A challenge for parents is helping a young girl realize this difference between fantasy and reality such as Ken knocking up Barbie.
"In most of the United States, fewer than half of high schools and only a fifth of middle schools teach all 16 topics recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as essential components of sexual health education."
- CDC press release, December 9, 2015
Within this press release Jonathan Mermin of the CDC is cited, "It's important to teach students about healthy relationships and how to reduce sexual risk before they start to have sex."
Zealous Christian humor is Barbie lacks a vagina and Ken does not have a penis. Barbie certainly will not suckle her baby, Barbie is without nipples. This is the way of God's dolls, reality is erased and replaced by a young girl's fantasy world.
Barbie and Ken do offer wonderful opportunities for parents to teach young daughters all about romance, love and making babies. The CDC gives public schools an "F" grade for miserable failures to effectively teach sex education classes. Parents typically score "ZERO". Parents will teach their children much but will not touch upon sex and pregnancy; those are taboo topics. Abandoned to learn on their own girls discover sex in secretive shameful places; behind a garage, backseat of a car, a rave party in an abandoned building. Those girls are forever imprinted with a parents' closed and locked bedroom door message, "Sex is wrongful. I must hide and do this secretly." Too often those young girls learn a hard lesson about life changing consequences of sex, nine months later.
Barbie and Ken also offer parents chances at easing into discussions with girls and boys about love, sex and pregnancy. Those dolls are a fantasy which is perfect for pretending and introducing some reality. Barbie has a vagina, Ken, a penis. This is how Barbie and Ken enjoy sex. Sometimes Ken lies on Barbie, other times Barbie sits on Ken. Barbie might become pregnant. Over much time, discussions and pretend play expand into topics of sexuality, sex, menses, pregnancy, marriage and those nine months later life changing consequences. Parents are responsible to teach their kids all about life, and life originates from sex. Parents are most often irresponsible; kids do not learn much about taboo realities of life..
Three of us in our family are enjoying a backyard barbeque party at relatives. Sitting under shade, sipping chilled wine and snacking, our relatives are bemoaning their teenage girl being lesbian. Her daddy tells us, "My daughter is supposed to be an all American girl, not one of those." Our girl's daddy speaks up with a touch of realistic humor, "Well, you don't have to worry about some no-count jerk of a teenage boy knocking up your girl!" We look over at their daughter and her girlfriend. They are enjoying themselves, they make for a lovely lesbian couple.
Barbie doll also offers ways to discuss same sex love and marriage with kids. This is doubtful parents are willing to talk about such taboo issues; "None of that stuff in our family." Attitudes like this are a failure to recognize and acknowledge this intrinsic priceless value of love.
Our girl and I are bisexual but only one boy in our lives. Our cowboy is about as straight as can be. Our family doesn't give a hoot's ass about who loves whom. By our family reckoning genuine love is most important while what is between legs is not at all important. We figure love is to never be caged and confined by bigoted religious mores and cake bakers.
Pregnancy is maddeningly glamorized by Barbie. Within a young girl's mind Barbie, even at nine months pregnant, remains a beautiful super model. Barbie is slim, trim and enjoys a small tight butt. Her breasts are perky and perfectly shaped and no stretch marks to be seen. At full term and a big belly, Barbie is a reflection of a Playboy magazine centerfold girl.
Most crazy making and certainly a fantasy, when a little girl playing with Barbie decides this is time for her Barbie doll to give birth, Ken is magically transformed into a talented pediatrician ready to deliver Barbie's baby of whichever gender fits a girl's fantasy role playing. Their hospital room is fashionably vogue, family and friends all gather around and darling Barbie is a perfect portrait of calm composure; a smiling blond-headed, blue-eyed beauty.
Giving birth to her child without genitalia could not be more simple and easy for Barbie. She does not suffer cramps and contractions, there is no screaming pain. Barbie does not suddenly gush a hundred gallons of funny looking water nor is there bleeding. She does not experience this terrifying feeling of ripping and tearing by a bowling ball being shoved out of her vagina nor is Barbie shocked by a passage of bloody afterbirth.
A young girl enjoying her Barbie fantasy is innocently if not naively unaware of those realities of childbirth. Life in her Barbie doll world is simple and wonderful.
For Ken, a magical pediatrician, delivering Barbie's child is a snap. Ken snaps off her big belly, reaches in and pulls out her baby then snaps on Barbie's flat tummy. Snap, just like that Barbie is again a world renowned sex goddess; Barbie is whole and perfect.
If I were using Barbie to teach our girl about childbirth, I would add a few shakes of a ketchup bottle for a bit of realism. No need for Barbie, though, our girl learns about childbirth through her own bloody birth.
