I’ve gone on record with the fact that I hate Barbie. I just do. I hate her big ta-tas, tiny waist, cornsilk hair, perpetually wide, blue eyes and feet stuck at optimum high heel tippy-toe.
Blech. Yeah, yeah, there’s Skipper and the token Barbie Dolls of the World but Mattel ain’t foolin’ me. Barbie is an icon, a ubiquitous term for the blonde, big-boobed bimbo, giving youngsters everywhere an unreal, nearly pornographic notion of beauty.
That said, if my kid was into Barbie then I’d get a Barbie. I’m an involved enough parent that I’d make damn sure she knows it’s a toy and toys are created to be outlandish. My point is this: I want my child to explore her personality on her own. Certainly I can offer guidance, but I’m not going to attempt to create an entirely different person if her natural inclination is in another direction. It’s my job to assess her inherent tendencies and encourage those, not completely revamp her personality.
That’s why an article on The New York Times’ Motherlode called “Turn Your Princess-Obsessed Toddler Into a Feminist in 8 Easy Steps” rubs me the wrong way. The title alone suggests we are in control of our children’s personalities but anybody who has raised kids knows perfectly well that their little personalities are there long before we start screwing them up.
The article offers such gems as “Wonder aloud, what with Cinderella’s history as a cleaner, if she and Prince Charming are likely to share the division of labor in their home” and “Chuckle about the patriarchal shenanigans of King Triton. Before the laughter subsides, ask why, in fact, everyone was so threatened by the idea of Ursula the sea witch becoming ruler, when it’s clear that she was extremely capable.”
Patriarchal shenanigans? Really? Can we not just enjoy a classic fairy tale without someone trying to recast the mold? Wait, I’m not done yet. “Praise Belle for her love of reading, but segue into a discussion about the Stockholm syndrome as it relates to women, and how that might shed insight into the phenomenon of women who stay in toxic relationships.”
A discussion about the Stockholm syndrome? Women have fought so hard for equality we’ve kind of lost the plot going in the other direction. Feminism, at its core, is the idea that we now have a choice. It doesn’t mean we mock those women who love princesses and girly things and aspire to be barefoot and pregnant after marrying the man of their dreams, it means we are thrilled that they have the choice to do that while we have that option as well as the option to run a Fortune 500 company if we want to.
CHOICE. NOT HATRED OF ALL FEMININE THINGS.
If your kid likes princesses, let her like princesses. If your kid is a tomboy, let her be a tomboy. Isn’t it possible to raise kids with a nice mix of everything that’s out there and see what they gravitate to as opposed to pushing them in one direction or another? Let your kid be who they’re going to be without trying to dictate their personality. Work on their knowledge of right and wrong and their sense of responsibility to humanity, if you want to try and shape something. And yeah, sure, teach them about feminism and how hard so many women have worked to get us where we are now but it doesn’t mean that’s what every woman needs to aspire to do, it simply means we now have options where we didn’t before.
If the idea of Cinderella and Prince Charming not dividing the labor equally in their home still chaps your hide, realize that we all spend far too much time over-analyzing toys/books/movies and fearing messages kids probably aren’t even getting from them. As my fierce editor, Amy Stanford sagely notes, “I had The Little Mermaid on repeat for much of my childhood and played with Barbies every day … and then I studied Women’s Studies in college. To each, her own.”
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