Yes, I’m Buying The Katniss Everdeen Barbie For My Daughter

When Mattel unveiled the new Katniss Everdeen Barbie this past week, I expected another hyper-sexualized Barbie that looked like Jennifer Lawrence. Eh. But who am I to dismiss a feminist Barbie? So I took another look.

The characteristics are standard Barbie. Swathed in mascara? Check. The waist of an unrealistic waif? Check. Slightly resembles a “fighting fuck toy”? Check. But once I zoomed in on the larger photo, I was dazzled by the cargo pants, black parka, combat boots and archery set. Though my three-year old won’t know who Katniss Everdeen is from a hole in the wall, it’s clear that her combat-leaning outfit might make any pink-clad tutu-wearing, blue-eye-shadow-wearing Barbie run for the hills. No mistake: This Katniss Everdeen Barbie can shoot an arrow through your heart.

I love her.

I understand that The Hunger Games casting has been criticized for whitewashing,  and that the doll does not represent the book’s character but the Katniss of the film (though the doll’s skin appears more olive than Lawrence’s skin does). As someone who was up to her ears in Barbies as a child—I cut off all of their hair in hopes that it would one day grow back—this Barbie is an original. Even the doll’s messaging is built for a feminist: Mattel’s designers said they wanted to embody the “heroic” Katniss. Sure, Mattel has manufactured Soccer Barbie and Surfing Barbie and Road Trip Barbie, or whatever. But a heroic Barbie is a first. Hell, a Barbie without a fashion statement is a first.

The Katniss Everdeen Barbie is not the first action doll free of over-sexualized characterization. Take a look at G.I. Joe’s Scarlett, an undercover agent who carries an Uzi. Or Artist Valkyrie’s one-of-a kind dolls, including this “Buffy” she made on commission. Factory paint was stripped from Buffy’s face, then she was dressed in the coolest get-up a Barbie has ever seen: full leather pants and a red leather coat. Buffy even has her own, yes, ax and knife.

What’s the mass-market alternative for those not wanting to spend over $1000 on a doll? Or the alternative for those who don’t want their three-year-old to play with a machine gun? Not much. Hold these dolls up to the other latest incarnation of strong-women dolls, President Barbie (who, despite her insulting “Legally Blonde” look is being launched in partnership with The White House Project, a nonprofit organization that encourages women to seek political positions.) I’ll choose Katniss Barbie every time.

Still, I called upon my feminist mom friends to make sure I hadn’t completely lost my mind, and at least two of them admitted wanting to buy the Katniss Barbie for their kids. This includes Lisa Duggan of The Motherhood Blog, who said while all of her daughter’s Barbie dolls “are hand-me-downs—and they are all stripped bare, hair cut off, or frozen in the freezer. This is the first one I’ll purchase for her,” and Shannon Drury of The Radical Housewife, who admitted that even her 12-year-old son was on board.

Yes I understand, as another mom pointed out, that the Katniss Barbie isn’t making any feminist strides in the body-image department—the doll is gorgeous and thin—but she’s powerful as well. As a sociologist once told me, it’s not the dolls that are the problem, it’s the way girls play with them. If the girl only stays within the stereotype of the doll—i.e., if she’s only playing “princess” with it—that’s when a parent should be concerned. Since the Katniss Everdeen Barbie already breaks stereotype by being an action hero, then she’s already a success.

This originally appeared on Femamom.com

Photo from Barbie Collector

 

Comments

  1. Feathers says:

    I had cycling Barbie, and some action men. I did originally have more Barbies, but I traded them for Action Men. Cycling Barbie had her chopped short and dyed neon green by me, and eventually ended up looking like a punk-rock Jean d’Arc because I made her some armour. She rode a triceratops and saved the world from aliens, often by persuading the aliens, but sometimes because she stomped on them with a triceratops. She was dating Action Man and together they’d go on adventures, often “mountain climbing” the staircase and rescuing each other from danger (and aliens, dinosaurs, and dragons, sometimes from The Giant Baby which was one of those awful baby dolls I was given)

  2. LOVE it!! I’m buying one for my niece! :-D

  3. Shirley Adams says:

    I had to laugh, what’s up with cutting the hair off, taking the clothes off or putting the Barbie in the freezer? LOL. Seriously though, I don’t have a daughter, but I think I may just buy my first doll and I’m a retired senior career woman! Love this doll and believe Mattel has finally found a big hit!!

  4. Gretchen Davidson says:

    Why give your girl Barbies at all, of any kind? Why not let her play with a soft doll with a non-sexualized, child-like body with simple features, normal clothes like a t-shirt and pants and let her imagination take her and the doll to places that no toy manufacturer has every dreamed of. As long as you are giving your daughter something made in a factory and dreamed up by executives whose only motives are their companies’ profits, she will still be ingesting and probably regurgitating the small models our society offers to kids. Give her a blank slate, and she can create something no adult has ever thought of before.

    • Brilliant Gretchen; the world need more people who think like this! Imagination is the gate to a whole new set of experiences, not some product ‘manufactured by others with a profit in mind’ people.

  5. I love the Hunger Games, and Katniss, and played with tons of Barbies when I was a child. I love that this Barbie is available and hope lots of people will buy it. My one concern, however, is not with the Barbie but the assertion from the author that for a Barbie to be heroic or not girlie, it has to be violent. Obviously, Katniss has a bow and arrows in the books, and Buffy slays vampires with an ax but seriously? Is Doctor Barbie not heroic? Or Police Officer Barbie, Sign Language Instructor Barbie, Computer Engineer Barbie, Paleontologist Barbie, or United States President Barbie? You don’t have to have an Uzi to be a hero Ms. Krischer.

  6. annie baker says:

    At age 9 in 1960 my best friend and I played with Barbies and Ken dolls. WE always had a Dufus guy doll (a cheap version of Ken). We created the Barbies’ apartment under my Grandma’s basement steps, using stuff we found in Gram’s basement she said we could play with. The Barbies, Julie and Katy, were working women, self-confident, and proficient in every activity in which the guys tried to show off. Grandma’s big wash tub became their swimming pool, and a multi-tiered plant stand next to the tub served as the low, medium, and high dives.
    WE named the Dufus- cheapo- Ken doll “Pinky.” When PInky or Ken would attempt to show off their prowess by diving off the low or medium dives, Julie or Katy would ho-hum, and then nonchalantly climb up to the highest dive and do a swan dive or multiple somersaults. When playing Jungle in Gram’s backyard, guess who rescued whom from the swamp? Our Barbies never screamed and fainted if Frankenstein or the Wolf Man came upon the scene when we played spook house. Looking back on the hours of play with my best friend, I chuckle at our early “feminist” leanings before we even knew the word. Our Barbies never wielded knives or guns; they always outwitted their adversary and defied the stereotype of victimy/sappy females we sometimes saw on TV.

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