Banning Barbie

In 2003 Saudi Arabia banned the sale of Barbie Dolls.

They were banned because they were Jewish. (The authorities believed that Mattel – the makers of Barbie – were Jewish. For the record, Mattel is a publicly traded company and has been since the 60’s.)

They were banned because their clothes were ‘too revealing.’

They were banned because they had a woman’s figure, and therefore were not proper for ‘yet-to-develop’ young girls to play with.

(Of course here in America there are many feminists who object to Barbie for a similar reason, but in their case because the figre is disproportionately womanly – but I digress.)

Ten years later Iran also banned the sale of Barbie. In Iran’s case it was because Barbie is a ‘symbol of corrupt western culture.’

Last week, there was a terrible attack in France against a Jewish supermarket on the eve of the Sabbath, and the murder of twelve people at a newspaper in France.

I’m not saying that Islamic countries banning Barbie led to the slaughter in France. Of course not. How could one possibly take such a leap – Barbie representing everything evil about the west?

On the other hand, avalanches are made up of single snowflakes.

Just saying, is all.

The difference between Barbie and Barbie®

If you ask a four year old African American girl to go get her Barbies, what do you think she’ll bring you?

A Christie doll – Barbie’s African American friend – or a Nikki, Christie’s sister?

Barbie® Entrepreneur African American

Barbie® Entrepreneur African American

Perhaps any one of the myriad of dolls with The Barbie name and ‘African American’ attached to it? Like ‘Barbie loves the Girl Scouts African-American’ or ‘Barbie Careers – Nurse – African American?’

Or perhaps one of the 1000’s of Barbie clones, not made by Mattel at all?

Actually, I think that that four year old might bring out all of her dolls… including Bratz, Monster High, Doc McStuffins and Disney Princesses or the new Prettie Girls by Stacey McBride.

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Why? Because I think that after over 50 years, Barbie has finally become the generic term for 11 inch dolls. Especially the all plastic – removable fashions dolls.

It’s like Kleenex® is what everybody calls facial tissues, Vaseline® for petroleum jelly and Velcro® for hook and latch fasteners. Especially in our children’s minds. Children don’t ‘get’ ®! And to be honest with you, I don’t think most adults differentiate much between what is really a Barbie® and what might be something else similar. I think we call them all Barbies too.

What do you think?

PS: To my readers who filter everything through a P.C. lens: This post is about the difference between Barbie®, and Barbie used as a generic term… not about race. Because Mattel has both African American Barbies® and Black dolls that are part of the Barbie line but are not named Barbie, it made my point easier to explain. Get over yourself.

The Klimt Barbie

Do me a favor, please. Without a lot of deep thought, finish this sentence:

“Barbie is ………”

Possible answers:

  • A fashion doll
  • A doll for little girls to play with
  • A politically correct doll – as in the hundreds of inspirational roles she plays, Lawyer Barbie, Scientist Barbie, Teacher Barbie, Doctor Barbie, Fire-fighter Barbie etc.etc.
  • A politically In-correct doll (especially her unrealistic breast to waist to hip proportions.)
  • A piece of history – There are now three generations who have grown up with Barbie. And she ‘stands’ in multiple museums.
  • A financial juggernaut – The number one selling doll of all time.

And I’m sure there are probably dozens more thoughts that come to your mind when trying to complete the sentence.

Today I’d like to offer one more:

“Barbie is… Art.”

klimt barbie

Barbie® Doll Inspired by Gustav Klimt from the Museum CollectionGustav_Klimt_Adele Bloch-Bauer IThis is the painting that inspired Mattel’s Museum Barbie. It is known as Portrait of Adele BlochBauer I.

OK, raise your hands… how many of you know who Gustav Klimt was? Or Adele Bloch-Bauer?

And the question I would really love to know the answer to: Out of the thousands and thousands of paintings made in the last thousand years of western art, why this one to inspire a Barbie?

If someone knows, I’d love to hear the answer, but until then, I’m just as happy to enjoy this beautiful Barbie for exactly what she is: A work of art.

Breaking the ‘Doll’ color barrier

There’s no really nice way to say it, so I’ll just blurt it out: It’s a crying shame that with 50% of American kids now ‘non-white’ ethnically, it’s still about 100% White in the children’s doll design and manufacturing world.

The numbers are a lot better in the ‘Art Doll’ world, but the Toy Industry as a whole is still pretty much ‘lily white.’

There are exceptions of course, and one, ‘The One World Doll Project,’ is the subject of today’s post.

the Doll designer Stacey McBride

Me with Stacey McBride

The One World Doll Project makes dolls of color. Beautiful Dolls. They’re a young company as far as how long they’ve been in production, so currently there are only two dolls available: Lena, an African American doll, and Valencia, an Hispanic doll (whose back story has her hailing from Mexico City.) In the pipeline are dolls from Africa and India.

