We were at Toys R’ Us the other weekend and as Sam was going about her usual rounds with the toys (We take her there just to play with the toys on display. My husband says it keeps her from wanting to bring it all home - his money-saving tactic), I took Jamie and mosey-ed over to the girls area where I love to look at girls’ toys. Yes, I am dreaming up their Christmas list and will write out their letters to Santa (aka – Dad).
I was horrified to see this at the very center of the aisle display:
I am no feminist, but… what does this teach our girls?! Whatever happened to marketing and advertising Barbie and her wonderful world of glitz and fashion and all that jazz?!?! Why does she suddenly need an “ultimate dream date?!” Yes yes, I know that Ken has always been there since I was playing Barbie; and I would pair them off to be “boyfriend-girlfriend” at the age of 7. Plus I can understand from a business perspective, that promoting Ken may just be the way to grow (How many Barbie dolls, clothes and accessories can one girl have after all? At one point you just have to stop buying it for them right?!). But I just feel… it’s so blatant now. It never used to be, and I remember I would play Barbie dollhouse with my cousin everyday and between us we’d really only have one Ken Doll. It was all about Barbie dressing up, getting in her car, having fun with her friends, and maybe… MAYBE! marrying Ken in the end. Or they’d go out to dinner at the very least. But it didn’t always happen and Barbie had her life and she was fine!
I’m trying to put a finger on why I feel so mortified. Maybe because the message I’m getting is “girl needs boy to be happy”, when I wouldn’t want to say that to either of my girls. I talked about self-esteem in a previous post, and to me this just doesn’t help build towards that goal. I believe that young girls should be sent the message that they can be (and should be!) happy and feel “complete” with themselves first, and that the “Ken” in their life is just another whole later on.
On the other hand, why does he have to be positioned that way as well? Granted that girls will play with him and dress him up, but can he not be seen as such a ladies’ man? It’s kind of scary.
I don’t know, but I am bothered. Am I being too prudish or conservative? Am I over-analyzing? Am I putting too many issues behind a simple Ken Doll?
If you were in my shoes, with two little, highly impressionable girls to raise — would this ad encourage you to buy them a Ken doll (and all his metrosexual fashion accessories)?