For sale: Barbie, never played with
Professor Bath and I will be adopting a kiddo next week. (Yay!) Among the things I wasn’t expecting to deal with were gifts. We had already bought tons and tons of crap, but that hasn’t prevented an unprecedented number of well-wishers from piling on.
Among the gifts was a Barbie. It was gifted to us by an international, single man who knew we were having a daughter. I assume he went to a store and looked for something that looked like what girls play with and didn’t realize that Barbie is a Big Political Statement nowadays.
Personally, I kind of hate Barbie. As a kid, I always hated all human-like role-playing toys, and I have every hope to nurture such animosity in the littlest Bath. That Barbie seems vapid is just all the more reason to hate her.
That said, I hate this even more:
Lammily is the politically correct Barbie. She’s proportioned like the average young, (white) American. She even comes with cellulite stickers. I’m not a connoisseur of different flavors of feminism, but I get the impression that if you bought the hardcopy version of Lean In and have a daughter of the appropriate age, you bought her a Lammily doll.
The theory behind Lammily is that Barbie is unrealistic and delivers unrealistic ideas of what an ideal female body should be. Kids grow up thinking they should look like Barbie and are unhappy with themselves when they inevitably don’t.
Even if all of that is correct, however, Lammily doesn’t fix any of it. No one who receives a Lammily doll looks like Lammily. Some will get closer when they are 20, but they will have plenty of years to be dissatisfied with their bodies before then. Additionally, the mathematical averages she is based on are…mathematical averages. The vast majority of people differ from average. Assuming a normal distribution of a variable, less than 40% lie within a 1-standard-deviation interval of that average. A human body, of course, involves a whole bunch of variables. Even if a girl grows up with Lammily’s waist circumference, her hip circumference might be off. Or if she nails both of those, her neck might be too long. Or her eyes too far apart. Never underestimate the creative abilities of a woman seeking to find fault with her body.
And if your young daughter asks you about her differences, your replies are necessarily constrained. You bought her a Lammily because Lammily is normal and average. If your daughter differs from that, it is because she is abnormal and sub-average. She could make that deduction. And you know she could make that deduction because that possibility was the whole reason you got a Lammily in the first place.
At least if you had gotten your daughter a Barbie, and she attempts to make comparisons, you could laugh and say
If Barbie was a real woman she’d be forced to walk on all fours and would be physically incapable of lifting her over-sized head…
Her 16-inch waist would also be four inches thinner than her head, leaving room for only half a liver and a few inches of intestine.
Barbie’s lack of realism is a feature, not a bug. An unattainable standard for beauty can be mocked and discounted. An attainable standard of beauty (and that’s what Lammily is even if that wasn’t its original intent) isn’t so easily dismissed. Lammily is realistic enough to be hurtful.
I’m still probably giving the Barbie to the dog though.