For over ten years, I taught a freshman writing seminar on Barbie at Occidental College in Los Angeles. In that class, one assignment asked students to discuss their own histories with Barbie. The range of activities was stunning, running the gamut from incidents involving explosives, to staged Barbie-Ken sex scenes, handmade clothing lovingly archived across generations, theft, psychic comfort, and of course, hair play. My own daughter had lots of Barbies when she was young and the only way she ever interacted with them was by stripping them all naked and tossing them into the tub. They’d float around, arms akimbo, as she utterly ignored them. The tossing was the point, as far as she was concerned. Another girl I interviewed explained to me that what she did with her ten Barbies was this: “I take their heads off and I go bowling!” These kids’ engagements with Barbie hint that the “solutions” posed by Happy To Be Me or Lamilly may well be irrelevant.
I’ve never been a little girl, so I will admit that this whole “issue” is somewhat out of my wheelhouse, but I think this piece raises some really important and easily-forgotten points about play and the nature of childhood.