Barbie in a burkha?
I’m writing a paper for my French class exploring the differences between the teachings of Islam and how fundamentalists interpret those teachings. It would be a difficult topic in English, let alone in French. I’m supposed to draw in current events, so it was somewhat fortuitous that the Washington Times ran an op-ed piece on Sunday slamming Burkha Barbie.
Italian designer Eliana Lorena created the dolls for an auction at Sotheby’s Save the Children.
The Times writes, “We are surprised that Save the Children is so excited about Burkha Barbie. By rights, it should condemn the doll. By its own accounts, Save the Children seeks to create ‘a world in which every child is ensured the right to survival, protection, development and participation.’ We wonder if Burkha Barbie will have acid thrown in her face if she removes the burkha, which is the current fad among hard-core Islamists in Afghanistan targeting schoolgirls who abjure the offensive garment.”
They go on to ask if Suicide Vest Ken is next.
You can read the full piece HERE.
I’m having a difficult time deciding how I feel about this article. I emailed it to a bunch of friends, soliciting their opinions.
One friend wrote back to me, “Barbie is whatever little Cara wants her to be, doctor, manhole cover maker, Muslim.”
And this is definitely true. In fact, a Barbie collector in England wrote, “Bring it on, Burkha Barbie ... I think this is really important for girls. Wherever they are from, they should have the opportunity to play with a Barbie that they feel represents them.”
And, as I’ve been writing in my paper, some Muslim women view their veils (I’ve been focusing on veils, not burkhas) as a symbol of freedom, because it allows them to be judged not by their looks but by their merits. It also is viewed as an integral piece of history in tradition.
But for many, veils, and even more so, burkhas, are symbols of oppression. They force women to hide their faces from the public and are a form of control exerted over Muslim women.
So the question is, are veils symbols of freedom or oppression? I’m still working through my feelings on this.
But my feelings on burqas are more cut and dry. A Burkha covers a woman from head to toe, leaving a slit just for her eyes. To me, it is a symbol of repression.
Which is why I can’t understand why Mattel and Save the Children would dress Barbie in a Burkha. I can understand giving her a veil, but dressing her in a symbol of 21st century oppression?
It’s a complex issue and I’m curious to know what you think.