Yesterday, I posted an article last night by a blogger who I regularly enjoy reading. This author typically writes about various parenting and social issues that I find interesting and relevant. I like what this blogger writes. Keep that in mind.
But last night, I disagreed with her point of view in regards to a recent Happy Meal box photo that was sent to her by a friend. Here is the link. Go look at the picture. Seriously, go do it. I’ll wait.
And we’re back. I can’t tell you what you see when you look at that image. I know that people tend to view things through their own personal lens of experience and personal background. What you and I might see could be two entirely different things. But before I tell you what I see, I want to tell you my background and my filtering lens.
I am of mixed Caucasian and Mexican descent. I have brown hair and brown eyes. My skin is dark in the summer and lighter in the winter. I grew up as a child of divorce. My primary care taker was my great-aunt who predominantly spoke Spanish and looked more Native American than anything else. Throughout my childhood, I grew up somewhere between not really poor to almost middle class. Today if you saw both of my families you would easily say that they are now upper middle class, but this was not the case when I was a child.
For the first ten years of my life I was an only child. I was shy. I had few close friends. I probably watched more television than what was healthy or necessary. My favorite meal of choice was a Happy Meal. My mother would buy them for me as a treat. On more occasions than what I can count, my mother literally hunted for loose change around our home or in our car so that she could buy me a Happy Meal. My favorite Happy Meals were those that contained Barbies.
Growing up, I had many different types of friends. For starters, the high school that I attended was easily comprised of a population that was 90% Hispanic. In fact, some people would joke that you could count the white people in a classroom on one hand. I had friends of all different races, religions and ethnic descents. As I grew up and began dating, I dated a variety of men. By the time that I met and married my husband, I had dated more men of color and mixed descent than I had Caucasian men. My husband often jokes that he is the polar opposite of “my type.”
I have always been interested in cultural and societal issues. I have completed more than my fair share of cultural diversity courses throughout my nearly 8 years in college. I know that various studies show that children recognize color as early as three years of age. I know that studies have shown that children as young as five can create a positive or negative association based upon color alone.
All that being said, this is what I see when I look at the image on the Happy Meal Box…
I see an image is of a girl who appears to be African American (I say appears because I don’t personally know her and it is totally possible that she is of mixed descent or is Caribbean.) thinking about all the different things that she can have her Barbie pretend to be.
And this is what I don’t see, but apparently others do see…
~I don’t see a racist ad suggesting that this little girl is daydreaming about being white.
~I don’t see an ad that suggests that this little girl is daydreaming about looking like Barbie.
~I don’t see an ad that suggests that this little girl’s entire self worth is tied up into a child’s play thing.
~I don’t see a toy that is going to limit this little girl’s imagination because it looks a certain way.
~And I don’t see that Barbie is a disaster.
And no, Mattel and Mickey D’s did not send me a Barbie and carton of fries to write that. And yes, I checked my “privilege.” Both of them.
The main issues that I have seen people take with this image after posting it on my Facebook page include: the fact that the girl is a girl of color and Barbie is not, the fact that Barbie is evil because she promotes an unrealistic body image for young girls and the idea that toys like Barbies limit a child’s creativity. And here is my somewhat educated two cents about them all.
Idea: This ad is atrocious because it is racist and suggests that this little girl is daydreaming about being just like her white Barbie.
Two Cents: Bullshit. How do you know she is not half white, half Mexican, half Japanese or something else? You don’t. And since when are children and people only allowed to dream about people in their own color? Is my son not allowed to look up to President Obama? Can my son not daydream about playing guitar like Jimi Hendrix? Would there be a racist undertone if my son wanted to play basketball like Jeremy Lin? What if he wanted to sing like Juilio Iglesias? No, it wouldn’t. It would be called normal.
Sidenote: When I was growing up, I hung a poster of Will Smith on my wall. I never daydreamed about becoming a black man. I did daydream about finding a guy who was funny and smart just like him. I found one. He happened to be short and white but is still just like him.
Idea: This ad sucks because Barbie promotes an unrealistic body image that is damaging to young women.
Two Cents: She’s a doll. She’s made of some sort of plastic crap and doesn’t even have a hoo ha. Why the hell are we looking to a doll to provide our children with a social commentary on healthy body image? And if we are going to bully Barbie’s body image, should we then also bully these other toy freaks and their unrealistic body images…
Come on. It’s a doll. If your child is depending on any doll in the world to teach them about body image, then I sincerely hope that your child never has to pee…but don’t worry, I am pretty sure they make a doll for that. If you think Barbie is evil, there is a good chance that your kid will too if she or he hears you talk about it. And then you should be careful. You might inadvertently teach your child that it is OK to bully people who don’t look normal. Eek!
Idea: Barbie limits creativity.
My two cents: Yeah….take it from this writer, Pinterest lover, former teacher, art lover, home project extraordinaire wannabe, doodler, semi crafter and stay at home mom…that Barbie bitch really limited my creativity.
Finally, one last point. I grew up playing with Barbies, and no I am not just fine. I am not normal. I am probably weird. I panic sometimes. I can be emotional. I can get moody. But guess what? So are you.
And I am also fantastic. Funny. Smart. Silly. Nice. Creative. Beautiful. Strong. And loving. And guess what? I bet you are too.
I don’t know if I can blame or give Barbie the credit for any of that. But here is the thing, just because you don’t give your child a Barbie doesn’t mean that your child will grow up to never have an issue in life. That’s a parenting fantasy. You know, a fantasy is something that is not real. Kind of like Barbie.