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl dolls are built to the 11½ inch fashion doll scale, so there are literally thousands of additional outfits and accessories available for them.

What makes the Prettie Girls special is that they are designed by a woman of color, to represent women of color – for little girls. They have individual personalities and ‘ethnic looks,’ as opposed to the mass produced Barbie Dolls® and her cloned sisters. No one in their right mind would ever expect to meet a woman who looked like Barbie on the street. I see women who look like the Prettie Girl dolls every day. That’s huge in my book.

Seriously, walk down any major Toy ‘Big Box’ retailer… you’ll find plenty of Black  Barbies and her clones. But they all look alike. Prettie Girls look only like themselves, and are beautiful at that. I sincerely hope that this new doll company becomes a tremendous success. Absolutely nothing against Barbie mind you… I’m just a little tired of her ‘look,’ and ready to see real ‘Dolls of Color’ and especially ‘Doll Companies of Color’ take the stage.

Prettie Girl Doll Valencia

Prettie Girl Doll Valencia

Disclosure Notice: The Pattycake Doll Company, as of the date of this post, does carry and sell Prettie Girl dolls. We were not paid nor asked to do this review. It is as the largest Ethnic Doll site on the internet, and as authors of this blog about ‘Dolls and the Doll industry,’ that we wrote this post as a comment on the industry.

Book Review: Dream Doll

Dream Doll, The Ruth Handler Story is an Autobiography. Ruth Handler is the woman behind the Barbie Doll. What makes this book review a little different, and I hope a bit more interesting, is that I decided that instead of telling you what I thought about the book, that I would instead tell you what Ruth thought about Barbie:

“When we began sculpting Barbie’s face, I insisted it not be too pretty or contain too much personality. I was concerned that if she had too much personality, a little girl might have trouble projecting her own personality on the doll, that she would not be as free to role play or fantasize through Barbie.”

“Unlike play with a baby doll – in which a little girl is pretty much limited to assuming the role of Mommy – Barbie has always represented the fact that a woman has choices.

“Beginning as early as September 1959, we received hundreds of letters from little girls begging us to make a boyfriend for Barbie. we were scared to death of boy dolls, and so was the rest of the toy trade. Boy dolls had been tried in our industry dozens of times and they’d always flopped.”

vintage-skipper-dolls

Original Skipper Dolls

“In 1964 we also introduced Skipper, Barbie’s little sister. While little girls tended to perceive Barbie as being six or seven years older than themselves, they saw Skipper as close to their own age.”

“In 1967…we brought out a Black version of Francie. …It was a dud….Was America not ready for a Black fashion doll? …research soon told us. Francie’s looks and personality were already well established in our young consumer’s minds – to them a Black Francie wasn’t Francie. The next year, having learned our lesson we brought out a completely new Black doll, Christie, and she was overwhelmingly accepted. In fact Christie stayed in the Barbie line for 17 years, till 1985.”

That’s all for this post… I only quoted some of the Barbie and other doll stuff… remember, the book is ruth Handler’s autobiography… it’s not just about Barbie or Mattel.

Barbie Dolls as Hair Decor?

You and I are already in agreement that we love dolls… I own the Pattycake Doll Company, which is an e-tail doll store, and I blog about dolls. And since you’re one of my readers of The Doll Blog, I think we can safely assume you love dolls too.

So I think we’ll also be in agreement that this is interesting:

The Japanese celebrate the 2nd Monday in January as ‘Coming of Age’ day, when everyone who has turned twenty in the last year celebrates having reached the ‘age of Majority’ or adulthood.

For the women, it’s a ‘dress-up, get your hair and make-up done’ kind of day. The dress-up part is by wearing ‘Furisode’ Kimonos. Furisode Kimonos are expensive ‘formal’ Kimonos worn by single women.

And for some women, the get your hair done part is accomplished by wrapping your hair around a Barbie Doll. This totally blows me away.

Barbie Doll as Hair Decor

Barbie Doll as Hair Decor

And frustrates me, because, as much as I have grilled my Japanese pen-pals about this, I can only get partial answers. Like how common is it? Common enough that two different pen-pals sent me pictures of two different women with Barbie in their hair. Why do they do it? “Because it’s pretty” came the answer. Why Barbie? No answer.

Woman wearing Barbie Doll in hair

Coming of Age in Japan, with Hair Decor by Mattel!

Interesting? Very! Understandable?… well, I’m still working on that!

Barbie’s figure and other foolishness

Unless you’re living in a cave, you probably know that there are some people who think that Barbie’s ‘figure’ is damaging to a girl’s self-esteem.

I don’t think American five year olds think like that. But I’m not a psychologist, just a simple doll salesman.

My point is this: We sell 1000’s of dolls each year, and because little girls don’t have credit cards we know darn well that it’s adults who buy the dolls.

It is my firm and utter belief that when adults give a doll to a child they don’t ever say: “I hope you grow up to be just like this doll.”

