Friday, September 12, 2008

Barbie vs. Bratz

Based on the comments I got from the blog post below, I feel somehow compelled to write my thoughts about Barbie versus Bratz dolls. I know that many of you may disagree with me, and that’s fine. Just thought it was an interesting topic.

I cannot stand Bratz dolls. The first time I saw them in a store, this was my internal monologue “Oh my! What on earth?! I cannot believe that someone came up with the idea of hooker dolls, was able to sell it to the company VP, and actually had them produced. That’s going to bomb out BIG TIME. No one will buy that crap for their daughters! “ And I chuckled. Well, we all know that not only are they still around…but they are making MILLIONS of dollars! Shocking. The dolls, in case you aren’t familiar with them, have large oversized heads with make up fit for a drag queen. They wear mid driff, low cut tops with little belly button rings. Typically, an incredibly short skirt is paired with knee high platform pleather boots. Oh, and all bedazzled and bedecked with sequins and glitter for extra kick. None of this is an exaggeration. I kid you not when I say that they are hooker dolls. Or maybe, “dancers”…”working their way through college”.

I couldn’t imagine buying this type of doll for my daughter. ‘Here honey. Play with a doll that exudes sexuality and teaches you that it’s fun and hip to wear 18 pounds of make up and tube tops. I know you don’t get enough overt sex references and reasons to have an eating disorder. Really sweetie, have fun. Love you! Ciao!”


I’m sure many have and will say that the same comments can be applied to Barbie. After all, it’s no secret that she is anatomically impossible with ginormous (perky) breasts, a teeny tiny waistline, child bearing hips, flawless tanned skin, bright white teeth and a mane of blonde hair that went well below her perfect tush. Barbie has it all: a mansion, a pink Corvette, a smoking hot boyfriend, a cute non-obnoxious little sister and a wardrobe that could clothe a small country…all in different outfits. Some of those outfits are questionable. Some of those outfits are downright skanky. Barbie has a naughty streak. It’s true.

As a kid, I played with Barbies. I had the cardboard dream house, complete with the little elevator that you pulled a pink string to make go up and down. I had the Corvette and white horse. I had a Ken doll. And Skipper. And lots of those little plastic shoes that never stayed on.

As a kid, it never occurred to me that Barbie was a body type to aspire to. My young mind never wished I looked like her. I never secretly hoped for that oh-so-perfect life. She was just a doll. Just like all my Cabbage Patch Kids, Popples, and Strawberry Shortcakes. None of my toys were really anatomically correct now that I think of it. Strawberry had a giant, weird shaped head. The CPK’s had button noses and funny little bottoms. Heck, even Rainbow Brite is probably anatomically incorrect (too big head and too short legs?). As a little girl the ONLY time I ever felt self-conscious about my appearance was based on frustration that all baby dolls had blonde hair. The very few dolls that were brunette, also had olive skin and were obviously “Hispanic”. I couldn’t ever understand why they couldn’t make brown haired, brown eyed white dolls. (I never had a black doll…which is a shame…oh well). Jacquelyn mentioned in her comment that Barbie made her hate her body type. Interesting. It honestly never crossed my mind. I just wanted to dress her up in all those fancy outfits and brush her hair. Suffice it to say, I don’t have a problem with Barbie. I think she’s fine. My daughters will have them. I will monitor the clothing choices since there are likely outfits that are inappropriate. But, by and large, I think Barbie is just fine. In lots of ways, Barbie is an interesting doll. What other doll has been President, an astronaut, a travel agent, a doctor, and an aerobics instructor? J

I know that some of the comments following this post will say:

“Barbie is just as sexual…you’re just used to it.” Maybe. But somehow I disagree with that. Truly, Barbie was nothing but a toy to me. Period.

“All those careers are just putting undue pressure on our girls.” Hmmm, okay. I sometimes dreamed of being an astronaut while I played with my Barbie, but I don’t think it scarred me in any way.

