As a child I had a collection of dolls that were designed with a selection of international costumes. I believe the color choices of the costumes generally reflected the national colors of each country. The ones I remember mostly were the Spanish and Afghani dolls. Perhaps it was because of my creamcicle SoCal life then, that the strong red yellow and greens attracted me. Today, when I see President Karzai in his perpetual green cloak, it still makes me think of that Afghani doll and the strong associations we make of national colors.
Enter the eternally popular and political lightening rod, Barbie. Christian Science Monitor has reported that Sotheby’s will auction a 500 piece Barbie doll collection, to raise funds for “Save the Children”, with international outfits that include a burka(burqa). From my position, It’s hard to imagine how anyone thinks arguing over the one outfit out of the collection, that a whole lot of women in other countries wear isn’t somehow misguided and inherently bigoted.
In the United States we have a lot of freedom over what to wear in public, although I think some places like Brazil may have more under the right conditions. Other places have more proscribed views about what people, and especially what women, should wear.
A US made doll, Barbie, on the other hand, has been getting bashed almost since her beginning over her shape, accessories and clothing. Each generation picks a new field of battle. This argument, however, is wrong. No matter what we think in the United States think about the Burqa, it’s not up to us to throw it off. We aren’t their mom’s, people. Those burka wearing women, wearing an outfit older than Islam, that Burqa Barbie represents, decide that.
And if a Barbie in a Burqa isn’t an educational tool, I don’t know what is.