She’s Come a Long Way, Baby—or Not!

Even as I write this, children of every race, color and creed are telling Santas in shopping malls and department stores what’s on their wish lists for this year. Some still do it the old fashioned way—by writing letters to the Jolly Old Elf.
Among the Sponge Bob and Hannah Montana toys and paraphernalia, there’s probably going to be a lot of requests for Barbie dolls, as has been the case over the past 50 years since she first came on the scene.
However, I bet at least one Barbie won’t be in high demand—at least not yet. That would be Burkha Barbie. That’s right—the icon of Western teenage life and glamour has had a makeover (see below), and now she gets to wear the fashion essential of every woman living under the strict Islamic code called “Sharia Law”.
Forget the Barbie Dream Homes, pink sports cars, trendy clothes and beach parties. This Barbie has it all—all covered up, that is. Of course, like her real-life sisters, she gets to see the world through a rectangular opaque screen. What a lucky girl! I guess the male chaperones that Burkha Barbie needs whenever she leaves the house are sold separately.
According to the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail, this special edition Barbie is the brainchild of Italian designer Eliana Lorena. It’s being offered as part of a charity auction in connection with famed auction house, Sotheby’s.
Ironically, the money raised will go towards Save the Children’s Rewrite the Future campaign that helps millions of children around the world affected by conflict.
Can anyone name a place in the world where children are more affected by conflict than those in the Middle East? Barbie’s maker, Mattel,  is apparently on board with this. Doesn’t it bother them or Save the Children that the burkha is the ultimate symbol of oppression for women and female children that will one day have to wear one of those things?
Doesn’t it bother them that the culture that forces that upon their women and girls is the same culture that sends children packed with explosives into crowded marketplaces in order to create terror, death and mayhem? Or that flies airplanes full of people into buildings full of people?
For her part, designer Lorena has very good intentions. She said, “I think this is really important for girls, wherever they are from they should have the opportunity to play with a Barbie that they feel represents them.” I tend to agree with her there. I have no problem with Barbies of varying cultures. Little girls like dolls that look like them.
In reality, this doesn’t always play out. When Iran banned Barbie in 2008, they began producing an alternative doll named Sara that costs much less than the “offensive” Mattel Barbies. Sara, not so glamorous and much more plain, has not been a big seller. Apparently, little girls who can still manage to get their hands on the Banished Barbie are hip.
Why do you suppose that is? I think it’s really just about what Barbie has always meant to girls. She is about the imagination and dreams of childhood. A Barbie doll can be anything and go anywhere. She is limited only by the imagination of the child that holds her. But most children have imaginations that know no limits. That isn’t a trait that only American or Western society children have. All children are born dreamers. They are highly creative and intuitive, no matter where they live.
However, not all children grow up in places where their childhood dreams will ever be realized because they live under cruel, oppressive regimes that seek absolute power of the lives of their people.
Sadly, because of this, all that Burkha Barbie’s real-life counterparts have to look forward to is an adulthood full of limitations.


From this…

.                      …to this in 50 years!


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