MSSC turned me on to this video, and I watched it over at a blog called “Doubletapper“.
I flip-flopped in my opinion several times while watching that video, so I went looking for more information. I found it, in a Daily Mail article from November, 2009. And I was still on the fence. So I read all the comments at DoubleTapper, and some of the comments at Daily Mail. Still on the fence, although I’m leaning one way over another, rapidly moving all the way to that side…
So when I first watched, I thought like the Mattel Rep thought, essentially that the point of Barbie is to represent ALL girls… There’s Airline Pilot Barbie, Vetrinarian Barbie, Lawyer Barbie, Cheerleader Barbie (maybe that’s Skipper), and even Mommy Barbie (‘course, she’s got a baby that bursts out of her belly, alien-style, so I’m not sure THAT’S a good example). So I was thinking, “ok, this is cool – there are plenty of little girls who wear Burkas instead of Bikini’s, and this is for an auction that will benefit a world-wide children’s charity, so maybe it’s a good idea. And the photo that I saw at the Daily Mail backed me up:
There’s Kimono Barbie, Dashiki Barbie, and even one in a miniskirt and a halter top, although I’m not quite sure which culture that is. Point is, this looked like it was a “Multicultural Barbie Pack”, offered by the designer, Eliana Lorena. So in that context, maybe I’m ok with it.
But as I listened to the woman on the video, and read the comments under the Daily Mail article, my mind started to change. First, this is only a 500-item, Limited-Edition Issue of the doll. Which means that it is unlikely to end up in any hands other than those placing it into the glass display case. Second – and this wasn’t mentioned, to my knowledge in either place – Barbie is unlikely to be found in any “fundamentalist Islam” household. As far as I know, the really hardcore Islamist doesn’t look very fondly on the West, and resents Western Influence. You can’t get more “Western” than Barbie.
Finally, and this is the big one, I see a difference between wearing a Burka for modesty’s sake, and wearing a full-coverage, “hide you from the world” Burka. I can’t help but agree with both the woman in the video and the commenters when they say that the Burka which has the screen mask for viewing through is nothing but oppression and an extension of Sharia Law, which is shaming to women, blaming them for their own rapes, for inciting men to attack them, saying that it was the woman’s fault.
Is it a huge deal? No. It’s ‘just a barbie doll’ that’s going to end up in some collector’s case, and, as this story ran in November of 2009, it’s obvious that it’s done and over with, and hasn’t done any harm.
But on the other hand, this is just one more step toward normalizing the fundamentalist, extreme side of Islam. That side of it that is insidiously invading all over the world, and the side that oppresses women in the most horrific ways.
So because of that, I have to say, “shame on Mattel”. Had Barbie been offered in a traditional, modest but open-faced burka, I might have thought differently, but the fact that the “mask” burka was included, just smacks of political correctness to me.