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Banning Barbie?

By Staff | Mar 24, 2009

For 50 years young girls have asked their parents for Barbie dolls. Once they receive their first doll, they could be hooked —she needs new outfits, a dollhouse, and what about her boy friend Ken?

As these young girls grow up, they watch television, movies, fashion shows and beauty pageants. Multiple media repeatedly resounds with an “image” of the girls and women involved in entertainment. They are mostly tall, slim, unnaturally curvy in the bust, and very attractive. Women parading down the runways modeling designer fashions have long legs, thin bodies and ‘perfect’ faces.

Just as boys experience the extreme macho images of aggressive, violent, bust them in the gut and break their bones men, girls compare themselves to celebrities, who by the definition of their craft, have a glamorous, flawless appearance.

So, what about women (and even men) maturing who have not been blessed with physical qualifies that mirror those flaunted in advertising, entertainment and promotions?

A West Virginia legislator, perhaps reacting to a muted movement of international designers to encourage their models to not be ‘super skinny,’ has introduced a bill that would ban Barbie and other such dolls in the Mountain State.

However, women contacted generally felt a legal ban was a waste of legislative resources.

Ashley Ramsey, a bartender at Tequila Rocks, said, “I don’t see Barbie as a reflection on how women want to look. Little kids [simply] play with them.”

Another Rocks worker, Casey Maynard, acknowledged that, for instance, the bar industry is about entertainment.

“It’s sad but true, [you] want someone to be attractive,” she said, quickly adding her opposition to a Barbie ban. “People should absolutely have a choice.” 

Selena Most expressed disdain, “Are you serious?”

Projecting herself into the mindset of a young girl, Lauren Holly, observed, “Barbie [dolls] make [girls] feel better about themselves because they have a little friend.”

She added, “Children love playing with Barbie dolls. I talked to my Barbie dolls when I was little.”

What about the opinion of older professionals to the proposed ban?

D.H. Webb III, a long time Huntington psychiatrist, called the attempt to ban the doll, “the most insane thing I’ve ever heard,” adding, “if that’s all our legislators have to worry about, we’re in big trouble.” 

The forensic psychiatrist added, “this [legislator] needs to find something to do with his life. Look at the shape the state is in, or what shape we’re going to be in, if this economy keeps dropping.”

Huntington’s Director of finance and administration, Brandi Jacobs-Jones, said, “I myself never had a Barbie doll and playing with dolls was never really my thing, but I think there are significant issues we’re facing as a state. I would like to see time and energy devoted to those items versus [Barbie].

Webb emphatically disagreed that Barbie has a psychological body image impact on those playing with the doll.

“Barbie’s been around 50 years and I’m almost 70. I’ve never seen anyone affected by what Barbie looks like.”

Jacobs-Jones stressed that selecting what dolls a child plays with or teaching body image issues are parental responsibilities, not governmental.

“If my daughter wants a Barbie, a Barbie she will get,” said Jacobs-Jones regarding her own 19-month-old daughter. “It would be my responsibility to teach her what values are [such as] promoting intellect over a person’s beauty.”

Holly agreed.

“Barbie’s kind of anorexic looking. It might have a negative effect, but it would be the parent’s responsibility, not legislation. What a parent says goes. Does it matter what the law is? People break laws all the time.”

Still, the blonde haired Holly recognized that imagery from the modeling and pageant industries can negatively impact women. Explaining that a friend who entered pageants had issues with anorexia and bulimia, she revealed, “I’ve heard pageant representatives tell contestants, you need to lose weight or stay this thin and this size.” 

Holly disagreed with that advice for contestants and models adding, “people should not be ashamed of their bodies.”

For that matter, Selena Most can understand the societal pressure to be thin and attractive.

“They see a skinny model and say [to themselves] ‘I need to look like that.’ But, I think, people should love themselves for who they are.”

As for the perceived role model that actors and models often become, Most believes young women should “look for other role models, like Oprah or Barack Obama,” rather than show business personalities.

Jacobs-Jones agreed that, “significant other influences than Barbie distort self image.”

Expressing an understanding for the legislators “thought process,” she repeated, “it’s not an appropriate forum.”

Asked to project years in the future when her own daughter would be faced with the imagery issues from the entertainment and fashion industries, Jacobs-Jones opined, “If she happens to be attractive, that’s fine, or, if she’s not what society views as attractive, that’s OK also.”

The mom emphasized that she would “let her [daughter] know that who she is and her value as a person is not build on her appearance. It really is what’s in her heart … the core of her, her intellect, her brain. She will be a person of character and intellect — that’s my prayer.”

Interestingly, one of West Virginia’s premier actors and theatrical designers, Ryan Hardiman, acknowledged that “images of glamour promote an unhealthy obsession with beauty,” but explained the Barbie Doll represents only a small portion of unrealistic images to which boys and girls are exposed daily.

“Are we to ban everything that presents this unrealistic image,” he asked. “Barbies are marketed to girls in much the same way that muscle-bound macho action figures are marketed to boys. They represent the way kids want to see themselves, healthy or not. Who would buy the video game, “Guitar Loser,” where the point was to be mediocre or downright suck at guitar? Everyone wants to be a rock star, and not everyone is,” Hardiman said.

Finally, we inquired about the Barbie bill to A.J. Alexander, a former Playboy centerfold and mother of two.

“It’s just a doll,” she said. “I was raised with a Barbie doll and a Barbie mansion. It had no effect on me. I think it’s silly.”

Contact Tony at trutherford@graffitiwv.com