A commentary on race, class and gender or why we need to so many Barbies

Our current Barbie count is seven — four adult females, two adult males and one child, also female. We have two blond Barbies. Two black-haired Barbies. A Ken. A little girl Barbie named Chelsea. And Danny Wood. Yes, the guy from New Kids on the Block. I purchased the blond Barbies, as well as Ken and Chelsea, who are also blond. We adopted the other three (the dark ones, I might add) from day care.

For me, every Barbie has a theme, one that the manufacturer intended, and another one which I am using to justify the ownership of so many Barbies.

For example, one of the black-haired Barbies came with knee pads, elbow pads and one rollerblade. No helmet. OK. She’s an athlete and a risk taker. That’s a good role model, right? The only problem I have is the lack of helmet. But even if she had one, it probably wouldn’t fit. Inexplicably, all Barbie hair is approximately 10 times the thickness of ordinary human hair. Putting anything on her head is like trying to shove a marshmallow to the bottom of a cup of cocoa.

Now, onto the child.

One of the blond Barbies, Big Barbie as she came to be known, was in the same box as Chelsea with a miniature toilet and a sink. Is Big Barbie the sister? A single mom? Hey, it’s family helping family. Regardless, this was very handy during potty training time, when my daughter and I could go through all the steps for using the toilet with Chelsea and Big Barbie before we tried it ourselves.

And then there are the guys.

They are fine, I suppose, but having Ken – the Ultimate Boyfriend – has reinforced some behavior that I don’t love. Ken has a recording device in his chest that allows you to say things like “naked butt” and then repeat them in three different tones of voice. Awesome (not). But last night I noticed Barbie wearing Ken’s shirt and jeans. So that’s a good sign. We’re not letting gender stereotypes dictate the dress code.

This leaves Danny Wood. His plastic head is painted with black hair, but he also has a two-inch string of black hair down his back, which makes me fondly refer to him (in my mind only, people!) as sperm head. He’s kind of gross. I don’t share this with my daughter, because I don’t want to be a Barbie racist, but if I had my way, I would not have gone back up to her bedroom last night to help her take off his pants. So I guess that’s my lesson. I need to be more open-minded about Danny, his needs and his sense of style.

In a few weeks, we’re getting two more Barbies for Christmas. Yes, blond! I have already bought them and they are hidden in the trunk of my car – a good place to hide presents, I might add. One Barbie is a doctor and the other comes with the Malibu Dream House. So that’s good. We’ll have one with a post-graduate education and another with the good sense to invest in real estate that will increase in value. Whoever said there is anything wrong with Barbie?

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