I got asked a fun question a couple of weeks ago. A reader asked,
If you were to create a new line of barbies (and friends) for tomboys (or whatever you prefer to say) what would that line look like?
I would make a lot of changes to the barbie doll. First and foremost, the bodily dimensions would resemble the range of shapes and sizes that people actually are. When I think of a barbie, the image that comes to mind is a naked doll with these weird neutered bodies and impossible measurements – for some reason, a naked barbie seems more common than a clothed one. Kids get lazy and leave them around without dressing them? For this reason, these new dolls would have clothes that don’t really come off. When I think of people, they are clothed. When I think of myself, I am clothed. Although it’s fun to interchange clothes, these dolls would just wear clothes and then they’d be versatile in other ways.
They’d have knees and elbows that bend better than barbies, and they’d have hands that grip better. There’d be interactive toys to go along with them, but they wouldn’t be dream mansions and safari jeeps and jet skis. There’d be homes with the roofs removed and different things to do in each room – frying pans and food ingredients, TVs and computers and books, brooms and vacuum cleaners. Gardening tools and bikes and basketball hoops.
I would rename these barbies “People.” They would reflect different experiences – different ethnicities, different ages, different sizes, different abilities. One or two might be in a wheelchair. One might be gender-ambiguous. There would be babies and children, adults and old people.
These “People” would hopefully appeal to boys, girls, tomboys, and other gender non-conforming children. Playing with them would center around realistic life choices instead of fashion and glitz and glamor. It’d be a lot like playing house, with plenty of interchangeable activities and roles to experiment with different configurations.
And now for the fantastical part – these products would be manufactured by people making a living wage and they would be an affordable toy option. Haha.
Anyone have other ideas for a more gender variant version of barbie?
I recently mentioned an article called “A Gender Not Listed Here: Genderqueers, Gender Rebels, and OtherWise,” which is based on findings from a survey conducted in 2008. One of the most intriguing points to come from that (in my opinion) was all of the unique words and phrases respondents came up with to describe their gender. Some of those were: “jest-me,” “twidget,” “best of both,” “gender blur,” “cyborg,” and “genderqueer wombat fantastica.”
I also mentioned I had a list somewhere, where I had jotted down other terms. I found that list! So, to expand upon what respondents said:
- a variation of nature
- and my favorite so far, “freemale.”
- limp-wristed butch
- Alien Space Prince
- kinda like an old, beaten-in sneaker
This language is so important. Even if this is only how you see yourself internally, and you’d never actually use these words when you talk about yourself to others, the personal meaning behind it is rich with feelings of who we are, at our core.
As we try to sort out our identities, it is an amazing gift to have these options, all these creative bursts of self-expression, on hand for inspiration. Looking back roughly 12 years ago, when I was first considering the nuances of gender identitiy, I started to learn of the terms “butch,” “transgender,” “genderqueer,” and not a whole lot more. I remember someone referring to me as a “baby dyke” (because I’m so not butch), and that seemed maybe about right, but actually, no not really at all. At the time, I thought I felt like neither gender, like there was a void where there should be gender. I’ve come across dozens of ways to describe this experience lately, but at the time, I struggled with describing what that was, even if just to myself.
These days, I do not feel devoid of gender. The way I replied to Micah’s survey was, “A kaleidoscope of all genders.” That feels exactly right. It feels like a rich mixture, flowing through my being, and constantly shifting internally, but held together by a relatively stagnant vessel (my body). I mean, my body is in motion, but it’s not changing as much as many people who are trans. Nor does my gender expression shift much. It’s an internal feeling.
I wanna recommend this blog post, from a mother’s perspective. She showed her son Micah’s question about how you describe your gender and they talked about some of people’s responses. And it really seemed to open something up for him. This is the kind of stuff we need!
Got descriptive words to add? Join the conversation!