Ever since Betty's birthday and the whole fairy princess cake fiasco, she has been into Barbies in a big way. So, when Betty wanted to spend the £10 that her great grandmother gave her for her birthday on a proper Barbie doll, I didn't have a problem with it. In fact, I was secretly thrilled, even though I was a fan of Sindy rather than Barbie.
When I was little, my Sindy doll was my life. I was obsessed with her, and she brought me an unbelievable amount of joy for many years. I was fascinated with her bendy legs that you could manipulate into virtually any position, I loved hacking at her hair, and crocheting her little woollen hats and dungarees with my mum.
I have such fond memories of my Sindy and the adventures she had. Her job in the bank where she would fill in lots of important forms and tick boxes, her love of travelling by train, her obsession with collecting stamps, and a passionate affair with Action Man. There were many secret ice-skating dates, and the two of them would spend hours galloping around on Sindy's horse.
Not once did I look at my doll with her skinny legs, blond hair, and big boobs, and aspire to look like her, or ever think that that is what women were supposed to look like. If anything I went in the opposite direction and spent much of my adolesence in big woolly jumpers, lumberjack shirts, Doc Marten shoes, no make-up, mousy hair, and non-existent boobs. Never did I think back to my glorious Sindy days and think that I had somehow failed for not looking like her, or for not bagging a boyfriend with abnormal muscles and revolving eyes.
Betty does not see them in this way either, and I very much doubt she ever will. To her, Barbie dolls are simply princesses in beautiful dresses. I have made sure that her dolls don't don skimpy outfits and instead she has a collection of pretty ballgown type dresses. I bought her a secondhand Sindy wardrobe on eBay, and Betty gets such joy from hanging her doll's dresses on the little hangers and arranging them all. She has spent hours making all of Barbie's other furniture (table, shower, bed, sofa) out of cereal boxes, margarine tubs, and corks. And she is very excited about the prospect of her and me sitting down and learning to crochet clothes together. Betty, who loves constructing and all things arty, is getting creative with Barbie.
So although the manufacturers should be ashamed of themselves for making a child's toy so tarty and pink, I really don't think little girls see her as a role model. They just see her as a toy, something to dress and undress, to perform hair cuts on, to feed rice crispies to, and to snog Action Man (sorry Ken).