Barbie Is Not the Enemy — Even the Controversial New Girl Scout Version

GirlScoutBarbie.jpgIf you read any of the press on the new Girl Scout Barbie (like this piece or this one, for example), you might just panic and assume the girl apocalypse is around the corner.

“Barbie is basically a terrible role model for girls, and she’s not about what the Girl Scouts’ principles are, which have to do with leadership and courage,” Susan Linn, a psychologist and director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said on the Today show.

My daughters have a few Barbie dolls, although I never purchase them myself. They trickle in as gifts at birthdays and holidays and while they get some play time, they’re not considered favorites. I usually find Barbie clothes strewn about the house and naked, forgotten Barbies languishing under the couch.

Do I wish my daughters were doing science experiments, feeding the hungry, and running triathlons instead of playing with dolls? Not particularly. I don’t force dolls on them nor do I help them avoid books, math, and altruistic pursuits. I support their interests — mainly arts and crafts and gardening — and nudge them towards other age-appropriate, intellectual, and charitable activities that they perhaps wouldn’t haven’t picked up on their own. There’s no ban on any kind of toy (other than guns) or activities in our house, including Barbie.

Barbie is not the enemy. My daughters are beautiful, inside and out — something I tell them frequently. They don’t look at Barbie and seem to envy her absurdly small waist. They see her as a pretty doll that can ride on toy horses and in tiny cars. I don’t read too much into it because they don’t.

You could poo-poo the Girl Scout Barbie as being “insidious” and “product placement at its worst,” but is it really any worse than all the kids movies that have Happy Meal tie-ins at McDonalds and other unhealthy fast food restaurants?

If anything, it seems to me that Mattel has gone out of its way to make Barbie less of a stereotypical dumb blonde (she’s available in brunette and African American, too) and more of a go-getter — although my daughters see her as neither, to them she’s just a doll. There have been President Barbies, athletic Barbies, policewoman Barbie, and entrepreneur Barbies. As far as I know, there have been no stripper Barbies or prostitute Barbies. You could argue she looks too sexy for young girls, but if you feel that way, then perhaps you should choose to not have them in your home no matter what they’re wearing.

Is it silly that Girl Scout Barbie wears high-heel hiking boots? Of course. But if you were looking to Barbie to be a more realistic representation of a woman enjoying the outdoors, then why not simply take your kids outdoors? Girl Scout Barbie also carries a tote that says “Goal Setting. Decision Making. Money Management. People Skills. Business Ethics.” There’s nothing wrong with that, is there? In fact, isn’t that a whole lot of right?

Why are we letting Barbie’s lesser-than qualities wins over the positive qualities promoted by the Girl Scouts? Note that “Be anything, do everything” is emblazoned on Girl Scout Barbie’s participation patch. The Girl Scouts stand for all kinds of good things, so why not applaud Mattel for showing that Barbie is more than just her looks? Even if you believe that Barbie has a history of helping to sexualize young girls, then isn’t it a good thing that Mattel is making a point to put a Barbie out there with an association focused on teaching girls about “the outdoors, camping [and] giving back in your community,” as a Barbie spokeswoman stated?

And what, exactly, is wrong with teaching our girls that even good looking Barbie can be about something bigger than just her looks?

The bottom line is that Barbie is not responsible for being a role model to our children, just as much as Cookie Monster isn’t the poster child for healthy eating. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t good lessons to be learned from each of them anyway.


Image courtesy of Facebook/Girl Scouts

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