No child's play, this!

Published: Thursday 15 February 1996

No child's play, this!

The Consumer's Association of Penang (CAP) in Malaysia has launched a blitzkrieg to ban Barbie. The doll is being blamed for promoting inappropriate stereotypes among children. Janet Pillai, a lecturer in children's theatre at the Universities Sains, Malaysia, says, "The notion of beauty promoted through Barbic - hour- glass figure, stereotypical racial features and long hair - is, sadly, a shallow, sexist view of feminine beauty".

CAP also seeks to counter the popular belief that playing with Barbies encourages creativity in children. Since the doll and all the paraphernalia that go with it are fixed and ready-made, children really do not have the opportunity to exercise their creative skills.

According to Chiam Heng Keng, a psychologist at the University of Malaya, Penang, "Earlier, children used to be taught how to make dolls. The activity in general involved, among other things, colouring and pasting, which enhanced a child's imagination." If one were to help children make their own dolls and encourage them to play traditional games like hopscotch, money could be saved as well. The price tags on Barbies in Malaysia range from US $4.50 to a whopping US $80.

The other side of the camp, however, claims that Barbie was never intended to be a doll. According to Cy Schneider, an advertising executive who worked on Barbie campaigns, "We did not depict Barbie as a doll. Rather, we treated her as a real-life teenage fashion model. Young girls who identified with Barbie became deeply involved with her."

Concerns over Harbie portraying and belonging to an alien culture have also been raised. CAP's demand for a ban on the sale of the doll in Malaysia has met with some angry protests from the public.

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