It’s OK: To Let Them Watch Barbie

As the parent of girls, I thought it would behoove me to spend some time digging around on Miss Representation’s website.

This indie documentary, in its own words, “challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.”

Mmmm’kay.  But I think we do our daughters a grave disservice by blaming “the media” without first asking ourselves whether we have armed them with strong paradigms at home.

I don’t believe that girl-children inherently suffer more than boy-children from the urge to be something different from what they are.

Case in point: when dropping He’en off at preschool last year, I noticed one of her playmates leaping around the room.

He would leap, then freeze, then crouch, then glare at me.

He did this six or seven times.

Eventually I glared back.

Whereupon the kid’s mother tossed me a Look from across the room and said with a little fake laugh, “Oh, he’s just pretending to be Spiderman!”

It was on the tip of my tongue to say, Well, tell him not to be Spiderman near my daughter, because it’s damned creepy.

Instead, of course, I gave a little fake laugh back and chirped, “Awwww, how cuuuute.”

So here we are, browsing on Roku last week [Roku = best money a parent will ever spend], when He’en asks to watch the animated Spiderman.

I told her nyet.

Instead, I said, she could pick a new Barbie movie.

Is this because I am trying to drive my daughter into an eating disorder?

Hell, no. It’s because I don’t want my daughter leaping around the room, crouching, and glaring at strangers! 

Barbie may not send the very best messages for young ladies — what those girls do in heels, I didn’t do in heels on my best day, and I was really good in heels — but at least I know that nobody will be beaten up or explode on-screen into bloody goo.

I’m a fan of television censorship, I am. But girls also need their martini-and-newspaper equivalent. We’ve watched every episode of Doc McStuffins at least twice. (For those who don’t wish to click, this cartoon features a young girl who serves as a  doctor to her talking stuffed animals. Her mother is a doctor. Her dad is a SAHD. Awesome.)

In real life, I’ve switched to a female pediatrician in part because I think she’s a terrific role model for the girls. Her professional staff happens to be all-female as well.

I further try to “deprogram” whenever I read He’en the books that I had as a child:

“Can girls be firefighters? Of course they can!”

“Can men be nurses? Of course they can! Our neighbor Mister Colin is a nurse.”

“Yes, Mister Colin was the one who used the chainsaw to cut up that tree last summer, remember? Well, his job is helping hurt people get better.”

“Someday Mommy will teach you to use a chainsaw, by the way.”

It’s OK: Today’s Takeaways

  • I think Miss Representation’s heart is in the right place.
  • But I refuse to feel guilty about contributing to the Barbie franchise.
  • The raising of girl-children is more than an exercise in contradictions.
  • It’s often an exercise in choosing the lesser or least of evils.
  • All you can do is your best.
  • And that’s a good message, whether it comes from Mom, Barbie, or Doc McStuffins.

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