Don’t stop reading so fast, Warriors...this week’s thoughts apply to action figures too!! On September 6, 1959 Ruth Handler launched the first Barbie doll into commerce. Handler had watched her daughter, Barbara, play with paper dolls building thematic storylines. Handler based a prototype on a German doll to evolve two D into Three (omg, even as I edit I cannot delete that unintended pun😂). I am so happy Ms. Handler took this leap. So many hours of my youth were spent doing the very same thing her daughter did! Part of the ease with which I became a writer is derived from the creative plays my mind created with dolls. I never EVER thought Barbie was representative of a “real” woman; she was ultimately aspirational! She was a superhero and an action figure same as Superman or Batman with superpower style! I was as bugged then as I am now when Barbie is maligned as anti-feminist...to me Barbie was the ultimate feminist. Barbie was the “Yes We Can” message to many little girls in my generation and it had nothing to do with the fact she was so pretty. Nobody believed Barbie was anymore “real” than GI Joe...they are plastic figures for heaven’s sake!!! Still, there were those who tried to sully what Barbie represented to we girls who liked to play with her. While “feminists” attacked a fellow female embodiment I was perplexed. I have always thought myself a feminist who embraces ALL women. How is it “brilliant” people attacking her body proportions as ludicrous, and her beauty as unattainable missed what creative children saw and felt so clearly?
Barbie was a powerful symbolic woman without a voice. As such, it was the responsibility of girls who held her to create Barbie’s voice! Isn’t it our Voice as women we want to command? Wasn’t giving a beautiful, aspirational, entrepreneurial spirit like Barbie our unique voice unparalleled practice?
As a mother of two daughters I watched them play together for hours with a sea of Barbie dolls. Indy and Mattie would sit weaving intricate webs of words their dolls exchanged. In big ways and in small I saw the lessons Barbie taught me play out in their playtime.
Here’s the top ten things I took from a truly ultimate example.
10) Think long and hard about cutting your hair and never do it in a fit of rage😂!!
Barbie’s hair never benefited from my scissor yielding hands, nor did mine when I chopped waist length hair to my chin at 22 out of rebellion! Barbie’s hair was a beautiful feature on her but it was not her only strength. Women are often so defined by hair as a crowing glory. The power lies beneath the scalp; in our brains, where potent, creative thoughts are built. We are greater than our hairline. Recognizing this doesn’t mean we don’t love to do our hair, because we do! It’s just important to remember we are so much more!
9) Barbie kept her friends.
Even if this woman took on a new job each holiday season (over 130 in all!!!) she kept her loyal crew! Barbie was a loyal lady!!! Loyalty is the realest real.
8) Barbie wasn’t afraid of change.
Through the decades Barbie evolved and changed. She followed fashion trends and never got stuck at her “peak” ; and still, she is ever evolving! Ladies, if you’re still wearing a frosty pink lip ditch it; Guys if you’ve not updated your duds since college...it’s time. The world moves on around us and changes without our permission. Be fluid and flow...Change is synonymous with growth!!!
7) Barbie took herself seriously...
...even when others did not. There was a time being called a “Barbie” was meant to insult. I never understood why, since although the subtext is meant to name another “plastic” the interpretation could have skewed to “perfect”. Barbie is a plastic doll LOL why she incites such vitriol I can’t explain. I’m not ignorant, I know the claims of origin but those are adult accusations; kids are pure and toys are a vehicle of play and practice. Barbie had many jobs to fund all those shoes and dream houses. Nobody ever reported she was unemployed or swimming in debt. Barbie busted her hump, flourished, and as such, lived accordingly. Barbie was a serious OG Boss Babe.
6) Barbie had aspirations.
There was always a new goal Barbie set for herself amidst her glam! Barbie has been to the moon, run for president, joined the Navy, been a veterinarian, a mother, a model, a shopkeeper, an artist, teacher, writer, actress, flight attendant AND pilot !!! She’s held quite a resume since 1959 and exemplified all the ways women have challenged themselves in the workforce and changed!
