"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing." ~ Dame Agatha Christie

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Today in History, I Started a Love/Hate Relationship

Today, in 1959, when I was 4 years old, Barbie was born. http://www.barbiecollector.com/collecting/story.asp
I actually owned one of the first Barbies and since that was an era of having few toys, my Barbie was very well-loved. I remember some years later, we were given an opportunity at a Mattel promotion to trade-in our older Barbie for a new one and so I did. That was long before people thought to purchase dolls for their future collectible value as happened later with the Cabbage Patch and Beanie Babies hysteria, so I do not have a stash of perfectly preserved MIB (mint in box) Barbie items on which to base my retirement.

I played with my Barbie for years and added various family members as well. She was always a fantasy because she had the nerve and drive to be whoever I wanted her to be--doctor, lawyer, movie star, the first female President, and so many other professions that seemed unattainable for women in the early Sixties.

Then came high school and the dolls were stored in the attic. I went through the hippie stage and learned of Women's Lib. I married before I was ready and had children soon after, fulfilling my mother's dream for me, and my Barbies came out of the attic so my daughters could play and imagine their futures. One became so enamored of Barbie that even as an adult, she found herself collecting various styles.

I loved Barbie as a girl and am impressed with many of the collectible issues as an adult. Were finances different, I might even own a few primarily because of the subjects depicted (the two witches from the Wizard of Oz and the Arwen/Aragorn set from Lord of the Rings come to mind).

So, where does the dislike crop up? I cannot help but believe that Barbie, the first true fashion doll designed for girls, was the beginning of the cultural phenomenon I call "thin is in". Before Barbie, women could be built in any fashion and be seen as women--actually, many full-figured women were admired throughout history. Barbie is not the total cause of course, lest I be castigated by Mattel for maligning their toy; she has served a wonderful purpose for girls everywhere as they learn to fantasize their possible adult lives. I just wish they would come out with a true-figured model...perhaps the new sets could show Barbie wearing glasses and having gray hair. Or even (gasp!) a pot-belly from having children???

Nope, it ain't gonna happen. Society is too used to "thin is in" and those of us perfectly healthy women who are larger than toothpicks will continue to be looked past as if invisible. Beauty still means more than brains in our society, and perhaps even a plus-sized Barbie would not be able to change that idealogy...but what if Barbie had a brain????? (hmmmmmmm....)

No comments:

Post a Comment