An Open Letter to Barbie on the Dawn of Her New Body
Hey, girlfriend. It's been so long — decades, really, since we've spent some quality time together. You were such an important part of my childhood, though, I feel like we can always just sort of pick up where we left off. I can't even count the hours we logged together while I lived vicariously through you, dreaming grown-up dreams for myself of a big house and a killer wardrobe and a revolving door of amazing careers. And a silver Corvette, of course (God, I loved that car). You were game for whatever I had in mind, always supporting my imagination and going along with whatever scenario I could dream up that day. I never really thanked you for that, but it's meant so much to me over the years, that foundation of dreaming big dreams for myself without fear of judgment.
When I heard about all of the changes going on with you, I wanted to reach out right away. A new, curvier body! And a petite one and a tall one, too — dang, girl, they've been busy with you! It's so exciting! Your body has been such a hot topic for so long now; I don't think I ever noticed it much, but maybe I was just so used to you that I was a little bit jaded. Anyways, everyone else certainly seemed to notice it, and I've seen you take so much criticism for it over the years. I was always on your side — we were so close, how could I not be? — but I have to admit that I also saw their point.
You know how important positive body image is to me. You were there during those early years, when my parents made sure I knew my character defined me so much more than my appearance did. You were there when I started playing soccer when I was 5, and I fell in love with the breathless, strong feeling of using my legs to run as fast as I could. I even got my college degree in kinesiology because I'm so amazed by all that the human body can accomplish, and it always breaks my heart to hear women lament the appearance of their bodies and overlook how amazing they really are. And some people have blamed some of that on you, Barbie. They say that your figure is unrealistic and that it causes girls to aspire to a ridiculous ideal. Of course, girls want to aspire to be like you — you've always been so damn cool.
I'm so proud of you for making this change. I'm so proud of you for recognizing the influential power that you possess, whether you intend to or not. I know it's a huge risk. Change is always scary, and changing your body can be an especially scary breed of change. For you in particular, your body has been such a big part of your identity, your personal brand. In a lot of ways, it's also been your livelihood, a constant presence, whether you were working as an astronaut, a doctor, a pilot, or a professional Malibu beachgoer. Even though you never said it out loud, your figure was kind of your "thing."
I think you're so brave for stepping away from that and taking a risk. I know there are still critics. They're saying that it's too little, too late. They're saying that it's just about money, while others are saying that it will actually be a financial nightmare for you. You'll never make everyone happy, Barbie, and I suppose that if anyone knows that, it's you.
But you've made me happy. You made me happy all those years that we played together in my childhood, and you've made me so, so happy today with this new chapter in your life. You've had your missteps over the years (remember the whole "math class is tough" debacle? Oof.), but so have I (Thank God Facebook didn't exist when I was in high school). And all any of us can do is learn from our mistakes and try to do better as we know better. I see you doing that here, Barbie. I see you listening, understanding, and adapting. I see you doing better.
I'm a mom now, Barbie, did you know that? I have two little boys who are more interested in your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle neighbors than they are with you, but I think about you sometimes while I watch them play. I see how powerful their imaginations are, how fascinated they are by all the little details of their toys, and how they memorize the names and unique traits of each one. I see in a new light just how powerful toys can be. I understand with a fresh perspective how powerful you are.
I guess I mostly want to say thank you. Thank you for what you provided in my own childhood, that platform for imagination and wonder and a world that felt like my own. But more than that, thank you for the message that you're sending to this new generation of kids who want to dream their grown-up dreams with you. Thank you for showing them that bodies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, none more deserving of big dreams than the other. Thank you for risking your own identity to make that clear. All these years later, Barbie, I couldn't love you more.