Dolls & Toys — 27 July 2000
Kytka’s Views On Barbie Dolls

Ask Kytka Archives: July 27, 2000
What is your view on Barbie dolls?

I had a Barbie doll, actually, I had two or three and a Ken doll. But I received them when I was about 12 or 13. I remember listening to the Bay City Rollers, Leif Garret, Shaun Cassidy and Andy Gibb, pretending that the Ken was any of them (my teen idols) singing to me and I was the Barbie. At 15 or 16 our play developed into our dolls rolling

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nude on top of one another, and although we had no idea WHY they did it, it was funny and made us giggle; my friends and I. This was around the same time that many girls in school seemed to get “all the attention” where I was still the one with a huge overbite, the longest and skinniest legs of all time (“daddy long legs”, “bird legs”) and I was so skinny. The most I can remember about that time is that I was eternally teased because I was “Sarah, plain and Tall”!

I didn’t understand who some of the girl’s got all of the attention, but I wanted to be noticed too… Suddenly at 16 I overnight blossomed into a what society may label as “a babe”. We lived by the beach so I was very tan, I had naturally bleached blonde hair and a very curvy figure (36-22-34)for a girl of that age. I have small feet (size 6) and am a bit taller than average (5’9″).

kitrollsSuddenly I was noticed… everywhere. I began to feel “power” in my appearance and proceeded to “play games” for the next 10 years of my life based on that shallow appearance. I knew that it was the “Barbie type” who get the attention and I worked CONSCIOUSLY to fit that type. In turn, I met and dated men 20-30 years older… I liked that they had a lot of money, bought me anything I wanted, took me to fancy restaurants, we drove around in exotic cars, etc… It all went along with my “type” (Barbie).

Photos to left, Kytka at 21 modeling for and starring in “Auto Detail, California Style.

What I began to notice however, was that these boyfriends didn’t want to see me when I was feeling ill… they didn’t want to marry me… they didn’t want to REALLY hear about my goals, dreams, desires, hopes, wishes, plans, etc… they wanted to show me off like a trophy for their empty SHALLOW lives… and the end result was that I came out feeling even more empty than I knew their lives were!

Could I BE anymore a Barbie than this???

kitdetailLooking back, I was a happy girl, and a non self conscious tom boy, until Barbie came into my life. In school, from the girls who were already modeling Barbie, I learned that Barbie gets the attention… I really consciously wanted to be like and worked at “becoming” Barbie. It took me about 10 years to figure out and grow out of… I am still attractive, but I admit, I down play… I wear whatever is comfortable, I have my hair in a bun because it is comfortable and practical and I haven’t had make-up on in about 5 years.

When I show people pictures of “me” before, (my old modeling shots) they can’t believe it… sometimes in their ignorance they (without thinking) blurt out something to the effects of “what happened”?

Do you want to know what happened? Nothing!

I am STILL tall, blond, and beautiful. I have a perfect body (and perfect breasts even after 10+ years of non-stop nursing!) – not that any of that “is” beauty.. but for the sake of the Barbie discussion. Now I don’t spend all day in front of the mirror painting OVER my facial features, spraying my hair into directions it doesn’t want to go, wearing shoes that are uncomfortable etc…

That is what the media and ad companies have trained us into thinking is beauty… that is society’s expectation of beauty… I’m not sure if it’s only Barbie’s fault, because there’s probably a lot more to it than just Barbie, but don’t you think agree that she has no business in the hand of a little girl who is deciding and planning ahead as to who she is going to be in this life….

Today’s women are disempowered by concentration on weight and appearance, and need positive support, resources and ways to resist male-defined standards of beauty for women. Barbie, In my opinion, does not offer this support.

What do I think we need to see more of? Real girls and women who work towards and reach their goals…

Greater discussion and care of what you find on the INSIDE…

THAT is what I believe your child should strive to imitate! Not Barbie.

(My daughter writes poetry on this subject – you can view it here:  www.SistersToSuccess.com)

Additionally, Girls tend to adult role play with Barbie dolls and they behave more as a mother with baby dolls. That is a BIG difference in role play. Parents often notice that their children will put diapers on and nurse their baby dolls, whereas they will often dress-up and dance or eat with their Barbie dolls. Again, a very big difference in role play.

Recommended Reading:

Ophelia Speaks: Adolescent Girls Write… About Their Search for Self
“It is important for young women to have as many places to obtain positive messages about growing up in our complicated society as possible. Ophelia Speaks allows all young women to realize that their struggles and challenges are not unique, that they are not alone in these challenges, and that there is a place they can go to get reaffirmation of this.”

