Look out, world! The Barbie backlash has returned! Apparently, Mattel has released a new Barbie in their “I Can Be” series of dolls which features the icon dressed as different professions including a fashion designer, teacher, chef, SeaWorld trainer, President, track champion and veterinarian. The doll that is causing the newest flurry of blog post rants is a yoga teacher. Among the myriad entries online, one blogger asks, “Would You Take Yoga from Barbie?” as if to imply that because Barbie is pretty, blonde, and thin that she might not be as good a teacher as someone who isn’t those things. There are others who still bring up the argument that if Barbie were a real person she couldn’t stand up without falling over because her proportions are not humanly accurate, and that letting girls play with Barbie dolls can somehow skew their self-concepts and perceptions of beauty. Remarkably, the same energy doesn’t seem to go into arguments against toys for boys that have bulging muscles or super powers. I’m sure that there are folks out there who argue against those toys as well, but their voices tend to be a little less aggressive than those of the Barbie-haters.
To answer the question about who wants to take class from Barbie, it would seem a lot of people do. Some fitness centers audition teachers, claiming to look for a “spark” that sets them apart from other candidates. I’ve heard from someone who works at one such place that every one of the instructors–group fitness and yoga alike–are beautiful. And why wouldn’t they be? Let’s face it, as much as it ruffles feathers and gets feminist hackles up, studies have shown that there are perks to being attractive: being picked for teams in elementary school, receiving job offers, and getting help when stranded on the side of the road are just a few. From a business perspective, it isn’t a surprise that managers would hire good looking employees–especially if it means more people will be coming through the doors. Do you really think Hooters would sell as many wings if their waitstaff were plain-looking or overweight? It’s unlikely. I can’t imagine the food is that great. 😉 Now Lululemon is taking it on the chin for an ad that makes light of the situation. Really?
Given that these heated discussions are about a doll, it seems that there is a deeper psychological meaning underlying this displaced aggression toward Barbie and all things “too pretty.” Perhaps it reflects in the way many women treat other women. (Need an example? Check out the Real Housewives franchise!) The cattiness, the lack of trust, and the criticisms that often fly are really the things we should worry about our collective daughters being exposed to; not whether Barbie’s boobs are too big or if she is too pretty to be an achiever. Why not teach them to be kind and compassionate? To me, that is one of the greatest ways to exude beauty. And I think we can begin with the way we treat each other. Be the example.
But I digress. (Which is known to happen from time to time!)
My mother had Barbie dolls. I had Barbie dolls. I also had other toys that encouraged imaginative play, including Holly Hobbie, a rag-dress-wearing plain Jane who got just as much love as the other dolls I owned. If you are of a certain generation, you’ll remember Miss Hobbie, but you might not recognize her 21st century incarnation. She’s a little more stylish and doesn’t look as meek or self-conscious as her predecessor. Check it out:
I’m not upset about yoga teacher Barbie. I think it’s great. If I ever have a daughter, I’d hope that she’d be interested in yoga because of my career as a teacher, but if Barbie and her high pony and bright capris capture her attention and interest in getting on the mat? Awesome. But one thing is for sure: I won’t let her self-esteem be dictated by society, mean girls or self-proclaimed “goddesses” who may who take things too seriously. And if she wants a Barbie doll, damn it, she’ll have a Barbie doll.