Have you paid attention to what Barbie dolls look like lately?
No, me neither, until yesterday. The adorable little Sadie, my three-year-old granddaughter, has several, and was playing with them when I visited. I concede that, even when my daughters were playing with Barbies more than 20 years ago, the plastic creatures were etiolated, distorted versions of femininity, but they at least looked fairly wholesome, and their “clothes” were princess costumes, or tennis outfits, or impossible-to-put-on trousers and little shirts.
Well Sadie’s four have big, tousled hair, exaggerated “eye make-up” and pouting mouths painted hot pink. Their clothes varied from a skimpy mini dress to a plunge-neck top with silver straps, revealing most of this Barbie’s plastic “breasts” teamed with a hot-pink crotch-length skirt. Sadie had them seated in a circle, giving them tea from little plastic cups, but they looked more like they were ready to glug down a Margarita and snort some coke before falling into a cab at 3am.
So, why is this a subject for a fashion blog? Because these are the “fashion” role models for millions of little girls, who play with these dolls and may go on to believe that these overtly sexual – not to say hooker-style – clothing is appropriate when they go out. We have been blaming magazines and clothing manufacturers for the sexualising of little girls, but Barbie – or Harpie as I shall be calling these pernicious little toys from now on – play a role, too. I do not believe little girls have to be dressed in broderie anglaise and sweet little frocks. But there is “contemporary” and then there is slapper-style dressing. Even if the little girls under the make-up and plunging necklines are utterly innocent, the messages such inappropriate clothing sends has the terrifying potential to make them seem like fair game for the wrong kind of attention.
Furthermore, such clothes send an insidious message that girls have to dress this way to fit in with their peers and to be “fashionable”.
Barbie (and that means you, Mattel) you have been named and shamed. You need to get your fashion act together. Get rid of the pout, lose the plunging necklines and the crotch-length skirts. Demonstrate that girls don’t have to look like slappers to be “one of the girls”.
Does it matter how dolls are dressed? Tell us what you think.