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thoughts on barbie

Welcome to the October 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Instilling a Healthy Self-Image
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared confessions, wisdom, and goals for helping children love who they are. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

When I ponder what a child with a good self-image might act like, I imagine a smily kid who is humble but tries hard to succeed, is happy-go-lucky, is competitive but not aggressive, and in a sense plays well with others. I don’t think about their physical looks at all, but I know even despite my best efforts, looks will creep into the conversation.

I want more than anything for my girls to be able to separate their sense of confidence and pride from their physical looks. I remember many years in which I had trouble differentiating self-worth from outside factors like social rank, breast size, and other markers of traditional beauty. I recognize that it will take work for my kids to get past those factors, and it might be a bumpy road along the way.

Last April, I participated in another Carnival of Natural Parenting and wrote about redefining beauty for my four-year-old daughter. When I covered the subject back in April, I chose to cut our hair to prove a point to both myself and my daughter that beauty stereotypes don’t define us as females. Looking back, I can say without a doubt that was a great experience; the lack of grooming time alone makes it worth it.

I feel generally good about the development of my kids’ self-image thus far. I give them many chances to participate in a variety of activities, in the hope that they will find the activities they love and excel at to influence their self-image positively. However, I see the outside influences of our sex-driven culture causing some potential trouble in self-image paradise down the road.

Recently a study by Knox College in Illinois determined that girls as young as six years old identify scantily clad dolls as popular and “their ideal self” as opposed to normally dressed dolls. I even noticed this phenomenon a bit in Vivi the other day, when she was ranking some plastic cut-out dolls in order of prettiness. When I asked her how she knew which doll was more pretty, she said she liked the one best that was showing her belly button. Ummm…

Is it too predictable of me to place some of the blame for this situation on Barbie? I loved Barbies as a kid and don’t expect that they won’t play any role in my children’s lives, but on the other hand I wonder if I ought to invoke some parental control over their outfits. One of our newest Barbies came wearing plastic (i.e. non-removable) lingerie. C’mon! Although it upsets me, I recognize it’s not Mattel’s job to regulate Barbie’s outfits, it’s mine. I love the idea of buying knitted outfits for Barbies, which I saw on corner blog.

Even leaving Barbie out of the equation, I have often contemplated why so much of young girls’ clothing today is even vaguely sexual. I understand the notion that sex sells, but for kids?! Do we really need outfits that say “Juicy” above the bottom

The study listed maternal TV mediation and religiosity as counter-effects on sexualization. Might it also help if I screened the princesses and halter-top-clad dolls we allow in our lives too? I miss Holly Hobby and Strawberry Shortcake, but I think my feeling goes beyond simple nostalgia. Is it just me that believes the princess business has spiraled out of control? Can it be only a personality difference that makes my four-year-old daughter so hyped up about princesses? I never even saw the movie Sleeping Beauty more than once until I was an adult, and I can remember being more excited about seeing Goofy when I went to Disney World than the princesses.

So there we are, arriving back at a question I’ve asked before: How do we combat princess propaganda and sexy Barbies? Do we allow well-meaning relatives to purchase the scantily clad dolls, or do we throw the baby out with the bathwater? Perhaps I should look toward myself as the best role model for them and not worry too much about outside influence.

I hope my daughters see me as a positive image role model, but I honestly question how much influence I personally have on them. I will try my best to counteract the message my girls get from so many other sources, but it feels like an uphill battle. In the end, this post comes up with more questions than answers, but I think that speaks to the difficulty and sensitivity of the subject matter.

If you’re the mom to an older girl, I would love it if you could weigh in with your opinion. How much of a role do you take in influencing the sexual imagery your kids encounter? Do you actively attempt to influence their self-image positively?

