She wanted to play with Barbies. Having loved my own Barbies as a little girl and eagerly hoarded tiny glittery shoes and traded away stuffed animals for miniature ball gowns, I understood the appeal. Sure, I had some feminist qualms. I’ve lived long enough to be concerned about real issues like body image and female stereotypes. But she was two and liked shiny things and make believe. I liked making her happy.
And she was my third child, so let’s face it, I had learned to pick my battles.
We sat on the floor with the pile of dolls and clothing. Lucy meticulously chose each outfit, rejecting my advice and opinions. When they were deemed sufficiently fabulous, I asked where they were going.
“To a party,” she said, the “duh” unspoken but still very clear.
I tried not to read anything into the overly stereotyped way she had them fuss with their hair one last time before heading out on the town. I mean yes, pink was her favorite color, and yes she couldn’t think of anything more important for her dolls to do than dance around in sequined dresses, but that probably didn’t mean anything, right?
Or did it? Had she so thoroughly absorbed cultural standards that she conformed to them without even knowing why? Had I already failed at protecting my daughter from the world’s bizarre expectations of women?
The dolls were just finishing a very bouncy dance when Lucy sat up and began to direct my movements.
“Now make them dance, Mommy, but watch out. Now monsters are attacking them! Kick the monsters! Fight them! Here! I have the dog!”
She produced Barbie’s floofy pink poodle.
“Now the puppy is fighting the monsters! We’re all fighting them! And here comes their dad!”
Ken appears, dressed business casual.
“Now he’s fighting the monsters, too! But it’s too late! They’ve already killed all the monsters!”
Pile of Barbies do a victory dance, along with their dog and their dad. it was nothing compared to the victory dance inside my head.
The adventure having ended, she asked if she could watch some Sesame Street.
Sure, baby. And for the record, we can play Barbies anytime you want.