Target Women: Barbie

The latest from Sarah Haskins:

(If you can’t view the embedded video, click here.)

And for those of you who missed it, she also had a pretty awesome Op-Ed in the Washington Post on Barbie’s 50th birthday. (Yeah, I’ll admit it; that’s how I played with my Barbie, too.)

I so cannot wait to see Sarah at WAM!

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37 comments for “Target Women: Barbie

  1. Abby
    March 13, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I thought I was weird for making my Barbies do it with the Ken dolls. Turns out I wasn’t the only freak after all!

  2. jenny
    March 13, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    My barbies had lots of sex too. Lots of lesbian sex. We only had one Ken doll, and it was my sister’s, and she never let my barbies “play with him” so they had to make due with each other!

  3. chingona
    March 13, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    I think Sarah and I had the same parents. Barbie was right up there with guns and GI Joe for banned toys. I did have one that was a gift from some relative who was too distant too offend by refusing the present (my dad had no problem writing “return to sender” on overly girly gifts from his own mother). When I was in high school, her head ended up on a safety pin necklace I made. Sorry, Barbie.

  4. March 13, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Like Sarah Haskins, I grew up in a family where you would THINK Barbie would be outlawed, but it totally wasn’t. Somehow we ended up with a Barbie dream house. Then everything went crazy. But yeah, there were never many Kens around, so there was lots of Barbie-on-Barbie action. And then fights. Then more doll sex. Also, we pretty much had barbies, stuffed animals, and robots. The barbies went for the robots, of course.

    This explains a lot about me and my sister…

  5. Willow
    March 13, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Barbie! Yes, I remember pulling their heads and limbs off… but when I wasn’t doing that, there was ltos of barbie on barbie sex and fights and barbies riding dinosaurs. I never did have a ken doll!

  6. March 13, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    I’m pretty sure every girl makes their barbies have sex.

    I think I was 15 when I found out that not only was I NOT the only one who did that, but every one of my friends that I talked to admitted it as well.


  7. March 13, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I hate Barbie to this day with a passion. I don’t care what progressive job this body dimorphic doll has had. I think that it has been one of the most damaging images ever for WOC.

  8. The Opoponax
    March 13, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Jenny, my Barbies were all lesbians, too. I don’t think I ever had a Ken. He wasn’t really high on my list of priorities because you couldn’t do anything with his hair. Then again, all my Barbies eventually got crew cuts and mohawks, so ultimately you couldn’t do anything else with their hair, either. At least I got the fun of giving them awesome punk rock makeovers, though.

  9. Jha
    March 13, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    I didn’t ever get a real Barbie. I wanted one, so I got a fake version of her and Ken.

    And yes, Bootleg Barbie and Ken certainly did have a lot of sex too.

  10. Ens
    March 13, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Wow, I never knew the sordid life of Barbies.

    As a boy my mom insisted on giving me an equal amount of “boy” toys and “girl” toys. Sort of a social experiment, I guess, though you really can’t control for outside interactions. Unsurprisingly, I tended to like those toys targeted toward my demographic.

    Mostly it ended up with me getting fairly neutral toys because the greedy little capitalist younger-me quickly discovered that choosing “neutral” toys doubled my enjoyable toy-intake. I got a couple barbies and other stuff as a balance for the “boy” toys that I really wanted (Ninja Turtles and He-Man).

    If I used a Barbie at all it was as a drumstick for hitting the plastic drum set. She didn’t get around. I think the only time she lost her clothes was when a friend came over and decided to switch the arms for the legs and make a horrible mutant monstrosity, which I quickly corrected after they left and then hid the toy (having been teased for owning such a thing in the first place). Poor, lonely, temporarily disfigured Barbie. It’s probably still lying where I hid it in the crawlspace at my parents house.

  11. March 13, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    i had a lot of barbies, real and dollar store rip offs. the only “ken” doll i had was from the dollar store. if anything, he got around, cuz he got all the ladies (i mean, i only had the one man) but i did let my various barbies get it on with each other. i even had one of those plastic fold out sofas for them to do it on.

    also, my mom gave me her growing up skipper from when she was a kid (in like the 60s) and i had untold amounts of fun twisting her arm over and over, making her boobs pop out and then go flat (i wonder if i still have that?).

    i also remember getting mad at my cats since they liked to chew on anything rubbery, and they made my barbies legs all gross looking with the hundreds of little bitemarks…

  12. The Opoponax
    March 13, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Unsurprisingly, I tended to like those toys targeted toward my demographic.

    Why “unsuprisingly”? I’ve known a lot of kids and used to be one myself, and I have to say I’ve never really noticed that a majority of kids prefer toys marketed to their gender. My brothers and I played with girl, boy, and neutral toys equally, and I don’t really remember them only being interested in dismembering girl toys. I don’t remember my family being weird in this regard, and most children I’ve known since have skewed the same way. Granted I’m not saying there aren’t hyper-gendered kids out there. But I don’t think it’s at all unusual for all kinds of kids to like all kinds of toys, regardless of which gender they’re marketed to.

