Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Feministically Incorrect





That's me on the far left. The gal in the middle who is NOT flashing her panties at the camera is my middle sister. The stiff one on the end with the glassy stare is the plastic prototype for my youngest sister who would not come along for another three years..
Obviously, the picture was taken at Christmas many years ago before color film. Okay...not THAT long ago. This Christmas was important to me and the non-flasher for one reason and one reason ONLY....Exhibit A: The Barbie Dream House.

I don't remember even asking for it. Maybe I did, but I was too young to read the catalogs. Maybe I just screamed and pointed. This was the first real house ever made for Barbie, and it was --brace yourselves--made totally out of cardboard. I know...today's kid would probably open up something like this and start screaming for a lawyer...or take it out into the yard and start kicking the crap out of it. But in those days...and again--I'm not talking Little House on the Prairie here--this was the top of the heap. Not exactly Laura Ingalls' corncob doll.

Barbie was a teeny, tiny Princess Di and her house was Windsor Castle....cardboard or no. Sure it was a bitch that the cardboard legs of the sofa collapsed early and often under the weight of Barbie's enormous.....um....cleavage, but the non-flasher and I got one house apiece. Plus little Barbie clothes with tiny metal snaps or buttons...none of that velcro shit. And this was "back in the day" when no one was smart enough to tell parents that two-year old sisters might enjoy putting the precious little plastic shoes in their mouths. Amazingly...no one died.

Eventually, we moved on to other Barbies and other houses. I don't know what happened to this particular house. I never acquired a Ken doll, so my Barbie (whom I named Betty Wallet for reasons that escape me now) always had to get married to an "invisible husband" whenever we pretended to have a wedding. I couldn't get too worked up about Ken. He was useful for the ceremony, but afterward...I just couldn't commit my limited Christmas or birthday budget to his boring clothes. And I had it bad for Barbie's clothes and accessories. Tiny phones, sunglasses and little clogs made out of real cork. It was LIKE A DRUG. I could and did play for hours.

I played with dolls for much longer than girls do these days. Just like girdles, fake nails, all-in-one bras and 'HO-heeled shoes, Barbie is now seen as an icon of repression and sexist standards. I understand all the other stuff, but Barbie...not a feminist? Sure, this doll helped to set impossible standards for women in the "endowment" department, but in all the time I played with her I never worried that I didn't measure up. Hell, I was a kid with a body like a stick of gum. Barbie was a woman...or...a woman-shaped doll anyway. I knew there was a distinction. It could have been an issue later when, at age 20 I still had a body like a stick of JuicyFruit, but I never blamed it on Barbie. And how could I? This doll lived the life I couldn't. She ate what she wanted, stayed out all night, wore make-up, drank champagne, slapped the living crap out of invisible Ken whenever she felt like it and never once had to iron his shirts.

Suppressed? Maybe your Barbie...but not mine.

18 Comments:

Blogger Shrinking Violet said...

My Barbie was NEVER oppressive. She had her own place, her own car and her own life. She never had no KEN doll anyway.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

I never had a Barbie, but was handed down GI Joe with Kung-Fu grip from my two older brothers. He was an excellent male roll model for my Weeble Wobble young-uns. And he had awesome pecs.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Hänni said...

Cardboard or no, at least your barbies had a home. If I wanted to play at Barbie's mansion, I had to drag my collection over to my cousin Ambers house. She was more spoiled than me. She had the barbie mansion AND the car.

5:29 PM  
Blogger Michele in Michigan said...

Ahhhhhh! The memories....

In your profile, I think you should describe Texas seasons as "hot" and "a tiny bit LESS hot" lol

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

7:25 PM  
Blogger Amanda B. said...

There is no shame in loving Barbie. Amen.

7:41 PM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

I LOVE the name Betty Wallet and from now on when I see that girl at WalMart that is what I will call her!! Also, you were very astute about Ken. I think he plays for the other team anyway.

4:32 AM  
Blogger Nilbo said...

