When I was little, the only reason why I enjoyed playing with Barbie dolls was because I liked cutting their hair.
I even remember the giant Barbie head that I got for Chanukah one year — I could cut her hair and put permanent marker on her face instead of the washable makeup that came with her. Yes, I was a troubled child. But I had an older sister who took such good care of everything my parents ever bought for her. How could I ever live up to that? Dolls in their original boxes! Crayons kept in an orderly fashion! Her grades always perfect! Her room always spotless! Who can follow in such immaculate footsteps? I would usually dump everything from my closet onto the floor, thinking that I was going to organize everything. My dad would come in a few hours later to check on my progress, to find me sleeping on the very comfortable pile of stuff…. Yes, that was me. But back to the Barbies.
Over the years, many feminists have criticized the Barbie doll. They have said that her measurements, if they were translated into a real live woman, were impossible to maintain. No one has measurements like that, unless, of course, they have been surgically altered. How is this doll supposed to be a role model for little girls and boys all over the world? Measurements aside, Barbie had a dream house, a dream pool (of which, I was the proud owner), a dream car. There were doctor Barbies and scientist Barbies and businesswoman Barbies. These were role models.
Barbie taught us that you can have it all.
A few years ago, Barbie started coming out in different shapes. This, of course, made me happy because there was a zaftig Barbie. Barbie with a little meat on her bones. Of course, true to form, if zaftig Barbie’s measurements were translated into real life ones, she still would only probably be a size 12, but it still is progress. Barbie would have to shop in the plus size department, while all of her skinny Barbie friends were lunching on lettuce and wearing a size 2 — but it was still a shout-out to big gals everywhere. But it got me thinking — what about Ken? Would Ken, the ultimate man, date zaftig Barbie?
I still remember the blind date I went on many, many years ago, when the voice on the other end of the phone asked me if I was zaftig. I was taken aback by the question because the joy of the blind date (to be read sarcastically) is not having any idea what the other person looks like. With social media, you can look people up, but back in the stone age, blind meant just that. You had no idea what you were getting. So this particular narcissist that I went on one date with was disappointed with my physique — did it matter that he looked like a monkey? No, because he was a narcissist. He thought he was a Ken because he was a doctor, but he was not.
In any event, the other day, on the radio, I was pleased to hear that now Ken comes in different shapes! If I am not mistaken, Ken now comes in three or four different builds, one of which is “sturdy.”
Ahh, sturdy Ken — he likes drinking five or six beers when he comes home from the office and eating a couple of steaks that zaftig Barbie grilled for him when he was at work. His doctor keeps warning him about his cholesterol and his midsection, but zaftig Barbie loves him just the way he is. Truth be told, original size Barbie also loves him because he comes from family money that has afforded her a five carat diamond ring, the dream house, and the dream pool.
If we put sturdy Ken with zaftig Barbie, we are just promoting the stereotype that big belongs with big. I think that the makers of Ken and Barbie should go one step further with the Ken line. How about receding hair Ken? Combover Ken? Buzzed-haircut-because-I-am-really-bald Ken? Maybe we could mix and match the different heads with the different builds? Fat and bald Ken would go over great with the ladies, because I have always said that a woman, like zaftig Barbie, could be successful but still single in her 40s, whereas fat and bald Ken could be unemployed and living in his car and still manage to get married.
Yup, it is still a man’s world, but at least Barbie has started eating, and that, my friends, is progress!
Banji Ganchrow has never been a fan of dolls, but has always been a fan of peanut chews.