Barbie Days!

I am in Bath this weekend to take part in the truly excellent

Bath Festival

I am taking part in an event (3.30pm on Sunday 26th May) to discuss whether Barbies are dumb blondes or feminist icons.

The answer is, of course: feminist icon.

Whatever your views, you cannot argue with the universally-understood place of Barbies in the world.

I have written about them before: in the Guardian here, and in the US political magazine Slate here - an article mentioned in the Columbia Journalism Review as having shown that Slate was obviously going in a 'new direction', and not concentrating on politics so much anymore. Or, as I took them to mean,  ‘single-handedly took the magazine dowmarket’.

On the blog, a wonderful character called Killer Barbie
featured in an entry on the Todd McEwen book Five Simple Machines.
her stripy swimsuit, swept-up hair smelling of Kent cigarettes, her f[]-me-or-go-to-hell eyes, killer legs, killer mules…
I said thenMcEwen has, impressively, got the big but often under-appreciated point about the dolls: originally they were not princesses or dressed in pink ballgowns – they were hard-edged career girls in the Joan Crawford mould, with a wardrobe to match. Not so much anymore, which is a shame.

I came across these excellent pictures of Barbie knitting patterns (proving my point that you don’t have to buy expensive official merchandise)

and actually then found a book to match the photos, I was so keen to use ski-sweater-Barbie. (The Will and the Deed, a skiing murder story by Ellis Peters.)

The admirable Tana French has this great line in her book The Trespasser:

Anyone who turns herself into Barbie because that’s the only way she feels worthwhile needs a kick up the hole, but someone who does it for a revenge mission deserves a few points for determination.

When I was looking for a ‘poinsettia dress’ to illustrate an Agatha Christie short story, Barbie came up trumps.

If you are in Bath at the weekend, do come along to the event, and say hello.


  1. Moira: Interesting article. Did you see the article not long in the NY Times on the designer of Barbie clothes for decades? -

    1. Bill: thanks so much for that link - I hadn't seen it, but was able to read it before I did the panel. What a charming story - and then the comments at the end of the article were a delight: many women reminiscing about their happy days with Barbies.

  2. Barbie's role is interesting, Moira. I've struggled with this one for years (raising a daughter and now having a granddaughter means I've had a lot of time to think about Barbies...). I'm still not sure how I feel about her, but there is absolutely no doubt about her influence.

    1. Margot: I think all us mothers wonder about the best way to bring up her children, and which will be the good influences. In the end we just have to do what we think is right and hope for the best.

  3. Interesting topic. I don't think I ever had a Barbie doll, although I do remember playing with a friend's Barbie dolls. Maybe by the time they came out I wasn't interested in dolls. The only thoughts I ever had about Barbie pro or con were that her shape was a little unrealistic.

    How did the panel go?

  4. The Tana French quote got my attention. Maybe...

    1. I think you might like Tana French - maybe try Faithful Place, or In the Woods (1st of series), or the latest one, Wych Elm, a standalone... The Dublin setting might appeal!

  5. Great blog I enjoyed reading it.


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