Recently, Mattel released Barbie dolls with various skin tones and hair colors, and it is nothing short of a terrible idea. If my daughter needs her doll to have a spot-on matching skin tone to validate her beauty, I will have failed as a mother. At the end of the day, it will be my job to build my daughter’s self-esteem- not Mattel’s. While it is admirable Mattel is straying away from the blonde, big breasted Barbie with feet that cannot support her, my future daughter will still face that image every day in today’s media. I am not going to shelter my child from her surroundings; people will look different than her and they are all beautiful, but so is she regardless of how many dolls look like her.
Barbie is an icon. When you look past her physical appearance, she has been an argument for feminism. Between her numerous careers and activities, Barbie has helped many young women believe that they can achieve goals typically only seen achieved by boys. There are not many other female toys that are surgeons, top political and military titles, or NASCAR drivers. When I think of Barbie’s numerous career paths, I think of her blonde hair as well. Barbie is an image and an icon that cannot have twenty-two different appearances.
The biggest issue here is not that Mattel wants to manufacture dolls with various skin tones, but rather the fact they want to name all these women “Barbie.” Give them other names, and other stories. Leave Barbie as an icon, but use her as a teaching tool instead of an unrealistic goal.
Not every doll will look, or sound, like your daughter, but the world is not one color. Your daughter will face other women in life she views as “perfect.” Let Barbie teach them at a young age that it is okay to admire and look up to others, while still maintaining her own self-esteem. Every color, every shape and every size are beautiful, and to rely on a doll to validate your child’s beauty is a failure to parenting everywhere.