I think what they say is: “Here’s a new doll for you to play with and love.”

Where I get stuck with the argument below is: ” The impossible physical proportions of the doll idolized as perfection by so many.” Who’s idolizing a Barbie doll as perfection? Five year old girls? I’ve seen some lady – in Europe I think – who is altering herself to look like Barbie. She’s pretty enough I guess, but I would hardly think that her doing that to herself is Barbie’s fault. 

And when Mattel makes a ‘Celebrity Barbie,’ like the Katie Perry or Nicki Minaj charity Barbies, does that mean little girls who idolize these singers are going to have messed up body images and self-esteem because of the impossible proportions of the dolls? (And from what I’ve seen of those two dolls, they don’t do their real life model’s assets justice either.)

Katie Perry and Nicki Minaj Charity Barbie Dolls

Katie Perry and Nicki Minaj Charity Barbie Dolls

As a doll store, in all our years selling thousands of Black, Biracial, Asian, and other Ethnic dolls, none of which have we ever presented as looking like a real person… not once has anybody returned a doll and said : “This is such an unrealistic representation of a real human body (ethnic hair style, skin tone, eye shape or whatever.) and it’s screwing up my kid’s mind.”

Just saying is all. My opinion.

via Rehabs.com

Bild Lilli and Barbie Dolls

Bild Lilli

Bild Lilli

a Bild Lilli Cartoon - can you see how she might have become Barbie?

a Bild Lilli Cartoon – can you see how she might have become Barbie?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It makes me sad when I read about folks using political correctness and/or feminism to bash children’s dolls; most often it seems, Barbie dolls.

Her measurements and makeup are usually the prime focus of the bashing, although she has also been used to bash consumerism, the environment, career vs stay-at-home mom choices, sexualization, racism and a host of other issues.

I know  that no simple post of mine is going to change anybody’s mind, but I hope that a little historical perspective may offer some comfort to mothers who are feeling guilty or influenced by this Politically Correct stuff.

In the years just after World War II, Germany was in pretty bad shape. Pardon my language, but they had just had the crap beat out of them. Into this darkness came a little ray of sunshine called Bild Lilli. Lilli started her life as a cartoon character, a brassy, sexy beautiful blond who wanted to put the misery of the war behind her and meet a man… preferably a rich man. Germany loved her.

And as often happens, this popular Lilli ‘character’ soon became a doll. The doll had the same ‘personality’ as the cartoon character, brassy, sexy and fun-loving. “Live for today for who knows what tomorrow may bring.” The perfect character for the the place and the times.

At that time in America most dolls for children were either baby dolls or toddler dolls… there were no adult dolls. When an American tourist named Ruth Handler saw Lilli dolls in a shop window, she immediately bought one for her doll-loving daughter, and a few extras to show to her husband, one of the founders of the Mattel Toy company. Ruth thought that there might be a market for a doll like Bild Lilli. Something different than a baby doll. It took her three years to do it, but she finally convinced her husband – and Barbie Dolls were born.

But of all the ways Barbie was like Lillie, in the most important way she was not: Lilli was a character – a woman who was frank, and adult, and had a well recognized personality. Barbie was not. Barbie was just a doll, woman shaped, with different outfits. A new toy for children to play with.

I think it’s pretty funny actually… how the circle turns, and how adults today have projected all these negative sexual characteristics onto Barbie. Bild Lillie was proud of her sexuality, but Barbie, as envisioned by Ruth 50 years ago, was as far from that as she could get! Somewhere in toy heaven, Bild Lilli must be laughing her ass off.

Bald Barbie: Bad Idea

Bald Barbie Doll Cancer

  Bald Barbie Why it probably won’t happen

We love the idea of a bald Barbie, we love the idea of making a doll that helps children who are bald – for whatever the reason – have a doll they can identify with. So in our hearts it’s a great idea!

But as a business owner we can only say that Bald Barbies are a bad idea. The market is not big enough to support them. For Mattel it would be a manufacturer’s nightmare… Barbie’s hair is ‘rooted’ meaning that the heads have holes to attach the hair to. So it’s not just ‘no hair,’ they’d have to make the heads with no holes… in other words a whole other manufacturing line dedicated to a teensy-tiny market.

And of course they would need Bald Black Barbies, multicultural Bald Barbies maybe bald Kens too, right?

Actually what would make more sense (to me) is another Mattel brand: American Girl Dolls… already a highly customizable doll, with very healthy profit margins, Mattel could probably do a Bald American Girl doll a lot easier than Barbie.

My Suggestion? While you’re waiting for the ‘not likely,’ hunt up a ‘Reborn Doll’ artist on Ebay or Etsy. Reborn Doll artists transform dolls every day… anything you can imagine, from amputations to baldness to tracheotomy or chemo feeds can be easily made by those artists. And it won’t cost much either.