Q&A: healthy body image alternatives to Barbie

Nora writes:

"My daughter is 32 months old and I NEVER thought I'd be here,especially so soon.  As a tool-toting feminist, I was ok with the dressing up in shiny shoes, tutus and the desire to turn everything from pipe cleaners to coax cable into jewelry.  I could tolerate multiple requests to change outfits.  But this afternoon, my kid came to me in the thrift store clutching ten Barbies to her chest keening, "Mommy, buy! Buy!".

I KNOW there are alternatives to Barbie out there. I think the appeal is that all her other [beloved] dolls are baby dolls; soft, chubby, diaper- and onsie-wearing babies.  Barbie is sleek! and bendy! and has long luxurious hair [at least some of them still do]!  And jewelry!

Can you point me towards the feminist alternatives that I know must be out there, or do I have to gnash my teeth and suffer through Barbie for the next [x] years?


[I did buy her one doll, the only black-haired like my daughter.  Still, I can't get past the fact that $O.5O is too much to pay for early onset body dysmorphia.]"

Hahahaha. I think "$O.5O is too much to pay for early onset body dysmorphia" is going to be the 2009 version of "You taught my daughter to love reading.....I'm not buying you f-ing soap."

I can't really remark here, because I am guilty as charged. My second son, when he was 3, begged for an Ariel (Disney's Little Mermaid) doll. And I caved, and bought him the Barbie-style one, with breasts and hips (encased in her fish tail costume/apparatus) and flowy wild red hair.

However, that's only going to give him lifelong wrong impressions about what a woman's body is supposed to look like (minus the fish tail thing, I hope), and not give him body issues about his own body. Self-loathing is a bad thing.

To be sure, I think that buying more realistic body shape dolls for little girls is not going to fix the 24-hour onslaught of body image crap we get from the time we're born. And, if I know anything about kids around the 3-year-old age, it's that they often want only what they want, so she may refuse to play with other dolls if she's got Barbies in her heart.

BUT, you have to parent according to your principles. And if you don't want to buy Barbies, don't buy Barbies. Every little message is important.

As I am a pushover (the Ariel-loving child also has a pink Ariel lunchbox because he was so excited about it), I don't know anything about alternative dolls. But I am positive that the readers do. So will you all please recommend your favorite dolls that are adult- (or at least teen)-style dolls like Barbies are? If you put the http:// in front of the web address it'll automatically turn into a clickable link. And if you happen to make or sell these dolls, be sure to let us know.

At the same time, I know there have to be moms who've allowed Barbies even though they didn't want to. How did that process go for you, and are you OK with it at this point?