Saturday night I babysat for eleven year old twin girls. I’ve been watching them on and off for eight years. EIGHT!
They like Barbies. I knew this, but had a real moment of powerful reminisincing when I came across a dress I used to own. Like, the exact same dress. I don’t know why it hit me so hard then, but I remembered just how much I loved playing with my Barbies at their age.
Twenty-seven years ago I had a nice collection of dolls, a car, a house (the 70’s version, not the pink dream house), and a pool.
One year I got Dana. One of the Rockers. Dana was East Asian. She had long, shiny black hair and rocked blue eyeshadow. I got her around Christmas time and brought her to the family Christmas Eve dinner. Guests, most of whom were Japanese American, could not believe there was an Asian Barbie doll.
But she wasn’t my favorite.
She simply couldn’t be.
Barbie is the OG White Girl. And for girl of color like me, I wanted to be the bad ass bitch that Barbie was. And she was not dark complected, she did not have dark hair, she was not chubby.
She was beautiful, like Cinderella, with those golden locks and “nude” skin and blue eyes. She had perfect, white teeth. And everything looked great on her.
When the band is called “Barbie and the Rockers” and you are a “Rocker”, you know your place is relegated to the back. It didn’t matter that Dana’s body was the same as Barbie’s or that she could wear all of the same clothes and shoes.
She was not front and center.
She was not featured in all of the commercials.
She was not The Star.
So I never really incorporated her into my everyday Barbie narratives. Real Barbie lived in the house with Ken (the brown haired one with bent arms so he could hold her, not blonde, straight armed Ken who couldn’t even slow dance I mean c’mon) and would maybe have Dana over for a party along with the other Barbies I wasn’t as fond of.
It just makes sense, given where I grew up (the mostly white suburbs of Missouri) that I wanted to be white. I didn’t see anything wrong with that. All around me it was reinforced and especially with my most treasured toy.
I know that a lot has changed in two decades. It surprises me that Barbie is still around.
But even though she comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and colors, It’s still White Barbie’s World.