“If Barbie didn’t bug you as a kid, and you were just the picture of innocence, how do you know that the little girls playing with Bratz dolls won’t say the same thing when they are older?” I’m not a debate champion. I know that my argument likely has holes in it. But I’m not trying to win a debate match. I’m just blogging to a bunch of my girlfriends who know me well enough to know what I’m saying. But here’s the deal. Barbie was a grown up. I never tried to dress like her, because Barbie was like…24. My Barbie had lots of pencil skirts and big ruffly dresses. That just wasn’t even an option to try to emulate at 8 years old. Barbie is sexual…in a way that is sexual to adults. Grown men may find her sexual, because she is the “perfect” woman. But she was just a 24 year old doll. Bratz dolls are teenagers. They have “prom” versions and they have backpacks and school books. An 8 year old is almost a pre-teen (or at least they think they are). And they CAN buy those clothes (which is a topic unto itself). They CAN wear entirely too much make up, hike their skirts up and pull their shirts down. In fact, the clothes that Bratz wear are what their older sister and the girl down the street is wearing. It is a viable option. Bratz dolls are so over the top in their dress that it’s impossible to NOT notice the length of their skirt. Barbie’s skirts are too short. If I put the same length pencil skirt on for work, I would get sent home. But, it didn’t look short on Barbie. Don’t know why, it just didn’t. The skirts on Bratz? Band-Aids. No matter how you look at it.

Anyway, I kinda hope this post garners discussion. I’d love to hear what you all have to say. Keep in mind, that there’s lots more I could say…a book’s worth. But it’s just a blog post. Not a Master’s Thesis. ;)


Jacquelyn said...

Great topic! too bad you don't allow anonymous comments! Hypothetically speaking I think that if you grow up in a family where your father calls you fat (and I'm heavier now than I ever was in high school) and you are teased for being anatomically incorrect, you can be tempted to look at that Barbie as an ideal you will never meet. I always tried to push the envelope with my clothing selection in high school and while I suspect some of that did come from the sexy Barbie wardrobe it could have been normal high school stuff. I guess the bottom line is: everyone has a sin nature and can be tempted by the closest thing at hand. Parents need to make the best choices that they can for their children and also guide them to a correct worldview. I don't fault people for giving their girl's barbies, I've just decided not to let Eliannah have any. (If you want to give Henry a Barbie for Christmas - go for it. I'm sure that by patiently explaining to him that women don't look like that he won't be scared for life ;)

Rachel Slagle said...

very well said! i couldn't agree with you more. i cringe at those bratz dolls. even the name is bad - it like hey look we're bratty, sexpots. the sad thing is that they are even marketing them to the younger audience - i see commercials for them every morning while dillon is watching dora the explorer. they are bad enough for the tweens to have but come on... preschoolers? horrible!

as far as barbie is concerned - i think that she is fine. you mentioned how she has had so many jobs and a huge wardrobe and personally, i think that it teaches kids individuality... it shows that girls don't have to grow up to be the stereotypical nurses and secretaries - but that they can dream big and grow up to be the president or an astronaut if they choose.

Jeannett Gibson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeannett Gibson said...

That deleted post was my something wrong.

Anyway, as for Henry and Barbies...his future girlfriends are going to have a hard enough time living up to the perfection that is is MOTHER...Barbie is the LAST thing they'll be worried about! :) HA!

(P.S. I too grew up in a home where I was called fat and lots of other awful things...but Barbie never made it past the toy category for me. Guess everyone just takes things differently?)

Mike and Rachel said...

No Bratz for us either. I don't mind Barbie, but don't look forward to all those small pieces spread all over the floor! Oh, and I did want to grow up to be Barbie. I'm aiming for workout barbie at the moment :)

Kristen Borland said...

we've decided not to allow barbies. there are many alternatives that are just fine. but i certainly do NOT look down on people for giving them to their daughters, and i wasn't scarred by playing with them as a child. i grew up in a loving family and was given plenty of affirmation, which is so important for girls. but i still have some issues with barbie and don't think she's necessary for happiness.

and our daughters will most DEFINITELY NOT have Bratz dolls. there's just no need to go into all the obvious reasons why.

lisa said...

I say, let your daughters play with Barbies if they so desire. BUT, also have them play with other dolls as well. This is what we do with our daughters. They each have two Barbies, complete with all the outfits & bells & whistles.

Besides the Barbies, they enjoy dolls from Guatemala, Africa & China. Obviously these all have different body types, skin color, hair style, etc. It seems like a good balance and even though they are still quite young, i'm hoping they are grasping the concept that everyone is unique and special in their own way.

Barbie is just a piece of plastic. If we teach our girls a positive body image (AND this includes watching how we talk about our OWN bodies, dieting, etc.) this can be one of the best things we can do for them. I was painfully self-conscious as a teenager and can still remember very clearly the comments my mother would make to me, even though i was slim and athletic. It is hard to get over!

Lara said...

Seriously! Why would you want to encourage your girls to be Brats?! I don't understand. Caedra will not own a Bratz doll. I hope and pray no one ever gives her one as a present. I don't even want to give it to Goodwill. That means SOME girl will be playing with it.

