It’s not Barbie’s fault

U-Wire and U-Wire

Before Carrie Bradshaw, there was Barbara Millicent Roberts. She turns 50 years old this week, and she’s never looked better. You may know her as Barbie – that doll with flawless skin, the toy that never has to excuse herself to the little doll’s room to touch up her eyeliner or lipstick, the one with the feet that come stiletto’-ready. In five decades, she’s managed to have over 100 careers, each one with its own accessories. She even has her own pinked’-out aisle in the toy stores. I have to admit: I’m impressed. Barbie is the doll America loves to hate. Feminists have held dear their right to blast the half’-inch’-shy’-of’-a’-foot’-tall toy, blaming her for low self’-esteem and eating disorders among girls. All that blame can’t be placed on her tiny shoulders, though. The problem is that it’s almost too easy to blame Barbie for negative body images. We’re a society that just loves to blame others for our problems, and it doesn’t matter who takes the blame – so long as we don’t have to answer for our own shortcomings. I grew up with the support of strong, encouraging women who embody what I believe Barbie stands for, not as a fashionista, but rather as a strong feminine icon that has stood the test of time. Family members, friends, even teachers: The people we interact with on a regular basis are who shape our self’-images in the end, not some molded piece of plastic covered in pink frills. A scene from ‘Mean Girls’ comes to mind, where the Plastics are standing in front of a mirror pointing out their flaws. When they get to Cady Heron, all she can say is ‘I have really bad breath in the morning.’ One can look at the character of the head Plastic, Regina George, and draw links between her and Barbie: the dream house, expensive car and huge wardrobe – but Barbie never wistfully sighs, wishing her thighs had a little less jiggle to them or saying that her hairline looks weird. Therein lies the problem with the ‘girl world.’ It’s okay to want to spend a day in Barbie’s teeny’-tiny shoes, but the obsession with perfection goes way beyond a doll. Yes, I’ve skipped meals before. And yes, I’ve also stood in front of a mirror analyzing everything I disliked about myself (huge pores and sucky nail beds included). It took a while before I realized how harmful that negativity was, and perhaps I am still grappling with the issue of my body image. Many girls are, whether they play with Barbie dolls or not. Let’s give Barbie a break. She has had her superficial shortcomings along the way, but she’s managed to stay classy since her 1959 debut in a black’-and’-white striped swimsuit. Instead of shouting about how sexist her body proportions are, how about we work to use positive reinforcement to boost the body images of those around us? But as we head out for Spring Break, perhaps we should all embrace the Barbie within us. Ladies, go out and flaunt what your mommas gave you. Save the negativity for that term paper due on the 16th.