Please respect that this is a Barbie-free zone: Does the world need any more plastic?

March 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

Some years ago a woman I know received an invitation to a party for her very young daughter. Words to this effect appeared on the invitation: Please respect that this is a Barbie-free zone

These words caused a frisson among those that had been invited. These things do. Most of us, I presume, wish to pass as normal: normal in the sense of not being odd or peculiar. At the same time, the wish to be normal is opposed by a wish to think one’s life out for oneself and not mindlessly follow what others do.

We have impulses which we fear are ‘peculiar’, and to which we do not have the self-confidence to succumb. Yet we wonder when we resist such impulses, if we are denying the true expression of ourselves. Do you, as I do, envisage (Fowler or Gowers did not like the word) a tribunal, composed perhaps of family, friends and acquaintances, judging your actions and finding them wanting?

To me, the Barbie-free zone message is not at all offensive, provided the doll was excluded on grounds similar to these:

1. A sweat shop toy ( I imagine so, perhaps Barbies are made in America)

2. Made of plastic, which like the poor, will always be with us

3. Limits a child’s notion of female beauty

4. Does not truly aid the child’s creative imagination

5. Does not develop a child’s aesthetic

6. The child does not really want the doll but feels bound to want it, to be like other children, or the child has been too strongly influenced by advertisers

There are messages I would like to put on invitations about acceptable gifts:

1. Gifts made in England out of natural materials

2. Gifts made by small communities that are paid enough, and treated well (fairtrade/ethical)

3 Well made second-hand gifts. (A thing of beauty is a joy forever.)

In this way, I would receive no plastic, or things made in China (by exploited workers?), few logo-bearing goods of international companies, and few product lines from supermarkets. (Why give more custom to supermarkets?)

I don’t put messages, on invitations, that indicate my prejudices and preferences but I do try to get such messages across. I give only European-made* gifts or fair trade gifts. But I am not at all sure that actions speak louder than words: an invitation bearing the message, Please respect that this is a Barbie-free zone will not be so quickly forgotten.

*There is, of course, legal truth. Made in [a European country] might mean that a few final touches were put to a product which had been, by and large, made in China.

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