her a Scuba Barbie. She played with it for a bit and then abandoned it under a pile of clothes. "Now I've seen the actual impact of Barbie up close and I'm not too worried." He also makes the excellent point that, as a father, he has "a lot more sway over how she will one day view herself and her body than some stupid doll."

Both "sides" conclude that banning Barbie would make the toy far more appealing. Sagera writes that "by not making it a big deal, we've managed to make Barbie no more special than her collection of Hess trucks or her art easel." Adamick agrees: "Do I want to make such a big deal out of it that an issue heretofore unknown to her suddenly becomes a cause for serious familial discussion?"

If I were to have a daughter, I can't imagine buying her a Barbie -- but if someone gave her one as a present, I'd probably do just as these parents have. As a coworker with a young daughter told me, friends and family members give your child all sorts of gifts that you might find questionable. You let some of them pass ... and hide the others.

But I wonder whether the criteria for whether a toy, particularly Barbie, ends up in the garbage bin might have more to do with its familiarity than its actual offensiveness. Both of us agreed that we would probably let Barbie stay -- we both grew up playing with her and we turned out OK, right? Bratz dolls, however? Nu-uh, they would be thrown in with the coffee grounds and egg shells.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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