Between Women’s Studies courses and life experience, I knew by my mid-twenties that things needed to change in our world. While men can be wonderful leaders and a lot of fun to banter with, women have taken a backseat for far too long. I had to stifle my disgust when we went to my seminary orientation and the male students kept brushing past me to shake my husband’s hand and welcome him into ministry. One man, when my husband corrected him without much warmth, stumbled over his own words as he proclaimed, “I, of course, fully support women in ministry!” Of course, he knew and supported the theological position of our seminary, but immediately upon meeting a new couple, his imbedded beliefs surfaced and he brushed the woman aside to greet the man.
Those imbedded beliefs are what I hoped to battle in the next generation. I was not going to socialize my children along gender lines. We prepared for our babies by buying neutral sleepers, yellow and green. We decorated the nursery with Bat symbols and action figures. When the girls got older, we balanced their ballet and tea parties with basketball and camping.
We couldn’t believe it when Barbie came into the picture. Not Barbie! I’ve heard that if she were a real woman, she’d be missing two ribs and several organs. She lives for fashion and big hair. Barbie? Really? They wanted Barbies? There is no denying it, though, my daughters love Barbies. My older girl dresses them up, replays scenes from her favorite shows and movies, and has them stage rescues in concert with the 12” Star Wars figures. My younger girl can spend two hours with a naked Barbie and her puppy, coming up with a million lines of dialog. Barbies completely spark their imaginations and aspirations. Veterinarian Barbie, all the Wizard of Oz Barbies, Super Hero Barbies, Barbie cars, Barbie pets, homemade Barbie gowns for weddings and Nobel Prize banquets.
Well into the explosion of Barbie dolls and accessories, my husband and I noticed that the Barbies that proved the most interesting were usually also the most expensive; and that did not factor into the way they were used and abused by the kids. The girls would ask for a $40 Glinda Barbie for Christmas, and then have her beautiful outfit dismantled by MLK Day, buried deep in the Barbie bin for all eternity – and making Glinda basically the same as any of her naked cohorts – crazy red curls as her only distinction. So, I decided that from now on, the really cool Barbies are going to be “mine.” If we are going to purchase Dorothy Gale, I am going to control how much time she spends in the Barbie house and whether Skipper is allowed to try on her Ruby Slippers.
Somehow, the Barbie thing turned into a lot of fun. Turns out, I don’t share them after all. They’re all MIB (mint in the box). I can find about one cool Barbie a year marked 75% off at Target, keeping our investment down to less than $10 a year. And just modeling my respect for the collection has influenced the girls to use a little more care and caution on their own “special” Barbies. My younger daughter, after months of unrequited lust, put up the $40 out of her own Christmas money to get the “vintage” 1985 Peaches and Cream Barbie. Peaches, amazingly, still has her clothes on, has her ruffled stole wrapped around her, and goes back into her box whenever my girl cleans her room. I’m not holding my breath that she won’t eventually dissolve into Barbie-bin nakedness, but it’ll feel like a success if she makes it to Valentine's.
Maybe I’m a sellout – but as long I can overhear my daughters' Barbies pursuing higher education, becoming President, and telling Luke Skywalker, “That’s OK, you wait here, I’ll rescue the hostage” – I think I’ll be able to live with myself and enjoy my rockin’ Barbies.
I gave you the finest clothes and the most expensive robes, as well as sandals made from the best leather. I gave you bracelets, a necklace, a ring for your nose, some earrings, and a beautiful crown. Your jewelry was gold and silver, and your clothes were made of only the finest material and embroidered linen. Your bread was baked from fine flour, and you ate honey and olive oil. You were as beautiful as a queen. Ezekiel 16:10-13