Our girl runs to our bedroom the three of us share. She is all grins trotting back, she loves talking about her birth. Opening a cardboard box she fetched our sets on our livingroom coffee table, our girl pulls out our dog-eared photo album. She knows which binder page to open and does, "Daddy, this is me six years ago!" She holds up her page with photos of her birth. Our cowboy smiles, "You were a real mess!" Our girl laughs then becomes somber, "am iso tek ishki alla eshi apistikeli yupechi!" She closes and lays down her album. Her daddy adds, "She did, she gave you a good bath, your first bath. You cleaned up right nice!"
Our daughter sets down a Diamond brand kitchen matches box, pushes on an end and slides out the drawer. Holding up an old pocket knife, "This is your pocket knife you used to cut my cord and to cut momma's cord!" She doesn't touch what is in her box, she carefully tilts her box for her daddy to see, "The curly one is my cord and the straight one is momma's cord." Inside this box are remains of two umbilical cords, couple inches long, dry and shriveled like beef jerky. Her cord still has a piece of kite string tied around an end.
Our girl is aging quickly and becoming too smart, she looks at our cords for a time then turns to our cowboy, "What happened to your cord?" Her daddy shakes his head with a look of sadness, "Grandma takes me outside and lays me on my back on a patch of Johnson grass so she can toss a bucket of water on me, she says boys always make a mess of themselves when they pee." Our daughter stares for a few moments then turns and gives me a questioning look, "Is my daddy lying to me?" He continues on, "Grandma heads off to our well house to fetch a bucket of well water, darn cold water. I'm lying there on my back and a fat dominicker hen comes scratching and pecking around. She sees my cord and thinks this a big juicy night crawler worm. She comes running and clucking, grabs and pulls off my cord then swallows."
His daughter stares at her daddy for a few seconds then hits his leg, "You're lying to me!" She is certainly smartening up. Daddy grins, "Alright, you caught me lying. A dominicker hen didn't eat my cord, a stupid banty rooster ate my cord but we ate him for supper!"
She laughs, hits her daddy again, "You quit your lying!" I jump in, "He is lying, sure enough. Truth is a mallard duck ate his cord but she is not eaten for supper, our grandparents wait until Thanksgiving to make supper of the duck."
Our is a story of fierce cultural tradition. A "chahta ohoyo alla eshi apistikeli" - a Choctaw midwife delivers our cowboy in a back bedroom of our farmhouse. A handful of years later she delivers me in our same bedroom and on our same bed. My husband, a young boy then, cuts my cord. Perhaps not enough years later to be socially acceptable, the "iso tek" - daughter of our midwife delivers our girl, same bedroom and bed. Her daddy cuts her cord with the same pocketknife he uses to cut mine.
When I am two years old my momma dies. Grandpa tells our cowboy, "She is your daughter, get to raising her." During childhood my husband is my de facto daddy, but not for long. Around eight and nine years old I stubbornly decide he will be my husband, and I see to this, maddeningly so.
Upon my rite of passage to womanhood when I begin menses, grandma tells me a secret, "We made you two share a bedroom so you would work out your differences before you marry." All along we are destined to marry. Our grandparents give us the greatest gift ever, each other. This "working out our differences" over years makes for the most loving and most comical stories to tell our daughter. Ironically, I was the sexual aggressor and our girl's daddy the defender of my chastity.
I write many times our American Indian culture is so radically different mainstream Americans cannot begin to comprehend our thinking. Being true to our traditions, since our girl's birth the three of us in our family share a bedroom and bed, always a traditional tepee lifestyle within a crazy asphalt and concrete modern world.
We do not use Barbie and Ken dolls to help our girl learn about romance, love, sex and making babies. Our cowboy and I are Ken and Barbie, with genitalia; we share a bedroom and bed. Our girl learns much and quickly. Lots of endearing and comical stories come of the three of us "working out our differences" before marrying. By ten years old our girl could instruct a high school level sex education class. A benefit is we never worry about our girl becoming a statistical pregnant teenage girl, nor worry about drugs and alcohol; she is too smart for this.
Essence is our family approach to teaching our girl is a matter-of-fact way: "This is real life." No topic is taboo, no behavior is taboo, but there are consequences both good and bad. This is traditional living in a tepee - nothing is hidden.
Little girls and young girls pretend playing with Barbie and Ken is a healthy activity which should be encouraged and serve as a way of learning about life but too many parents refuse or are hesitant to teach those girls life is not a glamourous doll house where all is wonderful and easy. Because of this lack of parental teaching, those girls are at risk of learning all the wrong lessons.
* Barbie sex photos credit: Sam Stryker of BuzzFeed