My sister had a Barbie. And a Ken. And a Skipper.

I had GI Joe. He would beat Ken up, tie him to a chair, and force him to watch while he boinked Barbie. And Skipper. At the same time.

What a man he was.

6:56 AM  
Anonymous TB said...

My first "Barbie" was actually a Bionic Woman doll. Even after I moved on to the more traditional Barbie, with the furniture and the wardrobe, I was still partial to Jaime Summers. She was so cool, but sadly she never quite fit into Barbie's clothes.

7:05 AM  
Blogger reading said...

Ah... the memories. I had a Barbie. My brother had a GI Joe. They had many, many adventures in GI Joe's jeep (which seemed enormous at the time, but when I saw at Thanksgiving, being enjoyed by the next generation, it seemed, well, small). And on the plastic horses that I was obsessed with. At least until I snapped Barbie's leg off trying to make her ride astride one time.

No oppression at our house either.

7:20 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

The last Barbie I had suffered a similar fate. I was gone to school and my mother allowed the youngest sister to "play" with my doll. She snapped the leg off while trying to make it ride a plastic horse that belonged to the other sister, who was also not home to protect her belongings. The horse was not injured in the tragedy, but I came home that afternoon and pulled my evening gown-clad doll out of her case and...the leg dropped off. My outraged cries made cattle restless for miles around.

7:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey now! Ease up on your littlest sister. I didn't mean to HURT YOUR BARBIE! I thought she had bendy legs. How many times to I have to say I'm sorry??? But you're right. After trying to force her to ride Esperanto, her leg popped off...I quietly dressed her in an evening gown and put her back in the Barbie tote. My four year old brain thought maybe God would do a miracle and let the leg fuse back on. But, alas, your screams could be heard across the land. Again, I'm so sorry. Also, tell the crowd what the middle sister named her Barbie!

8:17 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

The horse's name was "Manolito" after the cute guy on the show 'High Chaparral"

The other Barbie's name was Dorothy, after the character in the Wizard of Oz. I suggested the last name "Ding Dong", which the sister hated. Neither of us could improve on such a horrid name, so the name stuck. So sue me!

8:34 AM  
Blogger Dima said...

The original Barbie was the biggest feminist. She didn't need a man to survive. She was a princess without a prine, and a career woman without a man. I didn't even know of the existence of Ken until I was too old to play with Barbie. Today's Barbie is a feminist nightmare though, she's a thug girl, or a cheerleader, or a slutty halloween nurse. Puhleeeeeze!
By they way, hi, I enjoy your blog, first time commenter, etc.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Harridan said...

Ken never figured much in my storylines for Barbie, but my Donny Osmond doll was made into a rapist who lived in a cave. This is what happens when you let your kids watch soap operas at an impressionable age.

8:58 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

Nilbo- As Chauncy Gardener said, "I like to watch." Sounds like Peter Sellers got his inspiration from you, you naughty man.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Nytro said...

my barbie dream house had an ELEVATOR in it!

as far as i was concerned, i was the one being opressed, not barbie. for the love of pete, she lived in a giant mansion by herself (even at a young age it was important to me that woman do things for herself) that had an ELEVATOR! i don't base my success on if I look like barbie... but as soon as i have an elevator in my mansion, i'll know i have arrived. who care if i'm still built like highway 11, no bumps, no lumps, no curves. i have a freaking elevator in my home, people!

9:41 AM  
Blogger Ditsy Chick said...

lol - I loved my barbies and i had a Ken. My dolls were always naked and always fighting with Ken. It was a lot of stress trying to co-ordinate their outfits and my mom would not buy me more, so naked they were. Barbie and Ken sex was really boring though, you didn't miss much.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Misfit Hausfrau said...

I never had a Barbie. Instead, I had a freakin hippie doll named "Flower." She had flaming red hair (I am assuming because it matched mine) and she had tattered hippie clothes (My clothes weren't much better.) I SO wanted a Barbie. And not because I wanted her 39-23-33 figure.

12:03 PM  

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