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  1. #1
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    Default Barbies - Fine or harmful?

    One of my five year old daughters was given a Barbie for her birthday recently. I must admit I freaked out a little at first but then got over it. But now she wants a Barbie she has seen on the TV for Christmas.

    I don't want to be a hysterical, helicopter mum overreacting to things, but I also don't want to be a blind, uneducated mum ignoring the risks associated with presenting a distorted body image to a very young child.

    I have dealt with bulimia and body image issues my whole life so I recognize I am going to be a little touchy on the issue, but I am hoping that means I will be mindful too.

    I played a lot with Barbies growing up. I was never into baby dolls, I loved the adult Barbies, her wardrobe etc etc. But its hard to draw an isolated line from Barbies to my body and food issues. My mother was largely responsible for instilling a strong fear and shame of fatness, issues o severe restriction round food etc..

    But that doesn't mean that Barbies were helpful for me.. At the same time I recognize that very few dolls are anatomically accurate, and that there is risk in making something more attractive simply by restricting it to a child.

    We just googled Barbie on my computer and I asked her what how Barbie's body was different to ours - her response was "very different, cause she's so tall!"

    I don't know, I am 'talking' out loud. I really try to promote my kids to love their bodies, we have a saying in our house "Your body belongs to you!" and my kids are not subject to shaming tactics, overt body hatred or restrictive food patterns but still, I worry..

    So.. my questions;

    Do you think Barbies are helpful, harmful or neutral for little girls?
    What age, if at all, do you think is appropriate for girls to play with Barbies?

    I look forward to reading and processing different points of view

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    We have a billion barbies. My girls are 4 and 1. We play every night before bed. There's distorted body images everywhere. All you can do is raise them to love themselves. My DD started complaining at 3 about her thighs, and it wasn't from barbie, it was from unkind girls at care.

    For the record, I have a few knock off barbies and that's a distorted body image.

    Playing with barbies is a great way to talk about things that she won't generally bring up.

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    I had a think about this too when my DD was little. TBH I made it more of a big deal then what it was.

    The first one DD got was a cheep one from the $2 shop. Fairly soon after barbie had lost her clothes, a leg and half her hair and all of a sudden she wasn't looking so glamorous anymore 😅 Now DD has a couple (mostly naked with strange hair cuts) but she doesn't really play with them.

    I think just treat it like a fad. Don't make a big deal out if it. My DD was back on peppa pig before I knew it. Which is a whole other story because now DD refers to people as 'Fat' which she learnt off the show.

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    I personally feel that a lot of people overthink when it comes to Barbie and the body image issue. It wouldn't cross most young girls minds, they just enjoy them for what they are.

    I adored my Barbie dolls when I was a youngster, so much so that I felt a great sadness when I started high school and it was no longer considered normal for girls of that age to still enjoy dolls.

    I think 5 is an acceptable age to have Barbie dolls as toys, younger if the child can be trusted not to put small parts like the shoes in their mouth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Enough View Post
    My DD started complaining at 3 about her thighs, and it wasn't from barbie, it was from unkind girls at care.
    THIS. My 5yo started complaining about not having 'skinny legs' after hearing it on a princess esqustria app (sp?) I think tv/tech does more damage then barbie dolls. At least it requires some imagination.

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    I don't think you can isolate Barbies as the culprit for body image issues. It's a broader saturation in everything from TV,magazines, friends, unhelpful family member comments (like my MIL who told my 3 year old her legs were 'very solid') etc.

    My kids have a few barbies that the older girl next door gave them when she was clearing out. They also have super hero dolls with lots of strange bulging muscles and some other soft body dolls that would be on the opposite end to barbie on the skinny scale.

    I think modelling self love, a good relationship with food, never commenting on someones body or looks and making an effort to include a wide range of physical appearances in books, media and toys is a pretty good start.

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    Also barbies an astronaut, a doctor, a vet, a fashion designer. She's teaching girls they can be anything they want to be. She's super close with her family. She's a strong independent woman. Respect to barbie .

    Watch some life in the dream house episodes if you want to like her more. The barbie Christmas movie is also great.


    And yes Peppa pig has some horrible stuff about big fat bellies! I always think they had better not start saying that!

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    We don't and never will have barbies, but most importantly, I try to model a good sense of self acceptance for them. The way that I act and speak and judge myself and others is shaping them far more than any doll or advertisement.

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    I had Barbies. I have huge self esteem and body issues. I'm tipping they have more to do with my dad referring to me as a baby elephant when I accidentally stood on mum's hairdryer and cracked it at age 8, my uncle telling me I had solid, thick legs when I was 11, and the incessant bullying I copped from the age of 11-15 purely because of my looks (extremely skinny, no curves, no boobs, not pretty, transparently white and braces). Barbie is unrealistic, yes, but she's not real. The airbrushing in magazines and the standard of beauty and the perfect body on actual people that we're bombarded with every day I would have thought has more of an impact.
    That being said, I don't have daughters and neither of my sons have shown any interest in dolls so Barbie isn't something I have to deal with. I have however always asked the mother of any girls for whom I've bought a Barbie doll if they're OK with me doing so because of this exact thread topic.

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    If you check the Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies blog (http://pigtailpalsblog.com/), she deals with all of these issues and more, and may have some ideas for you to discuss with your daughter. It is really an amazing look at teaching kids to be self aware, gain independence, and to be able to think critically.

    I think the important thing to remember is that children these days are saturated in so many different messages about bodies. We really need to teach kids about media literacy, and focus on how we use our bodies and keep it healthy and strong. Barbie is not necessarily awful. She does teach girls that you can have a career in any field. The important part is how your daughter plays with barbie, and that she doesn't focus on the looks of barbie.

    Hope the website helps!


 

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