I grew up with a brother who was five years older than me. Suffice to say, my childhood was not filled with pink fru fru and dress up dolls. I have never seen Sound of Music, Dirty Dancing, Pretty Woman or any of those “classic” movies. I can, however, recite Terminator, Rambo and every Van Damme movie ever made. I rode bikes, played with Tonka trucks and helped dad on the tools doing odd jobs around the house. Standing at 6-foot-tall by the age of 15, I wore men’s shoes and pants because nothing else fit. So yeah, I was kind of a tom boy.
When I fell pregnant, I had to know the sex of the baby because I was terrified that I would be having a girl. Sure enough, in the ultrasound, there was a teeny tiny vagina. Good God, I was going to be a mother of a baby girl. I remember reading an article while I was pregnant about my baby girl’s’ eggs forming inside my womb and how I could potentially be carrying future generations in my belly. Something about that article struck a chord about the power of females. The way my body changed during pregnancy made me feel so strong and beautiful and the feminist in me blossomed.
By the time my baby girl was born and, in my arms, my whole world changed. I was stronger, more powerful and more determined than ever to teach my little girl about the glory of being a woman. It started with cutting off my hair to teach her about what real beauty is. I tell her every single day that she can be what ever she wants to be because she is strong, smart and kind. I correct her when she says blue is for boys or when she thinks sports can only be played by males.
So, you can imagine my horror when she was gifted a Barbie story book. Almost every story has a boyfriend or love interest that is of great importance. There are stories about selfies, make up and hair. Barbie and her friends are all incredibly thin and seem fixated on their appearance.
The brains trust at Mattel thought they would combat the PR nightmare brought on by extreme sexism and disgusting portrayals thrust on young girls with a Barbie: I can be a… series. A series of books outlining how Barbie can do whatever she likes because she is a size 4, with impeccable blonde hair and has matching shoes for all her pretty pink outfits. In this “empowering” series they published a book called Barbie: I can be a Computer Engineer book which had this classic quote,
“At breakfast one morning, Barbie is already hard at work on her laptop.
“What are you doing, Barbie?” asks Skipper.
“I’m designing a game that shows kids how computers work,” explains Barbie. “You can make a robot puppy do cute tricks by matching up coloured blocks!”
“Your robot puppy is so sweet,” says Skipper. “Can I play your game?”
“I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie says, laughing. “I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!”
Are you fucking kidding Barbie? Of course, you need two males to do any work that requires an actual IQ.
I vaguely remember this being a big deal when the story broke, but it wasn’t until my impressionable 4 year old girl fell in love with this toxic icon that it became real.
I don’t have a problem with females that take great pride in their appearance and spend hours with make up and fashion. I actually think it’s a great skill and a part of me is jealous that I am completely lacking in that department. What I do take issue with, is a large, hugely profitable organisation, capitalizing on downplaying the role of women. More so, the fact that is still happening today. We are not pretty things to be looked at.
But rather than rage against the man, I am making a concerted effort to show my girl the great power that resides in all women. I am surrounded by strong, smart, incredible women that are a force to be reckoned with. I explain to her what these women do and what they have achieved. I take her to museums and galleries to encourage a curious mind. I speak to her like an adult and ask for her opinion to empower her and let her know that her voice can and should be heard I raise her to be compassionate, fierce and respectful.
The result: a very girly, strong, loving and opinionated toddler, covered in pink fru fru that loves Spiderman, cars and will one day, rule the world!