I owe my start in journalism to Barbie. Yes, THAT doll.
When I was in Year 12 in 1994 I wrote a piece for English (I believe it was meant to be a humorous opinion piece) and I wrote one on Barbie – specifically defending Barbie as a role model. I had loved my Barbies up until I was about 10 (then I made them into “Punk Barbie”). I detailed Barbie’s many careers, independance and convertible as a sign she wasn’t “just a doll”. (I was 17, remember!)
My wonderful English teacher, the late Mrs Mary Arnott, surprised me by sending the article in to “Student Update” section of The Age. (Mrs Arnott, who had a daughter studying journalism at RMIT was always so supportive of my ambitions.)
To my surprise and joy, The article was published. My first reaction was “Beauty! I have an article for my portfolio when I apply for RMIT Journalism”. (I got in.) My next was the exhilaration of seeing my work in print (and that has never changed even 18 years on).
I do consider myself a feminist and I stand by this article that I wrote when I was 17. (I considered myself a feminist then too.) Little did I know I actually would have daughters and would be faced with the conundrum of the toys I allow then to play with.
And the fact is my daughters do like Barbies and we do have them in the house. I talk a lot with my daughter about what Barbie looks like and the fact that this is not really what women look like. On the other hand, my kids do some great imaginative role playing with the dolls. I really mean that. I listen to them as they chatter away and create environments for the toys. One day it is a restaurant. The next it is a hospital or newspaper office (“like where mummy works”).
It’s not ideal. I wish my girls weren’t that interested in Barbie BUT it’s really not the worst thing. The girls have two parents who are committed to raising strong women who have varied interests.
I loved my Barbies and I turned out ok…well, kind of!
This was my first published piece and probably one of the most important I have ever written. And I’ve got the much-maligned (and enduring) doll to thank for it!
P.S. The PR company for Mattel at the time, Oglivy & Mather, sent a Barbie to my school (Camping Barbie) after they saw the article.