I have zero body type issues from playing with Barbie as a kid, but my mom said she did. I'm still not really sure how to feel about Barbie. At the moment Caedra LOVES playing with her auntie Tia's old Barbies. Caedra is a princess-aholic and Barbie fulfills that somehow. (I sort of have issue with Cinderella too...but that's another story. At least she's always kind and cheerful. That's good right?) Anyway, so Barbie only wears princess dresses in my house. Nothing skanky.

It makes me sad when 8 year olds already know how to act sexy. I suspect that has to do with watching too many music videos starring Britany Spears and too many Victoria Secret commercials more than Barbie, though.

K said...

This is such an interesting topic. I never had a Barbie doll - I was strictly a stuffed animal gal...but I had body issues just the same, even without all the dolls.
If I had a daughter, I think I'd wait until she seemed interested in barbies, and then a few would be fine - but those bratz dolls wouldn't enter my house because they're just slutty looking. I think as long as girls grow up in a household where they can feel good about themselves and not have to live up to a certain standard, then a doll is just a doll.
And Jeannette, you TOTALLY gave me some flashbacks - popples! Rainbow Bright! I just got a hankering for some punky brewster....SIGH - those were the days huh?

lindsey said...

i just don't get why anyone would ever buy a toy called "bratz". would you buy a doll called "disobedient girl"? isn't that the same thing as a brat? i would have a really really hard time being gracious if my girls were ever given bratz as a gift. i guess that makes me a brat!
i never had a barbie growing up, and my girls never will either. we've made this very clear to our family members who are barbie lovers. i did grow up playing with them at friends houses, but (here's a confession)they most often ended up in bed with ken, of course after they got married first. they are very sexual dolls. if their clothes didn't come off i probably wouldn't have nearly as big of a problem as i do with them. and i have yet to see barbie wearing something that i would ever wear or want to see a grown woman wearing. its all so tight fitting and seductive. can't we just see barbie in some sweats and a hat with her hair pulled back in a messy pony?

Brianna Heldt said...

amen! i so agree. (i had the corvette too, and the dream house, and the shopping mall.) I never thought to compare myself to barbie. she was just a doll. my barbies also had lots of pencil skirts, ruffly dresses, and even a bride's dress. to me they were just innocent dolls. i'm fine with my girls having barbies.

and i really agree with lara's point about britney spears and victoria's secret.

but bratz? no, no bratz dolls. (i'm sure no one is brave enough to come out and say it but...i'm wishing someone whose kid has bratz dolls would post about their experience with them!)

Joanie said...

My only experience with Bratz besides being disgusted with them in the store is some of my students. It's sad to think of it, really. One was a brat, but she was living up to some unfortunate labels and low expectations. I can still see the hurt she carried with her as she walked around with her Bratz gear. This poor soul was hurting long before that horrible toy designer came up with Bratz, but I think it just perpetuated her reputation. Sad.

And another example was a girl whose father adored her, but he lived very far away. Her mom was nice, but indulged her daughter in wearing things much too old for her age and giving her Bratz peraphernalia all in the guise of her interest in fashion. But these girls were 7!

And that's just it, Jeannett, you had such a good point about Barbie's age vs. the Bratz ages. (Wasn't there even a movie?)

Oh, and the venom I was talking about was just being curious what the other bratz doll phrases were, although it also seemed like I was referring to Barbie. No, mostly just the Bratz and the not so forward thinking person who decided to put them on the shelves of a toy store.

joy said...

oh how i loved my barbie! i didn't have a lot of clothes for her and i never did get the dream house or the vette--and there might have been ken, i'm not sure, but i do remember barbie dating GI Joe for sure. i haven't really thought about the whole barbie issue. i don't think i have a problem with esther playing with barbies. although they do have big boobs and the clothes come off, the boobs don't have nipples, so i don't feel they are too anatomically correct. i never compared myself to barbie physically, i think i just was anxious to grow up and be able to date and have boobs in general, with or without barbie. i abhor bratz dolls and those won't be living here. and i think jeannett you made a good point about age. barbie is a grown up and the bratz dolls are not. interesting topic of discussion!

Anna said...

I loved Barbies! I had a ton of white, blonde ones but my favorite part was when I got a black barbie. Eventually I ripped their heads off and switched the black and white bodies. So "white" barbie had a "black" head. haha. Not sure why I thought that looked so cool. :-) I also ended up cutting all the blonde barbie's hair and dying it with food coloring. VERY fun!