My Mother Never Let me Play with Barbies

There’s so much to say about this video, but I think I’ll let it speak for itself.  To read about my mother never letting me play with barbies, skip down a few paragraphs.

To be honest, watching these kinds of videos make me sick.  To realize that sexism and unwanted sexualization is such a prevalent part of our American culture is one thing; to live with that knowledge 100% of the time is suffocating.  But everyone needs to know these realities.  “Killing Us Softly” is an informational video that everyone should watch!

There is good news though.  These days more women are attending college than men which is having a drastic effect on marriage rates.  There are fewer marriages today than ever before, and we can sum it up to those college degrees.  Search on google for any news articles on this and you’ll find the exact statistics I’m talking about.  Women who previously were marrying for financial stability are now able to get jobs due to their degrees.  Because fewer men than women are attending college, there is a smaller pool of men to marry because apparently most women don’t want to marry “down.”

A very, very strange result has come of this.  The ideal pool of males has shrunk, which makes men with college degrees rarer and more desirable than ever before.  And these males probably get more action than anyone else.  So what you’re left with is one alpha male per multiple alpha females.  Interesting.

Now, as for those barbies…

There IS a way to fight back against the media’s influence, and it all comes down to parenting.  It’s the reason I don’t go fake tanning, wear false eyelashes, or bleach my hair (though I’ve been there, done that, and come out all the better for it).  Unfortunately, it’s also the reason I sometimes have trouble respecting women who do dye their hair and wreck their bodies with plastic surgery.

My mother never let me play with barbies.

“Why??” I would whine and beg her.  “All my friends have them. Jessie’s mom lets her play with Barbies!”

“I don’t care what your friends do or what your friends parents say.  It’s because I said so,” My mom replies in what I considered to be a very cruel manner.  I received little to no explanation on why I wasn’t allowed to play with Barbies, or why I wasn’t allowed to wear a bikini to pool parties in elementary school.  My mom once bought me a similar doll with brown hair, whose joints moved.  I didn’t care much for it–I wanted exactly what my friends had.

“Barbies don’t have nipples. It’s not an accurate representation of a woman’s body,” she told me once.   I was confused enough by that to shut up about it for a little while. “Who cares if they don’t have nipples?” I asked myself.

But it got me thinking.  Later in life, my mother didn’t let me subscribe to young womens’ magazines, like Seventeen or Cosmo Girl!.  I received Girls Life for a while, and was really into American Girl dolls.  This stuff drove me crazy!  I would love perusing those magazines at friends houses, which was the only time I was able to see what I was missing out on.  The bold letters, pink graphics, and makeup ads enticed me.

When I was 12 I left my school to attend an all-girls school, Dana Hall in Wellesley, MA. There were many times where I felt distanced from my peers, as if they knew something I didn’t.  But I could never put my finger on what it was.

For a long time, I didn’t understand why my mother was doing this.  It was hard on us too.  I lashed out at her for what I thought was her punishing me for no reason and isolating me from my friends. She never really gave me an explanation for the magazine ban except telling me that they were “trash.”  Now I realize why–how do you even put this kind of sexism into words?  How do you explain to a nine year old that magazines are just money-makers that exploit young girls and give them unnecessary body issues?  You don’t, I think.  It’s too complicated to understand.

But I get it now.  It took me a long time, and one amazing Northwestern class with Professor Kirsten Pike called “Girls Media Culture” to really understand.  After years of hearing “No” from my mother, I finally saw the positivity.  Suddenly, all of that once-perceived negativity brilliantly transformed into a very close relationship with my mother.  Instead of holding a grudge, I held unparalleled respect for my mother.

These days, when I see a young woman with fake skin, hair, eyes, and body (which is quite often–I love house music), I cringe. But most of all, I wonder what her mother is like.  Did she ever pass on this knowledge to her daughter?  Did she ever care to tell her that she doesn’t need makeup to be beautiful, and in fact, she doesn’t even need to be beautiful?

More so, when I see a guy with a young woman who is like this, or a young man who is disrespectful of women in general (read: bro), I wonder about HIS mother and what kind of lessons she bestowed upon her son.

Women may have less power due to the media, but we do have the power of giving life.  We have the power of raising life, and raising our children to defy expectations, improve the quality of our lives, and fight back against inequalities all over the world.  We have the power of infinite influence.

And honestly, if every woman in this world was as brave as my mother Susan, sexism would not be an issue.  And I work in the film industry, and I want to change the world.

My mother was willing to put up with me hating her for years on the off-chance that I would have a shield against this disgusting sell-out media world that is pushed in young men and young women’s faces every minute, every hour, every day.  My mother has bigger balls than any man I know. Thanks Mom.

Mothers all over the world: can you do the same?

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3 thoughts on “My Mother Never Let me Play with Barbies

  1. “To realize that sexism and unwanted sexualization is such a prevalent part of our American culture is one thing; to live with that knowledge 100% of the time is suffocating.” Too true. Sometimes I hate being a feminist, and wish I could give it all up and just STOP CARING but argh. Someone has to do it, I guess?

    How interesting, I saw the trailer for this doco just a couple of days ago and was hoping to track it down. Thank you!

  2. Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any points for inexperienced blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate it.

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