Sunday, May 04, 2008

Role Model Barbies 

When I was a little girl my mother deprived me of Barbie dolls and for that I am extremely grateful. When I think about the way my own perceptions of beauty have changed through the years and what influenced them I can't help but start at the beginning. Seems logical right?

When I was growing up my best friend who lived down the street from me had Barbies. She was African American and her Barbies were too. I loved playing with them although, if I'm going to be honest here, I still wished I had one that looked like me. While we played with those Barbies we projected ourselves onto them and I was keenly aware that I was not shaped like that and did not have long, glossy, thick hair or a little pink convertible. I felt so inadequate, oh how I wanted to look like that! Yes, a little girl has her mother and the media to influence her but the astounding grip that Barbie still has on society is very telling. It's just a theory but I believe that girls who play with Barbie are more likely to end up with distorted body images and eating disorders. It took me years before I realized that I could never look like that. I know the makers of Barbie have tried to push better role model type Barbies but her essential *body* has remained unchanged.

What does this have to do with MS? A lot. Imagine a little girl playing with "Successful Lawyer in a Wheelchair Barbie". Children and adults alike seem ill equipped when directly faced with persons with a disabilities. If future generations of children played with dolls that exhibited disabilities then it would normalize their interactions as adults. That's just a theory of course. I have no doubt that it would still end up as "Successful Lawyer with a Mohawk in a Wheelchair Barbie". You know how kids are.

I was just having lunch with a co-worker whose 13-year old daughter is giving a speech in school today on the topic, "Why Barbie Is Not a Good Role Model." I couldn't agree with that sentiment more. The stats from my co-workers' daughter's speech: If Barbie were a real person, she'd be 6ft tall and her measurements: 39, 19, 33. Ugh!
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