Instagram Barbie Boobs

November 19, 2013

By Elle Stanger

My daughter was napping, and I settled myself down for a rest on the couch. I sent a couple of photos from the morning’s pumpkin patch trip to my husband, and then decided to flip through Instagram. Scrolling and tapping my way through the photos of friends and strangers, I came across something peculiar, and I paused.

Three nude yet colored-on dolls, sharpies beside them, with the excited caption, “No more naked Barbies!” I’m not the expert on dolls, and my 18 month old girl doesn’t own any, but I do believe the one in the middle is a ‘Bratz’ doll. Yet, it was their swimsuits, their one piece, glaringly solid swimsuits that really got my attention.

Wondering if any other purveyor of this pic found it to be problematic, I expanded the comments section and skimmed. “So doing this!” said one mom. “We don’t have Barbies yet lol,” said another. Was I the only one who didn’t like this?


From birth onward, a child is building schema and developing ideals, so it strikes me as odd that a parent would teach their child that even little plastic dolls have to cover up at all times. Do real-life women wear swimsuits underneath their clothing?

Do we not have breasts and vaginas? What if Barbie and Skipper want to take a bath? How do the dolls go potty? And most importantly, is there something wrong with genitals so that we must cover them up?

In my teen years I visited the home of a ballet-acquaintance; three daughters and a son lived under the roof of their stay at home mom and their minister father. My sister and I had been raised in a non religious house, yet we played nicely and looked through her books and ballet shoes. I spied something under the bed, a women’s fitness magazine. A few of them, with the covers all ripped off and absent. I asked my dear ballerina pal, “Why?”

“Oh”, she shrugged. “My mom takes them off so my dad doesn’t…see it.”

Years later, I still wonder what the girls think of their mother’s editing process. Perhaps nothing at all, or do they wonder if their mother truly believed that their father would find the sight of a woman in gym shorts so titillating that it would cause him to behave badly. I can’t imagine how it would feel to think that my dad would not know how to conduct himself at the sight of a female in exercise clothing.

In the wake of the Miley Cyrus obsession, it seems pretty clear to very few that Miley is doing what most young women do at the ripe yet tender age of 20; she’s exploring her sexual identity. What makes her situation more unique than most is that the young millionaire has the eyes of the world and the tools of the media and production companies to make that sexuality very visible. So it makes sense to me that the very parents who are so seemingly shocked and disgusted by Miley’s public displays of booty shaking would be the same ones who have raised their girls to cover up the plastic protrusions of Barbie’s breasts.

Is this not the cause and effect? In a matriarchy, women can wear their sagging breasts and pregnant bellies without being scorned for gaining too much weight, or letting themselves go. The Madonna-whore dichotomy seems to be reinforced to the younger and younger, pageant moms will paint and wax and color and spray and squeeze their girls into extravagant costumes for which they shall parade around, but if one mother dresses her child for a ‘Pretty Woman’ skit, now nicknamed the ‘Prosti-tot’, it suddenly becomes exploitative.

I’m not saying that we should run around naked. However I’d like these mothers who carefully color the permanent swimsuits onto Barbie and Bratz to prepare themselves for all of the questions that their child might ask. My daughter isn’t yet two, but she can count my two boobs in the bathtub, as well as my hands and feet and fingers and toes. The children whose parents disregard body parts as obscene, even in the privacy and safety of their own home, are only being set up for some very awkward conversations later.

Elle Stanger contributes to, blogs and models at as Casper Suicide, and can be found on IG as Elle Stanger. She exists in real life at Lucky Devil Lounge in Portland on Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday after 9 pm.

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