“Barbie” and a School Book Fair: Why I said ‘No’ to the Barbie Book

"Fashion Fairytale" vs Stars and Planets! I know which one we're buying!

“Fashion Fairytale” vs Stars and Planets! Cool, I know which one we’re buying!

I’ve just come home from a local school book fair where there was a rather large selection of “Barbie” story, craft and activity books on sale, I was ignoring those and was instead rummaging through the good fodder, hoping to find a decent, inspiring yet wholesome early reader or creative craft book for my five year old daughter, when a lovely 11 year old girl suggested:

‘Why not this Barbie book?’ I pulled a face and told her that I wasn’t too keen on Barbie. At this point another mum overheard and looked at me with shock,

‘Surely YOU like Barbie?’ She asked, seemingly unable to comprehend the fact I didn’t like Barbie. I guessed, wildly, this is because I am a “relatively” young mum, tall (in heels), blonde (fake)  always made up (make up wakes me up!) and I like wearing funky galaxy Black Milk tights. (No, I don’t look anything like Barbie, but perhaps she thought I was aspiring to? :-/ Uh Oh).

‘No,’ I said, ‘I think she’s a bad role model for little girls. She’s too thin, too unsuitably dressed, too unreal. Barbie books and especially DVD’s are banned  in our house. Unfortunately we do have some Barbie dolls, which were given to us as presents although I’m keen to get rid them…Yeah,’ I admitted, noticing her wide eyes, ‘I’m a real stick in the mud.’

The other mum was quiet for second (still reeling from shock I think). Then laughed it off by saying  ‘Ohh, everyone needs a fairytale dream,’ –  which, I’m guessing must be some Barbie motto?

Well, I’d quite like to dispute that fairytale dream thing too really, having kids has made me really sceptical about princesses and fairytale dreams that revolve solely around finding one’s life-meaning in a man, ball or wedding. But that would make me digress from issue of Barbie being present in a school book fair.

The publishers and producers of these books are simply running a business – we can’t hold them to blame for the presence of this sexy, skinny, plastic, fashion obsessed, scantily clad little minx  (aimed at under 8’s) at our school book fairs. Can we?

Indeed there is a high market demand for Barbie products, my daughter had told me earlier in the morning that when her class had been let into the Book Fair the day before, all her friends went running in yelling they were all looking for the Barbie Books, and today I saw the mums buying them. Kids want them so mums buy them.

Yet, as grown women we almost indulgently slate magazines and catwalks for flaunting skinny models as unwholesome and unhealthy role models, happy to criticise  the things that are beyond our power to change. Yes, we are more than happy to lay the blame on the fashion industry when there is nothing we can do about it, (except complain). Yet here, right under our noses is one of the first uber-skinny, unreal (role) ‘model’ our daughters will ever come across and what are we, as parents, going to do about it? We may not be able to control what goes into magazines and onto billboards, but we can control what we bring into our own homes. The question is, how many parents are strong enough to put their foot down and say “No” ?

What do you think? Do you think I am a stick in the mud, destroying my daughters chance of developing a ‘fairytale dream’ (oh go on, do say yes!)…How do you feel about Barbie in your house both as a doll or in books/DVDs?

If you liked this, you may also like Fairies and Fashion Shows Only Please (why I feel sick in my local bookshop) which is on my Author Blog

  3 comments for ““Barbie” and a School Book Fair: Why I said ‘No’ to the Barbie Book

  1. November 13, 2013 at 3:22 am

    I think you are putting things into the right and real context for your daughter. I would add that the Walt Disney princess and prince stories are also a bit too much sometimes. They project a very false image of women, love, men, family, etc. Needless to develop that point I’m sure we all know the women and men have different modes of operation and love in a relationship is much more than a feeling, it’s hard work!!
    I also picked up on another problem that you briefly mentioned is that some parents do (buy) stuff because their kids love it. To me, it seems like they don’t see their children as little persons who need them to fully develop themselves but parents indulge themselves treating them like dolls. Even if some parents are too shy to publicly agree with your arguments on Barbie, or even healthy food, they still fall into the trap of giving their kids false female images or fish and chips for dinner… maybe it’s easier this way, it’s one less lesson to teach to children and therefore a gain of time, they are too young to understand (which I don’t think), doesn’t matter it’s fun, etc. These points have made me question parenthood and what it really means.

  2. Naomi R Cook
    November 13, 2013 at 3:36 am

    Thanks so much for your (as always) awesome thoughts! Yeah, maybe it’s easier just to relent and give in. What surprised me though was firstly that this woman was so surprised that I objected and secondly that the concept of objecting to Barbie seemed so alien to her! I thought most mums were on the ball about Barbie/body image etc, but perhaps I’m wrong about that.

  3. November 13, 2013 at 6:05 am

    I would say that consumption is so embedded in our society, and that’s a very long topic to discuss! 🙂
    Thank you for bring up those cases and your thoughts. Your posts are very interesting because I think sometimes we forget to stop for a moment of reflection to understand why people react that way, to think and compare your and their views. It’s all very interesting!

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