Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tatts not OK

It’s time toy companies let little girls be girls

As a former member of the Barbie Fan Club (circa 1985) I have been saddened and somewhat disgusted by Mattel and their perverse ideas of what is an appropriate toy for a little girl.
I learned recently that Mattel, in a move to apparently “update” Barbie, has put on the shelves the Totally Stylin’ Tattoos Doll.
It was released in April in the US to quite a lot of controversy, and reached our shores in July.

Mattel’s website states: “Your daughter will love getting creative with these super-stylish tattoos! Using the tattoo stamper, she can design and decorate her doll’s awesome outfits - and even apply temporary tattoos to herself. How hip and trendy!”
Since when have tattoos become hip and trendy for three-year-old girls?
Barbie founder Ruth Handler would be turning in her grave if she could see what has happened to this iconic doll who used to inspire little girls to think about what they wanted to be when they grew up.
Where is Barbie the Vet, Barbie the School Teacher, Barbie the Doctor and Barbie the Astronaut?
Instead, we find a truckload of princess Barbies mixed in with Barbie the Tart heading for a night on the town in her mini-skirt with either a mobile phone or cocktail glass in her hand.
When I first spotted Barbie the Tart and Barbie the Alcoholic on the shelves in Target, I was tempted to write to Mattel to tell them my thoughts, and now that Tramp Stamp Barbie has joined the ‘hood, it’s the last straw.

A recent study undertaken by McCrindle Research found that 67 per cent of Australian parents felt fashion dolls sent negative messages to girls about their bodies.
Barbie is never going to have cellulite or love handles, and I don’t believe girls are that influenced by her slender figure. But they are influenced by what she represents.
When she starts to look like Pamela Anderson complete with tatts, I worry about the message this is sending to young girls.
Over the years Barbie has been a reflection of the history of fashion, and in fact the first Barbie designer Charlotte Johnson drew inspiration from the design houses and runways of Paris, travelling regularly to the fashion capital to view the spring and autumn collections.
If Barbie is still a fashion icon, where on the catwalks do we see tattoos?
It’s easy to say “let’s boycott Barbie”, but we all know that at some point most little girls will want a Barbie and thankfully the choice is in our hands.
I have a wonderful collection of Barbie, Ken and Skipper dolls, clothes and accessories (including the very cool pink convertible) and I plan to surprise my daughter with the whole kit and caboodle on her fourth birthday.
Now before you start shouting “cheapskate” for giving her 20-year-old secondhand toys, we are also giving her a new Barbie-sized doll house.
I know she will have endless hours of enjoyment with Barbie just as I did, and I would love to add new dolls to the collection that she can call her own.
But if Mattel continues on this road of delivering us Bogan Barbies with the uncanny resemblance of Amy Winehouse, I won’t be buying any more.
Getting a tattoo is a life-changing adult decision, not something a child can comprehend.
Temporary transfer tattoos are nothing new, and many children love to wear cartoon characters on their shoulders, and that’s fine (although I once saw a two-year-old with a tattoo on her lower back, obviously placed there by her mother, and to me, that’s not fine).
So I’m not angry about children having stick-on tattoos, I’m angry that everything that Barbie stands for is being dumbed down.
She once stood for women being able to achieve any ambition they wanted, reaching for their dreams, and always with a great sense of style and sophistication.
Maybe I’m being sentimental but I believe that giving our daughters the gift of high self-esteem is important.
Parents need to build up their child’s confidence, teach them self-respect and show them how to face life head on.
From when they are little girls right through to the teenage years, our daughters need to know that they are unique and powerful beings.
They have everything they need within themselves to create happy and successful lives, and that their parents will support every step they take.
Barbie probably won’t make much difference to their outlook on life, but if we are going to buy these toys for our little girls, they should mimic the same ideals and dreams that we are encouraging them to have for the future.
So parents, please join me in telling Mattel what you think of Barbie by emailing them at

C'mon Mattel... bring back Barbie the Baby Doctor complete with office (above) and Barbie the Astronaut (below).


Jacqueline Larsen said...

Hi Shannon

I just wanted to write and say congratulations on your article which I read in the Cairns Post this weekend. I agree with you entirely, as a mother of a just-turned-4 little princess (so she thinks!) I am daily realising what an enormous responsibility we have in shaping their future, self esteem and personality.

I also thought I would let you know of a company who exist purely to do something to combat the negative influences that you outline in your article. 'Australian Girl Doll' was started by a grandmother in Perth who wanted to buy dolls for her grandchildren but was appalled when she saw what was on offer. Rather than just resigning to what was on the shelves, she decided to do something about it and designed and created a range of dolls for little girls that look like little girls! Such a refreshing concept!!!!

Helen, the creator, is actually a friend of mine but I truly believe in what she is doing and was so impressed by the product. I have some of dolls here in Cairns if you would be interested in seeing them or I am sure Helen would send you one if you wanted to do a follow up article to let parents know that there is another option out there. They are not on the shelves in Cairns yet but can be bought online.

See more at or contact Helen at if you would like to know any more.

Congratulations again on the dolls.


Post a Comment