I read an article in a woman’s magazine this weekend about a radical feminist who fell in love with an ultra-male-cowboy-type-of-guy. She described him as a gun-toting, truck-driving rancher who called her “darlin’ ” It didn’t work out, but she had a good time (I’ll bet she did!) and wrote a book about the experience to boot.
She blamed a lot of the attraction on the fact that her parents defeminized her in her youth as a way to overcome sexism. Key point here: She was “forbidden from playing with Barbies.”
When my kids were growing up, there was talk of this sexism stuff, too. Some parents wanted their boys to have the same opportunity to play with feminine type toys and vice versa. It was often suggested that we parents were stereotyping our children without even knowing it.
I was too busy to think much about these suppositions at the time, but I do know, without a doubt, my son played with Barbies.
He has a twin sister and another sister 21 months older. They played together a lot, of course, and my daughters had a lot of Barbie dolls. Usually, my son would concoct some sort “fort” (I do not know how he knew this word so well, but it was a big part of his vocabulary) for the dolls. The fort often had begun earlier in the day under the loving tutelage of Mrs. Rosebrock, Mrs. Pritchard and many others at the magnificent San Ramon School - then drug home. They often consisted of cardboard and miles upon miles of packing tape. (I’ve been using scant bits of packing tape ever since to make up for that environmental impact.)
The dolls often waged war with each other in some sort of fashion, in my son’s version of playing Barbies. My daughters’ meanwhile were creating cute dress combinations, oblivious to their brother’s world.
When we would travel to the beach for the day, however, my son wanted no part of Barbie play. There he wanted only one thing: a shovel. No little toy shovel, though, he wanted a big, adult version, which he would drag to the sand and get to work. Within a short time he made all sorts of forts. These forts were too big and serious for little Barbie dolls. I think there are a thousand forts somewhere in the sand at Drake’s Beach with his imprint on them.
One day, my daughters came into the playroom to find their brother had turned all of their Barbie dolls into GI Janes. He cropped all of their hair to butch cuts and made scant — hormones beginning to kick in — military type uniforms.
He could not understand the ruckus that then ensued. He simply felt this was more appropriate attire for Barbies in his forts.
This year, at the Christmas dinner table, the story was retold with tears of laughter.
Apparently Mattel sells two Barbie dolls each SECOND in the world, and I believe I know why.
They are a crucial key to solving sexism, because they are so highly adaptable for both girls and boys in their formative years — and I am not talking about Ken here.
So, with a twist on Willie Nelson’s great lyrics, I’d say, “Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys — but let ‘em play with Barbies!”