Monday, December 13, 2010

Barbie Be-Gone

Stuck in traffic on Madison Avenue yesterday my wandering gaze was drawn to the windows of the Barbie store and its large media screens featuring what I assume are all different Barbies, though frankly it's hard to tell the difference, other than hair colour.

I was somewhat disappointed to see that the store looked jammed with shoppers; women, of course. We are so good at perpetuating the most damaging aspects of the very thin ideal, which wreaks such havoc on our psyches. A recent study showed that girls aged five to eight who played with a Barbie reported lower body-esteem and a greater desire to be thinner compared to girls of the same age who played with a doll that had more realistic body proportions.

Don't we want the next generation of girls to grow up with better self-esteem and a stronger sense of self, whatever her proportions?

Jodi Norgaard does. And she's doing something pretty cool about it. Jodi ran track and played tennis as a child, and she still loves to be outdoors and active. She says that when her own children were small and she'd had a rough day, her husband would come home from work, take one look at her and hand over her running shoes. "I'd leave exhausted and come back refreshed!" she says.

Naturally, she wanted her young daughters to grow up with a healthy sense of themselves and their bodies, and how those two were connected. She enrolled them in the Girls on the Run program, and even coached at GOTR herself, which incidentally, I wrote about some time ago in this blog. But every time she tried to find a doll for them, the toys' messages were "grow up fast, wear short skirts and put on makeup."

No thanks.

And then her experience at GOTR and her failed efforts at finding the right doll switched on a lightbulb in her brain--and Go!Go!Sports Girls was born. While I admit I'm partial to Ella, the runner girl doll, with her crazy, kinky hair and bright orange singlet (uh-huh sounds like a mini-me), really all these dolls are pretty darn cute, whether they're playing tennis, golf, softball, basketball or soccer, or doing gymnastics, dance or swimming. That's right, Jodi has founded a company that makes dolls with a message: Be active; live a healthy lifestyle; and dream big and go for it! A message we could probably all use a little more of, so nice to have it in the house for the little girls in our lives.

These Go!Go!Sports Girls kick Barbie's ass!