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon October 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Why I Walk Around Naked — Meegs at A New Day talks about how she embraces her own body so that her daughter might embrace hers.
  • What I Am Is Not Who I Am — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses her views on the importance of modeling WHO she is for her daughter and not WHAT she sees in the mirror.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Verbs vs. Adjectives — Alisha at Cinnamon & Sassafras tries hard to compliment what her son does, not who he is.
  • The Naked Family — Sam at Love Parenting talks about how nudity and bodily functions are approached in her home.
  • How She’ll See Herself — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis discusses some of the challenges of raising a daughter in our culture and how she’s hoping to overcome them.
  • Self Esteem and all it’s pretty analogies — Musings from Laura at Pug in the Kitchen on what she learned about self-esteem in her own life and how it applies to her parenting.
  • Beautiful — Tree at Mom Grooves writes about giving her daughter the wisdom to appreciate her body and how trying to be a role model taught Tree how to appreciate her own.
  • Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Nurturing A Healthy Body Image — Christy at Eco Journey in the Burbs is changing perceptions about her body so that she may model living life with a positive, healthy body image for her three young daughters.
  • Some{BODY} to LoveKate Wicker has faced her own inner demons when it comes to a poor body image and even a clinical eating disorder, and now she wants to help her daughters to be strong in a world that constantly puts girls at risk for losing their true selves. This is Kate’s love letter to her daughters reminding them to not only accept their bodies but to accept themselves as well in every changing season of life.
  • They Make Creams For That, You Know — Destany at They Are All of Me writes about celebrating her natural beauty traits, especially the ones she passed onto her children.
  • New Shoes for Mama — Kellie of Our Mindful Life, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is getting some new shoes, even though she is all grown up…
  • Raising boys with bodily integrity — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants her boys to understand their own bodily autonomy — so they’ll respect their own and others’.
  • Sowing seeds of self-love in our children — After struggling to love herself despite growing up in a loving family, Shonnie at Heart-Led Parenting has suggestions for parents who truly want to nurture their children’s self-esteem.
  • Subtle Ways to Build a Healthy Self-Image — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM discusses the little things she and her husband do every day to help their daughter cultivate a healthy self-image.
  • On Barbie and Baby Bikinis: The Sexualization of Young Girls — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger finds it difficult to keep out the influx of messages aimed at her young daughters that being sexy is important.
  • Undistorted — Focusing on the beauty and goodness that her children hold, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children watches them grow, loved and undistorted.
  • Off The Hook — Arpita at Up, Down and Natural sheds light on the journey of infertility, and how the inability to get pregnant and stay pregnant takes a toll on self image…only if you let it. And that sometimes, it feels fantastic to just let yourself off the hook.
  • Going Beyond Being An Example — Becky at Old New Legacy discusses three suggestions on instilling healthy body image: positivity, family dinners, and productivity.
  • Raising a Confident Kid — aNonymous at Radical Ramblings describes the ways she’s trying to raise a confident daughter and to instil a healthy attitude to appearance and self-image.
  • Instilling a Healthy Self Image — Laura at This Mama’s Madness hopes to promote a healthy self-image in her kids by treating herself and others with respect, honesty, and grace.
  • Stories of our Uniqueness — Casey at Sesame Seed Designs looks for a connection to the past and celebrates the stories our bodies can tell about the present.
  • Helping My Boy Build a Healthy Body Image — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers readers a collection of tips and activities that she uses in her journey to helping her 3-year-old son shape a healthy body image.
  • Eat with Joy and Thankfulness: A Letter to my Daughters about Food — Megan at The Boho Mama writes a letter to her daughters about body image and healthy attitudes towards food.
  • Helping Our Children Have Healthy Body Images — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares information about body image, and her now-adult daughter tells how she kept a healthy body image through years of ballet and competitive figure skating.
  • Namaste — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares how at barely 6 years old, her daughter has begun to say, “I’m not beautiful.” And while it’s hard to listen to, she also sees it as a sign her daughter is building her self-image in a grassroots kind of way.
  • 3 Activities to Help Instill a Healthy Self-Image in Your Child — Explore the changing ideals of beauty, create positive affirmations, and design a self-image awareness collage. Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares these 3 ideas + a pretty affirmation graphic you can print and slip in your child’s lunchbox.
  • Beautiful, Inside and Out — It took a case of adult-onset acne for Kat of MomeeeZen to find out her parenting efforts have resulted in a daughter that is truly beautiful, inside and out.
  • Mirroring Positive Self Image for Toddlers — Shannon at GrowingSlower reflects on encouraging positive self image in even the youngest members of the family.
  • How I hope to instill a healthy body image in my two girls — Raising daughters with healthy body image in today’s society is no small task, but Xela at The Happy Hippie Homemaker shares how choosing our words carefully and being an example can help our children learn to love their bodies.
  • Self Image has to Come from WithinMomma Jorje shares all of the little things she does to encourage healthy attitudes in her children, but realizes she can’t give them their self images.
  • Protecting the Gift — JW from True Confessions of a Real Mommy wants you to stop thinking you need to boost your child up: they think they are wonderful all on their own.
  • Learning to Love Myself, for my Daughter — Michelle at Ramblings of Mitzy addresses her own poor self-image.
  • Nurturing An Innate Sense of Self — Marisa at Deliberate Parenting shares her efforts to preserve the confidence and healthy sense of self they were born with.
  • Don’t You Love Me, Mommy?: Instilling Self-Esteem in Young Children After New Siblings Arrive — Jade at Seeing Through Jade Glass But Dimly hopes that her daughter will learn to value herself as an individual rather than just Momma’s baby
  • Exercising is FUN — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work talks about modeling for her children that exercising is FUN and good for body and soul.
  • Poor Little Chicken — Kenna at A Million Tiny Things gets her feathers ruffled over her daughter’s clothing anxiety.
  • Loving the skin she’s in — Mama Pie at Downside Up and Outside In struggles with her little berry’s choice not to celebrate herself and her heritage.
  • Perfect the Way I Am — Erika at Cinco de Mommy struggles — along with her seven-year-old daughter — at telling herself she’s perfect just the way she is.