Barbie and I are almost the same age, and I must say, we both look pretty good for fifty-something. No, I no longer have that waistline and my feet never did fit comfortably in high heels, but I can say we both have held up through the years.
Barbie made her debut 57 years ago on March 9 at the American Toy Fair in New York City. This buxom beauty was the brainchild of Ruth Handler, the co-founder of Mattel. Barbie was the first mass-produced doll in the US with adult features. Ruth noticed her daughter preferred playing with paper dolls of adult women rather than baby dolls, so Barbie was born.
According to history.com, more than 800 million dolls have been sold since 1959. Barbie is an icon who has her own beach house, convertible, hundreds of careers, loyal friends, and that stud of a boyfriend Ken. Her popularity, though, has had its share of controversy. Some say her unrealistic measurements have contributed to young girls’ poor body images. To combat this, in January Mattel introduced a series of new Barbies with different bodies, skin tones, and hair. Barbie and her friends are changing with the times, and I applaud that.
When I was a little girl, I loved Barbie. In fact, I had one of the original dolls clad in the black and white zebra striped swimsuit with a pair of cat-eye sunglasses jauntily placed on her well-coiffed head. After her, a series of Barbies and her friends filled my room. My friend Michelle and I would spend hours in the basement setting up elaborate houses for our dolls, and sometimes we would add our brothers’ GI Joes to the scenario. Barbie occupied my youth with adventure and imaginative play. I never really focused on her huge boobs, her weird feet, or Ken’s lack of a penis. I knew they were just dolls.
As a feminist, teacher, mother, and grandmother, I acknowledge the criticism that comes with Barbie, but I still love her. I adore her impeccable style, her exciting careers as an astronaut and a news caster, and her ability to always look fabulous, even when stripped naked. She is Barbie. What a doll.