    As far as I’m concerned, the Pink Aisle and the Cammo Aisle are set up that way for adults, not because there’s really any difference between what kinds of toys kids of different genders want to play with.

    I’m curious what kinds of kinky sex games my brothers enacted with our household barbies, now that Ens doth protest too much…

  13. Mina
    March 13, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    I never had a barbie. My mother never bought me toys, she’d just let me loose in a toy store to pick out my own.

    I think once or twice I might have picked something other than Legos.

  14. The Opoponax
    March 13, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    i even had one of those plastic fold out sofas for them to do it on.

    Wow! My barbies were limited to the back of Zookeeper Barbie’s jeep and the floor of whatever overturned box hovel they were currently squatting in. And, yes, as a matter of fact my barbies did live in a Mad Max like postapocalyptic landscape…

  15. March 13, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    oh my god, i remember that peach ballgown outfit. and the “day to night” pink one. total nostalgia spiral …

  16. March 13, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    ha. i think i got that sofa from a garage sale. i had a lot of second hand toys from garage sales, so it wasn’t like it was all that fancy. my barbies were proud owners of mismatched dirty plastic furniture. i guess it was more real that way–having sex on previously owned couches where other people had sex on first; gross, but totally plausible.

  17. The Opoponax
    March 13, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    I never had any of the right barbie accoutrements, but I had the best dress up box in the neighborhood, and my 64 pack of crayons ranneth over. Not a bad deal, in the end.

  18. Vail
    March 13, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    I always got pissed that Barbie had such big boobs that you had to move her sideways to kiss Ken.

  19. March 13, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    I think my favorite part of the op-ed is the little section at the bottom, apparently some sort of effort at tag-clouding on WaPo’s part, that says (with nice graphics, too!):

    Understand more about:
    Hulk Hogan

    Hey, thanks, WaPo!

  20. Az
    March 14, 2009 at 12:30 am

    OMFG I had that barbie with dep. I feel so old.

  21. Axiomatic
    March 14, 2009 at 4:17 am

    My parents bought me boy toys and bought my little sister girl toys, which resulted in constant fights because she liked mine a lot more than she did her own, and would therefore grab up all my favorites and play with them herself, which meant that I had to beg her to play along.

    Although this one time we did play that barbie was in a car crash. First we ran the monstrously pink barbie car into a wall, then we removed one of barbie’s legs, covered her in liquid glue and set her on fire.

    Later Dr. Ken tried to save her by operating on her on a druidic altar made out of Legos, but she died during surgery.

    Man, that sounds weird now that I’ve typed it out.

  22. Torri
    March 14, 2009 at 6:47 am

    I remember I had a few barbies and I still have my four Barbie horses (I was one of the horse obsessed little girls). I had one barbe that was the ‘pretty mean girl’ I had a gymnast one and one older model which became my favorite for underdog reasons… I don’t think I ever had them have sex though so I must be the odd one out XD I do remember playing the Les Mis sound track and getting to dolls to act it out hahah. But mainly I played with animal figurines and toys.

  23. MK
    March 14, 2009 at 8:10 am

    I don’t think I had lesbian barbies as I had an assortment of knock-off ken dolls (I gave them all rhyming names because half of them looked identical) and nobody told me lesbians existed till I was fourteen, but I do have a vague memory of playing Blow Jobs At Prom Barbie which is sort of disturbing now that I think about it. I was a perverted kid :P not that I even knew what that involved but banging them together upside down made about as much sense as banging them together right side up.

    On the other hand I spent the rest of my time playing with a stuffed kangaroo, a rubber pterodactyl and seven tennis balls I drew faces on.

  24. The Opoponax
    March 14, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Vail, I always preferred Skipper for this reason – well more that she looked less freakish; as I said all my barbies were dykes you really DID want to watch out for. Breasts kind of intimidated me as a kid.

  25. ROXIE
    March 14, 2009 at 11:14 am

    oh wow. That “over and over and over and over and over” was driving me insane.

  26. Axiomatic
    March 14, 2009 at 11:26 am

    I do remember playing the Les Mis sound track and getting to dolls to act it out hahah.
    That is fucking awesome.

  27. Butterflywings
    March 14, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    ‘my mom insisted on giving me an equal amount of “boy” toys and “girl” toys. Sort of a social experiment, I guess, though you really can’t control for outside interactions.’
    Please tell my mother that.
    She insists she tried to be all equalist but I wanted my Barbies. Which like PROVES that the sexes are naturally different.
    Cos by the age of 3, 4, 5 years, a child hasn’t absorbed popular culture…*eye roll* (/sarcasm).

  28. Butterflywings
    March 14, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    PS. Barbie sex…oh yes.
    My sisters and I had only one Ken, so made one Barbie into a ‘man’ (cos he had short hair. And oh yes, the haircuts…the colouring hair hot pink with pens…LOL).

