I'm sure the backlash is going to be entertaining and equally infuriating, but for now, I'm going to focus on all the feels I'm feeling right now. Barbie has hips, y'all. And she's petite and is tall and finally fucking reflects the reality of those who imagine all we can be while acknowledging who we already are when we look at her.
I'll be honest...I didn't know how badly I needed to see a doll like me until I did, and then suddenly, I realize how much different my experience would have been had I seen myself reflected back in the doll in my hands as a child. This particular point hit home just a few weeks ago when Eliana's much-anticipated Just Like Me American Girl doll arrived. She was lucky enough to receive gift cards from her padrinos for Christmas and patiently waited for her doll, which had been sold out, to show up on our porch. And oh, how the angels freaking sang when that day came. Eliana named her Kateri and squealed because HER HAIR MAMA HER GLASSES AND SHE HAS EARRINGS AND CURLS AND HER SKIN AND MAMA SHE LOOKS LIKE ME!!!!
I know, Baby Girl. Or rather, I actually didn't because I never saw my olive skin, my kinky curls, or my curves and hips, reflected back to me unless I was looking in a mirror when I was her age. Not having that same self-validation in my own arsenal of life experiences made watching my daughter bond with a doll that looked like her one of the most powerful moments as mother I can recall since the day I gave birth.
Thing is, I keep seeing the news reports and media links focusing on Barbie and her hips. They are focusing on the expanded body types and even making light of the backlash Barbie used to get when she was the pretty blonde white girl with giant boobs and a tiny waist that was supposed to speak to all girls everywhere to inspire them to be just like Barbie...when many of them actually weren't. Time Magazine's cover says "Can We Stop Talking About My Body Now?" because, it seems, that Barbie's hips are seen by some as the grudging concession made simply to shut the people like me up, already. I can't help but hear the voice of a frustrated teen tired of being lectured for doing something stupid when I read the the Time Magazine cover because OKAY MOM I GET IT. CAN WE JUST MOVE ON, ALREADY?
No, actually, we can't. This is too important to just let go without all the pomp and circumstance. Why? Because we cannot move on until we are absolutely certain that everybody taking part in this conversation understands that hips and body type alone are not the actual point. Diversity is the point. Inclusion is the point. Representation is the point. Anyone, regardless of race, who says how much they needed this, to see themselves and their particular body type (and hair style and skin tone, of course) in Barbie, needs to step back and realize that THIS is what minorities mean when we push for diversity in books and in movies and in television.
One point in the Time article struck me, and it's an important one to note: When we close our eyes and think of Barbie, we see one face and one body type. Stripped of the very hallmarks associated with her role as an icon, will Barbie continue to be that icon? Of course she will.
I remember seeing an afro-Latina friend post a photo of her toddler dressed as Rapunzel for Halloween, violet colored dress and flowers in the braided hair of the black wig that completed the costume. For a moment I was confused because NO RAPUNZEL IS WHITE AND BLONDE AND OMG and then I was smiling from ear to ear. This mother could have told her little girl that only white girls can be Rapunzel or she could have come home from the store with the blonde wig. But instead, she gave her daughter the gift of knowing that she has the power to create the backstory. Her day as Afro-Latina Rapunzel didn't change white Rapunzel by default on every DVD of the Disney flick, but it sure as hell made her smile because she was herself as Rapunzel. It's an important distinction.
How good does it feel, right now, to have yourself validated - your hips, your curves, your skin tone, your height, or lack thereof? - after a lifetime of making believe that make believe, in and of itself, was enough? How eye-opening is it to realize that it wasn't and never should have been? Step outside of yourself for just a moment and apply this knowledge to the hashtags that may annoy you or seem backwards in their foundations. #blacklivesmatter. #weneedmorediversebooks #whiteprivilege #intersectionality #bodypositive #effyourbeautystandardards...
No one is saying that regular Barbie still doesn't reign supreme or that short Barbie or curvy Barbie with a booty are better than regular Barbie. Just like no one is saying that white lives matter less or that we shouldn't be focusing on race because we are all human and dammit all lives fucking matter because the norm is skinny Barbie and skinny Barbie has always mattered. We are not one race. We are individuals with a multitude of racial and cultural backgrounds that make us who we are and that needs to be embraced and celebrated; not ignored and glossed over under the well-intentioned (but misguided) guise of raising color-blind children. Why? Because being blind to my color means the parts of me that make me ME are being ignored.
Think I'm being overly-dramatic? That Diverse Barbie can't really be tied to the larger experience? Tell me again, please, then, what it feels like to see a Barbie that looks like you? Unless you can tell me that we all have bodies and that we should be raising or kids to be body-blind because it's shit like making an issue of body image issues that only serves to exacerbate body image issues, then I suggest you take a moment to reevaluate your privilege.
#DifferentBarbieMatters, y'all, because we didn't realize she was missing until she showed up.