For the last decade, Iran has been down on Barbie. Toy stores were banned from selling her, and Iranian children were discouraged from playing with or purchasing our genuine American girl for fears of the ‘westernization’ of Iranian culture.
This week, Barbie was banned.
Iranian police have swept into toy stores throughout the country and taken Barbie into custody, closing down the shops that were harboring the criminal
Since Barbie was born in 1959, she has been an American symbol. Her empire evolved over the years, and became an icon for American children. However, American Barbie hasn’t been without her own controversy, and I kind of understand why the Iranians might be so interested in putting Barbie in the closet. I know I was.
Many women feel that she is an incorrect and unrealistic image of females – of any age. Personally, her curvaceous plastic body and painted on beauty queen smile always rubbed me the wrong way. A child of the 70s, I didn’t grow up owning any Barbies-thank you, mom. Naturally, when I had my own daughter I declared our house a ‘Barbie-free zone’.
That lasted until about kindergarten, when it seemed as if every child invited to our birthday parties had visited ‘the pink zone.’ Barbie became the most popular gift choice of the elementary school set, so I instructed my daughter to thank them politely, and they went into the under-bed ‘Barbie box’.
I didn’t ban her from playing with them. If Barbie loving friend came over and wanted to drag them out, so be it. The allure didn’t last, and shortly after the play date ended Barbie was boxed and returned to her proper place. There were no tears or temper tantrums, and eventually Barbie was…donated.
I wanted my daughter to have her own images of what a real woman looked like, dressed like, and acted like. My 5’2 body is more akin to Barbie’s little sister than any beauty queen’s. My husband isn’t a beach-babe-surfer-type, although I do live in California. I’m not the type to wear skin-tight clothing and heels to my middle school teaching job, nor do I drive a pink Corvette or live in a plastic palace. And neither do my friends.
So the Iranian solution of ‘Dara and Sara’ as replacement to Ken and Barbie actually makes some sense to me. I belive children and adults should have realistic role models. The part that doesn’t make sense to me, though, is the militant banning and forcible removal by the Iranian police. Haven’t they learned that which is unattainable often becomes more desirable?
Maybe the police should take a lesson from this American girl. Give the children role models that you believe in. Banishment creates backlash. Find a place for Barbie that keeps her within reach, but not too far away to touch.
She’s only made of plastic, after all.