Yet Another Barbie Christmas

January 18, 2013

It’s mid-January, and the holiday season is over; children are readjusting to the new semester, and adults are back to work. The lights and trees have been taken down, and malls are back to their normal number of shoppers. As I reflect on this past holiday season, particularly the craze surrounding popular items that the children in our lives request, I am baffled.

Photo by David Shankbone, Flickr Creative Commons

Every year the same issue arises during my holiday shopping: I stroll down the aisles in search of a doll I can purchase for my 9-year-old niece, and each year I am disappointed with the options. This year my question remained the same: Where is the diversity? To justify my feminist mentality and sometimes too-frequent overthinking of certain matters, I searched “Barbie” on Google. How surprised was I at the results? Not at all. Before my eyes was a page full of white dolls, the majority scantily clad with long legs, small waists, and perfect smiles.

I have always had these issues with doll companies that gross billions of dollars a year and stack toy store shelves for little girls across the globe. Maybe my aversion is a reaction to stories my grandmother has told me, reliving her childhood of sexism and racism. Maybe it’s because of the sense of pride I feel as I look in the mirror at my brown skin every morning. Maybe it’s because I refuse to allow my niece to be socialized to think that pretty girls are only those who are skinny with light skin; long, straight hair; and skimpy clothing — and that women are meant to be mothers and wives instead of engineers and politicians. Maybe it is because of the political, social, economic, and physical attacks that women all over the world survive every day. Maybe it’s because of the grotesque portrayal of women in movies, television, and the media as sexualized beings who deserve little to no respect. Or maybe it’s because the feminist in me would like, for once, to walk down the toy aisle and find a Mexican, Asian, or black baby doll with ease — or a doll whose abilities aren’t limited to being fashionable.

So as I stared at my niece’s Christmas list this year, I skipped over the request for a doll. I challenge all parents and gift-givers to be cautious and aware of what toys you purchase for your children. Are you encouraging your children to follow certain paths in their lives by buying the boys construction toys and the girls toys that reinforce their stereotypical roles as caregivers? Are little girls being socialized to strive for an unobtainable physical ideal represented through popular culture? The answer is yes! From television advertisements to technology to the toys children play with, ideals are being reinforced in our children’s minds. It is time to take a stance and teach children that diversity is beautiful. Each person is unique, and that is what’s normal.

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member Benita Robinson.

By:   |   January 18, 2013

3 Comments

  1. advocatepat says:

    The author appropriately puts the responsibility on parents and gift-givers who must create the demand for diverse representation in dolls and toys. Manufacturers are merely reflecting what they perceive consumers want, and are working toward volume of sales.

  2. clarkp says:

    I regularly face the same problem having three tween nieces myself. Although my sister still has not forgiven me for introducing one of my nieces to the world of Addy and the American Girls, I long ago stopped shopping for kids in the overly pinkified and gender-segregated aisles of leading toy retailers. I skip right to Mindware, Fat Brain, A Mighty Girl, and other online options for creative and unique offerings instead. It may require a little extra effort, but the payoff is well worth it.

  3. […] in your life. When so many gifts marketed to girls are highly gendered, promoting stereotyped and objectified images of girls, holiday shopping can be a frustrating experience. That’s why, for the second […]

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