The Darling Academy


Barbie, you can sit with us

I bought a Barbie this morning (not for myself I might add, though I wouldn't mind keeping her). My son has a friend's birthday party coming up, and rather than feel confident in my decision to buy it straight away I telephone the little girl's mother right there in the supermarket to get permission.

It's a sad reality that we don't live in a simple world anymore. Where gender tolerance and equality has come on leaps and bounds (and which I fully support), it has also really stifled the "traditional" gender market, if you will. We are encouraged to allow boys to play with dolls, and girls can be superheroes (they blooming well can), but we get uptight about buying specifically girly toys, for girls. What's that about?

I got the go-ahead... Yet something inside me doesn't feel right.

This 11.5" plastic doll from Mattel evoked all sorts of feelings in me as I handed over my debit card to purchase "a dream" for this beautiful brunette four year old.

"Am I doing the right thing"? rattled about in my head as I punched in the PIN. The internal conflict was hard to quieten and my stomach churned at the thought of endorsing all that is pink and princessy.

I know that it feels natural to me, but now also rather alien to a lot of the world.

Why is it that I wouldn't have hesitated for a second to buy a "boyish" toy for someone's son (think trucks, trains, monsters, superheroes, footballs, toy tools etc) yet when something is vaguely "girly" then I second guess myself. Of course, I would draw the line at one of those overtly sexualised and obnoxious Monster High dolls, or even the glitter make up set endorsed by Anna and her frosty sister, but a simple Ballerina!?

What's so wrong about a Ballerina in pretty clothing?

Personally, I love Barbie, always have and always will. So many warm memories fill my heart when I stare into this doll's face. Going shopping on a Saturday with my father to pick out a new doll. Waking up on Christmas morning to find a pink palatial Dream House with string-operated lift. That hold-your-breath minute when you wait for your parent to take her out of the box and release her from those pesky twist ties and elastics. It was always such a "moment" for six year old Alena. Oh and the flame-haired Ariel Barbie whose fabric tail you could pull on and off in a mermaid-minute.

She was something special.

Sadly, even devastating memories are attached. The day I lost one of Barbie's rollerblades in the River Thames and crying after my father's failed attempt at retrieving it. To the day long into my teens when I casually asked where my Barbie collection was to discover that it had been given away many years ago. Think not of your future granddaughters, dear mother. #sideeye #stillbitteraboutit

Barbie is a good role model for girls.

As a daughter of the 80s I've often felt torn between what is in my heart (which is to "play house" - not an EASY job at all), and the pressure to break those glass ceilings. As you can tell I was indulged in my love for Barbie but was also wide awake to the discord that other parents felt about "her". Distinctly the school friend whose mother would plainly tell her "not to play with Barbies when you play at your friends house".

I want nothing more than to be like Barbie, even today. I think she is a brilliant beacon for girls, encouraging them to chase the best for themselves and not lowering their standards according to the pigeon-hole society has created for them. She is charming, caring, beautiful, successful and carefree, nothing bothers her, very serene, plus she has her dream career and her dream man. What's not to like, and pray tell what's to complain about? If the alternative is "reality", ugly misery, slogging through the corporate rat-race, racking up credit cards bouncing from unfulfilling relationship to another - then bury me in a life-sized Mattel box with tutu please, because my future is pink!

Barbie, in my eyes is an accomplished woman and yet we still so vehemently attack her, openly bully her and outright despise what she stands for. Yet Barbie's world is brighter and full of possibility.

Still, we should know by now that femininity, and embracing and really chasing your dreams is so very, very wrong!

Wait.... I forget my own argument. But it does sound like the narrative for the "popular" view on being feminine and "girlish", does it not? Why do we downplay what girls truly want when what they want is to "simply" make house, raise babies, have a happy healthy marriage and nurture future generations of well-raised, well-educated, well-rounded and well-supported children?

Let's cut those dreams off at the stiletto!

Do you realise that when you ostracise Barbie, you ostracise me?

Perhaps that's why I felt so uncomfortable at that checkout this morning. That little doll exposed a long-buried dream that is still itching to be realised. I still feel so isolated in a modern world. Where are the ladies like me?

Can we just let girls be girls again? Is that ok? Or are we still feeling bitter about what Barbie "represents" to some people. That wholesome image of everything a woman can be if she simply felt comfortable enough to live in her own skin. Not every girl wants to break those glass ceilings or be a "fighter". I applaud those that do but not many people back my corner, as pink and glittery as it is.

Who is Barbie to you? A sexist toy holding girls back, or as their new advertising campaign states....

When a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything she can become.

The greater question is:

Is "everything she can become" to the exclusion of being girly and doing stereotypical feminine things...

Are we still feeling ashamed to "just" be girls/women/ladies? I'm definitely not, are you with me?

The ballroom floor is yours..... Discuss

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About the Author

Alena Kate Pettitt

Alena Kate Pettitt is a wife, mother and author from England. She holds traditional family values dear to her heart and is passionate about sharing the wonderful spiritual transformation that can blossom when young women finally embrace their natural femininity and all that they were made to be.

Ladies Like Us, is a modern girl’s guide to self-discovery, self-confidence and love.

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