The Corner

Barbie Talk

This all reminds me of a box-piece I did for the print magazine last year (It was one of those mini-columns I do for every other issue in The Week). Judging solely from the unscientific feedback it was one of the two most popular such pieces I’ve done. Here’s the beginning:

What did your kids get for Christmas? My daughter — not yet four years old — got a whore. Okay, not a real prostitute. Not even a pretend one. She merely got a doll that dresses like one. Oh, and spare me the eye-rolling about how I’ve become a curmudgeon. I’ve been to Las Vegas, I’ve ambled through the seedier parts of cities, and I’ve quaffed more than a few cocktails at the right (or wrong) bars; I know what hookers look like. No, I have never sampled their wares, but while I’ve also never ridden an elephant, I’ve been to enough zoos to know what they look like. In short, this slattern effigy my daughter opened on Christmas morning (we do Chanuka and Christmas at the Goldbergs’) was a gum-snapping, six-inch-heeled, F-me-pump-wearing ho. Fo sho.

She got it from a nice lady (a nanny of one of my daughter’s friends) who was trying to do a nice thing. But the moment we saw the “My Scene” Barbie, grumbles erupted from everyone — except of course my daughter, who shrieked with ear-piercing delight. The doll came with a little disk full of shiny plastic beads (presumably for her hair). “What are these?” my daughter excitedly asked. Before I could answer, my wife said, “I think they’re birth-control pills.”

And here’s the conclusion:

People who don’t have children, particularly those of a libertarian bent, can be quite romantic — and arrogant — about the power parents have. They talk piously about how it’s “up to the parents” to protect children from the seamier aspects of culture, without appreciating that, given the culture, such protection is impossible. I’m not proposing a solution here. I’m not even sure there is one. But I suspect that a lot of what passes for the “culture war” is actually the natural response of parents who think the culture has declared war on their kids.


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