A new limited-edition Barbie is raising eyebrows with her punky pink bob and smattering of tattoos. Barbie has had tattoos before, but those were of the temporary butterfly variety and thus decidedly less hardcore. The mild uproar this doll has incurred is to be expected, I suppose. But the objections are unsatisfying on several fronts.
For one thing, the doll is for adult collectors and is apparently not available at toy stores, which mitigates concerns about the doll becoming a role model for children (although this raises some different questions about adults who collect Barbie dolls—but that's another issue entirely). Besides, Barbie being Barbie, a Tattoo Barbie makes more sense than, say, a stiletto-wearing Church Barbie.
Furthermore, the question—if not the conclusion—of Barbie's sway as a role model for girls is a given, particularly when it comes to body image. Regardless of whether one grants Barbie a great deal of power in shaping a girl's self-image or a negligible role, it is certain that a girl (or woman) who wants to imitate the tattooed Barbie would do far less harm to herself in being tattooed than in submitting to the horrific surgery that would be required to sculpt herself into Barbie's surreal shape. I'm of the school that is a lot less concerned with Barbie's influence than with the influence wielded by real life role models (including Hollywood starlets). On the other hand, I played with stuffed animals, baby dolls, and Barbies as a girl, and now I love animals, hate abortion, and adore fashion. Perhaps I should reconsider my position on the influence of toys. I guess it's a good thing I read a lot of books, too. I might have done better with the Anne Bradstreet doll. (True confession: ...1
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