When we first started reading Kinky I remembered how the Barbies at my house always used to fight. My parents would get frustrated with the doll limbs and heads that they would find flung everywhere around the house. As long as we didn’t make a mess, though, my parents encouraged us to play in whatever way we wanted. They thought that gladiator battles or dress up were equally appropriate for either gender, and let us choose our toys and what we would do with them. I always felt like I had sort of dodged a bullet that hit a lot of other girls. I didn’t feel the need to be blond or girly and I was happy about that.
When I read “Hispanic Barbie”, however, I remembered a Mexican Barbie that someone had bought as a gift for me when I was little. I think the idea was to make me proud of my heritage. For some reason this Barbie never took part in the gladiator battles that all the other Barbies did. She still sits on my dresser back at home, black hair perfectly in place, white, red and green dress arranged prettily around her, green eyes and bright red lips smiling up at me whenever I look in the mirror in my room back at home. I started remembering vague thoughts that I used to have when I’d glance at Mexican Barbie, and then look at myself in the mirror before going out “I wish my lips were that red” or “if only my eyes were a little greener”. I think one my favorite lines in the whole book is, “Girls, like some grown men, like a variety, as long as it’s pretty”.
By creating Barbies that girls of different ethnicities can relate to, they aren’t helping girls to be more accepting of themselves, they’re saying that there is a mold that you should be fitting into, no matter what your skin color. Girls want a toy that they can at least somewhat relate to, and Mattel has done a good job of making such a variety that there is something for everybody. What I love about Kinky is that the Barbie we relate to is a Barbie with feelings, and insecurities and life crises. We don’t relate to her skin color, or the fact that she plays soccer too! We relate to frustrations with societal pressures and rather than being unable to relate to the tiny waist and big boobs we’ll never have, we are unable to relate to fingers that are stuck together and an inability to move or speak. What Barbie doesn’t have makes us appreciate that we aren’t Barbie.