What enrages me is the way woman are used as extensions of men, mirrors of men, devices for showing men off, devices for helping men get what they want...
Jane Tompkins, "Me and My Shadow"
I have listened to professors lecture on Feminism. They always debunk the negative female stereotypes found throughout literature: Women are either tramps, extraordinarily beautiful, or old, shriveling spinsters. Once, when one my professors was reviewing Charloette Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," I took a mental note: No daughter of mine will ever play with a Barbie doll. Not ever.
By two years old, she was trained. She'd say, when her girlfriends invited her to play, "We can't play Barbies. She mis-wup-re-sents women." Moms were always amused by this unusual announcement. "Don't all girls love playing Barbies?" one mom asked at the end of our playdate. I casually said, "I've never liked dolls much. I never dreamed of becoming a mom. (Not that I don't adore being one now. I just never thought that far in advance.) And playing house was always my least favorite game. I've always liked being the boss--bossing around my four little brothers always came so naturally. I liked being in charge, and playing house usually meant someone else was in charge of me." The woman raised her eyebrows and stared, stupefied.
Needless to say, that wasn't our last chance to prove we made good playmates. My homgurl soon found other friends who enjoyed dancing, reading, drawing, and running around outside, friends who didn't have naked Barbie dolls strewed about the house, friends who didn't want to pretend to be a mom, cooking and cleaning in plastic high heels for hours on end, friends who roamed and played in a world undefined, so I thought.
When her fourth Christmas was a month away I asked, "What do you want for Christmas?"
"The Nutcracker Barbie," she said smiling.
"The what?" I said.
"The Nutcracker Barbie. I want to dance and sing like the Nutcracker Barbie, Mom. I want to have hair to my toes and eyelashes that brush my eyebrows when I blink. I want to be pretty."
"You're already pretty, just the way you are. Barbie isn't real, Hannah. She's fake, no one looks like that in real life. Where did you learn about this Barbie, huh? From Ken?"
"We watched the movie at Jessica's house," she said.
"Well I thought Jessica was into puppets and play dough, not Barbie."
"Can't she like both, Mom?"
She was right. Jessica could like whatever she wanted to like, and my homgurl could like whatever she wanted to like. I bought her the Nutcracker Barbie and have since purchased more dolls than I care to share. She still spends hours in her room, in her own Barbie world, playing out who she'll become. The Barbie Mansion is home to the best therapy money can buy. There she pretends she's a writer, a fashion designer, a doctor, a lawyer, a mother of twin girls. I always tell her she's going to be wonderful at whatever she becomes. No man can stop wonderful from happening.
At the beginning of the week she asked,
"Can I be Barbie for Halloween?"
"What kind of Barbie?" I cautiously asked.
"A pretty Barbie, not a sleazy Barbie."
"You can dress up like Barbie as long as you know..."
"I know, Mom. She misrepresents woman; she's not real, blah blah blah."