5) Barbie had her gimmick.
Barbie never apologized for loving pink and being glamorous. The brand expanded and as such there were more representatives of our diverse and inclusive culture and Barbie held her ground...even when some “Barbie-shamed” her. I’m not sure I’d have had her strength not to crumble to criticism but she weathered the storm. A plastic blonde toy incited criticism and yet she never blinked.
4) Barbie banked on her OWN brand.
I love the diversity of the Barbie brand. I get the official brand catalog and marvel at the global beauty represented for girls worldwide. Barbie was not a politician she was an Ambassador and as such she crossed bridges to make friends. I do understand the concern that the Barbie brand be inclusive and representative of all young ones playing with her across the globe. One of my favorite Barbies growing up was one who looked like my neighbor, Erica. Erica was a gorgeous African American mother of two boys. I was so small but would not move a fraction as she’d intricately braid my straight blonde hair. She was tickled to pieces my doll lost her given name to be christened after her. She always said she wanted a daughter like me...we moved away but I sure hope she had one.
3) Barbie had unparalleled style.
The greatest designers are constantly vying to dress Barbie and yet, no matter the brand, she remains a fashion icon because of her signature style. Nothing Barbie wears feels too outlandish or out of step. Yes, she’s been dressed by the likes of Bob Mackie and Zac Posen but Barbie looked best in the mix and match sensibilities with our own childish flavor and flair. I have taken what I learned dressing Barbie into my personal style. I have not had money to fit my tastes but that did not stop me from creating looks I love. You will rarely find me paying retail prices but rather in consignment stores and second hand boutiques. I love vintage dresses and gloves. I am a fan of antique jewelry and handbags. I can put together an outfit on a budget that looks like a million bucks. I do not care a bit about labels because I know what matters isn’t “who” I’m wearing but who I am while wearing it. I love fashion. I just do not believe it is the the wealthiest among us who possess the greatest style. True style belongs to the creative minds who still loves to play!
2) Barbie is a classic
Indy recently wrote a college admittance essay about her classic 1963 Chevy Pickup. It made me cry. She spoke of people wanting new fangled gadgets and flawless shiny things but she preferred something classic. Indy said, “when all the new has worn off the throw always, I’ll still have my truck parked in the driveway..”. Indy is right. All things classic retain their value and classic beauty is no different. There is no doubt times change and what is attractive alters but nobody can deny the classic, timeless beauty that embraces nostalgia and spit polish shine. Why does a man look so dashing in uniform? Why does a ladylike dress look so lovely? Why does a tuxedo make a girl weak in the knees? There is an undeniable appreciation of those things that create “special occasion moments” that live in snapshot memories. It’s why a single word can speak a million...”classic” will forever be aligned with timeless grace.
1) Barbie made no apologies for going after what she wanted
There was a saying about wanting to be like Barbie because she “has everything.”. The thing is...Barbie worked over 130 jobs to get where she got. Indulge me here because I KNOW we are talking about a doll but there’s an overarching premise. Barbie had the best cars and dream houses, closets of clothes, and racks of shoes. She had swimming pools and tennis courts, off road vehicles and horses. Barbie had all the trappings life could offer and she built it all on her own. All of that being said that Iron Lady of pink also has a spine of steel. Every last girl who has owned a Barbie knows there’s that moment when you’ve jacked up her hair, torn apart her clothes and mismatched her shoes and still...Barbie maintains her dignity. Turn Barbie over from the bottom of the bin and you will see she might have lost some glitter but she has something priceless nonetheless...
...that girl will never lose her smile.
I believe you must work harder than anyone ever told you was possible, maintain your core values as well as your friends, dream bigger than the stars, and hold onto your smile...Always!
Thank you Mattel and Barbie for all the things you’ve taught me and for your #EVOLUTION of such an iconic brand!