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls
At adolescence, says Mary Pipher, “girls become ‘female impersonators’ who fit their whole selves into small, crowded spaces.” Many lose spark, interest, and even IQ points as a “girl-poisoning” society forces a choice between being shunned for staying true to oneself and struggling to stay within a narrow definition of female. Pipher’s alarming tales of a generation swamped by pain may be partly informed by her role as a therapist who sees troubled children and teens, but her sketch of a tougher, more menacing world for girls often hits the mark. She offers some prescriptions for changing society and helping girls resist.

Real Gorgeous: The Truth About Body and Beauty
Kaz Cooke knew women needed a book that cut through the confusing and cruel messages about body image, beauty, eating disorders, diets, and cosmetic surgery. “Mostly, we needed a book that wasn’t trying to sell us anything except self-confidence and the truth,” says Cooke. “I couldn’t find one so I had to write one.” Written in the spirit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of body acceptance, Cooke playfully challenges some of the most oppressive misogynists of the 20th century: the beauty, fashion, and diet industries. Simultaneously funny and reassuring, Cooke boldly asserts her opinions and research on push-up bras (they dig and hurt), cellulite (it’s a cosmetic company-induced condition, not a medical condition), and fashion models (“some of the most insecure, tortured souls around”). The cartoon illustrations offer comic and compassionate accents to this poignant discussion.

Lit From Within: Tending Your Soul For Lifelong Beauty
In this inspirational and Wise book, Moran shares the wisdom and experience from her own search for inner and outer beauty. Her thoughtful observations and advice show how anyone can transform their thinking about what makes us beautiful, while providing simple guidance for creating a radiance that only comes from within. This sane, sensible approach to a strong self-image and loving self-care is firmly grounded in spiritual common sense, the marriage of body and soul. You start by lighting up your life — and before you know it, you’re lighting up the room.

Am I Thin Enough Yet?: The Cult of Thinness and the Commercialization of Identity
A cult of thinness envelops us, says Hesse-Biber, and is evidenced by a growing number of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia, that now affect 1 of every 250 women 13 to 22 years old. Hesse-Biber examines the socioeconomic forces affecting body perception, emphasizing the differences between mens and womens perceptions of their bodies. Most significantly, she explores the importance of body image as a major indicator to women of their worth and identity. Examining the role of the family in delivering society’s messages about women as physical objects, she makes the politics of weight personal as she provides therapeutic options for those seeking to overcome weight obsessions, eating disorders, and the mind-body dichotomy that a culture that values minds more than bodies uses for social control and oppression

Link to Empowering Girls’ Books

Alternative Doll Books

  • Doll’s House A story about a brave 100-year old Dutch doll, her family, their Victorian dollhouse home, and the two little English girls to whom they belong.
  • Four Dolls Lovely if you can find a copy. Very adventurous!
  • Hitty: Her First Hundred Years Here are the charming and adventurous memoirs of an exceptional doll named Hitty. Her story begins in Maine in the early 1800s, where she is transformed from a piece of sturdy mountain-ash wood into the valued playmate of a young girl named Phoebe Preble. When the inseparable pair join Phoebe’s father on a journey aboard his whaling ship, Hitty’s one hundred years of exciting adventures begins! Join this doll of great charm and character as she travels all over the world, from India to Philadelphia to New York. Whether she is traveling with a snake charmer, attending the opera, meeting Charles Dickens, becoming a doll of fashion, posing as an artists’ model, or being stolen away on a Mississippi riverboat, one thing is certain… no doll has led a life like Hitty’s!
  • Miss Hickory Miss Hickory is a country doll, made of a hickory nut head with an apple twig body. Unexpectedly, she finds that her mistress and family have left for the winter, leaving her to fend for herself during the cold dark months in New Hampshire. The sweet simplicity of the story allows my 5 year old’s imagination to run wild as she pictures Miss Hickory living in a nest and enjoying the company of the crow and the cat that are her friends. There is a reason this book is still in print after all these years! Treat yourself to some good, old fashioned family reading, and enjoy Miss Hickory!
  • Behind the Attic Wall When an orphan, Maggie, is sent to live with two aunts she has given up on life. She has been hurt so many times she rejects others before they can reject her. When she meets two dolls that live in the attic of the house, she finally learns to use her imagination and is loved. More importantly, she learns how to love others, and finds a reason to live. A beautiful story for kids of all ages. Destined to be a classic.

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