  29. Ens
    March 14, 2009 at 6:22 pm


    It’s unsurprising because that’s the entire point of marketing. They market toys the way that they do because it makes people buy them. If they market a toy very obviously to boys, then probably boys will be more interested in it than girls. They wouldn’t keep doing this over and over if it didn’t seem to work. This says absolutely nothing about people’s innate natures.

    I’m kind of confused as to how that could be the point of contention. The opposite of unsurprising is surprising. Is it really surprising that a boy wanted a toy that was marketed to boys?

  30. The Opoponax
    March 14, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    This says absolutely nothing about people’s innate natures.

    Of course not. But you didn’t say it was unsurprising that toy companies use sex-segregated marketing. You said it was unsurprising that you, as a boy, only wanted to play with “boy toys”. Which is not really “unsurprising” at all, since I’ve spent almost 30 years now watching boys happily play with “girl toys” without feeling the urge to destroy them. I know of more girls who were all “eeeeeeew girl toys! nooooo! the pink, it burrrrnnnnssss us!” than boys, actually.

    The only reason I called it out, btw, is that the way you phrased it was really weirdly normalizing of stuff that just isn’t that cut and dry. And on a subject where my experience is the opposite, so your experience can’t really be all that universal.

  31. Cactus Wren
    March 14, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Whenever I think about Barbie, I remember M. G. Lord’s description (in Forever Barbie) of opening her old box of Barbies as an adult, and finding on the top of the pile Barbie’s Solo in the Spotlight dress.

    Exactly where she’d left it.

    On Ken.

  32. Ens
    March 15, 2009 at 4:05 am

    No, I didn’t ever say that I only wanted to play with “boy toys”. What I said was, exactly, “Unsurprisingly, I tended to like those toys targeted toward my demographic”. By “targeted toward my demographic” I was thinking precisely about sex-segregated marketing, but perhaps that wasn’t clear.

    At no point was I destroying my toys — I repaired it after my friend did. I used barbies as drumsticks, but never for dismemberment. For what it’s worth (that is, here is another anecdote to prove I’m not too stuck up in my childhood masculinity to admit to playing with “girl toys”), I had a little kitchen set that I think would be considered a feminine toy that I played with in the manner that kitchen sets are intended to be played with. Mind you, it wasn’t pink :).

    I don’t at all mean to say my experience is universal, I was just throwing my anecdote out with the others. I’m sorry if my wording implied anything other than what I meant.

  33. falloch
    March 15, 2009 at 6:45 am

    I had Barbie’s backyard barbeque set – psychedlic sun loungers, barbeque grill, etc. – we used to play Nazis with our Barbies. ken was chief Nazi and the Barbie tortured each other. As far as I can tell, I haven’t experienced lasting damage from this. We also used to pretend the barbies were exploring Mars, and yes they all had sex with each other. When my female friends and I discovered vaginas around the age of 7, we decided they were for smuggling jewelry over the border when escaping from the enemy (whoever that was).

  34. Mel
    March 15, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    My Barbies regularly fought off my sole Ken with cocktail swords when he tried to put them in his harem (Ken was so sleazy! Especially after I painted his hair black so I’d like him better but he ended up looking like a stereotypical used car salesman). I think my Barbies would have been lesbian feminist separatists if I’d thought of it. (And Ariel wore drag because I didn’t like her tail and Barbie clothes didn’t fit her).

    I know someone who used to dismember her Barbies and bury them in the backyard so she could have archaeological digs. Actually, I don’t know anyone who played with Barbies “correctly.”

  35. Laura
    March 16, 2009 at 11:51 am

    I actually didn’t make my Barbies have sex, I just destroyed them any way possible. My favorite was to switch Barbie and Skipper’s head, because Skipper’s head was so huge it rattled around on Barbie’s neck-bulb. I also threw them in the lake, buried them in the mud, etc.

    But my most deliberately destructive act was taken out on her horse. I was tremendously excited when the walking version came out, but angry to discover that only her front legs lifted, rendering it useless on carpet. In my rage, I made it walk off the balcony and laughed as it smashed on the first floor again and again until it cracked open and got taken away.

  36. Brittany
    March 22, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    I’m not much of a blogger, but I have this assignment for my feminist class. So, after commenting on a Sarah Haskins video last month, I’ve decided to make her videos the focus of my assignment. Why not, right? They’re great. Not to mention, we have group presentations coming up, and my group’s topic is Barbie! I could not believe Barbie was modeled after a German cartoon prostitute, oh how my childish memories seemed shattered. For some more entertainment, check out these articles about Barbie and Ken breaking up, then reuniting:,2933,111234,00.html

    Very funny…also You Tube “Cougar Barbie”…an excellent portrayal of Barbie at age 50. All of these will be discussed in our presentation…gotta love feminist class!

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