This week UPI informs us that some parents have worked themselves into a lather over the new “Totally Stylin’ Tattoos Barbie”, which allows children to stamp temporary tattoos on Barbie and themselves with a little tattoo gun thingy. ZOMG, the horror! Because otherwise, Barbie would totes be a fabulous role model for your little girl. (Here I acknowledge that there are major feminist issues with Barbie’s looks and the message they send; I’ve got those issues, and I’m sure you do too, but that’s a broader discussion for another post—we’re just talking Tattoo Barbie here.)
Of course, the backlash against the doll opened the door for all kinds of small-minded fuckery, including an op-ed piece entitled “No Virginia, Santa Will Not Be Bringing You Tattoo Barbie” in which a self-proclaimed “old-fashioned daddy” who “just can’t get used to a world in which women wear tattoos and men wear earrings” loudly and proudly proclaims that he will not be buying said toy for his daughter, whom he refers to as “Her Royal Highness, the Princess.” (Ladies, I defy you to read the whole article without puking. Click at your own risk. You’ve been warned.)
The reason being, of course, that The Princess’s Tattoo Barbie might be some kind of threshold doll drug, and where might that lead? Her father wonders aloud: “Tongue-Ring Barbie? Safety-Pin-Eyelid Barbie?* Reduced Mammaries Barbie*?”
Jesus H. Christ in a tattoo shop. Needless to say, we all know that Old-Fashioned Daddy wouldn’t have felt that way about a tattooed action figure for his son. This is all about a father’s concern for his daughter’s precious femininity, which would be sullied by tattoos on a doll. Because, y’know, once Barbie gets tattoos, it’s all over for womankind. ‘Scuse me while I head/desk for a minute. BRB.
Full disclosure: I never played with Barbies, but I have two tattoos. The first I acquired at 18, from American Tattooing in Carrollton, Virginia (right across the James River Bridge from Newport News! Best tattoos in the Tidewater!). When I told my mother about it—by phone—there was a long, considered pause. I could hear Mom’s more traditional side warring with her more feminist, body-positive side; picture a little devil representing her painfully proper, church-going WASP upbringing and a little angel representing her feminist, educator-with-a-PhD adulthood. The angel won out; she exhaled and said, “Well, it’s your body.” When she actually saw the tattoo, she kind of liked it and all was well. No one else in my family seemed to care, with the exception of Grandma Sharper, who told me “that’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done”, which only serves to illustrate how little Grandma actually knew about my life, because that tattoo doesn’t even make the top 100 on the “Stupid Shit I’ve Done” list. When I got my second tattoo—age 26, at Triple X Tattooing in New York’s Garment District—no one cared; they were over it. I’ve been considering a third, but haven’t decided. It’s possible that a third will make me feel overdecorated, and with tattoos you can’t take Coco Chanel’s advice to “just take one thing off.”
According to the Pew Research Center, I’m hardly a maverick: 40% of people between the ages of 26 to 40 have a tattoo. Tattoo Barbie doesn’t represent some crazy trend on the fringes of society–it’s what 4 in 10 of Princess’s friends will look like by the time she hits middle age, if not before.
More importantly, having tattoos–or any other body-altering decoration–has never once prevented a woman from getting an education, earning a living, contributing to society, being a good daughter/sister/friend or anything else that her parents might wish for her. So Old Fashioned Daddy can stuff it. His little Princess may be denied her Tattoo Barbie, but after she turns 18, chances are excellent she’s going to show up on the doorstep of some tattoo parlor somewhere. Then Daddy’s going to realize that Tattoo Barbie wasn’t so much a gateway drug as a harbinger of his daughter’s independence–one where she didn’t give a fuck about her daddy’s outdated notion of femininity.
*Yowch! But to each her own.
*Equating breast reduction surgery with tattooing or piercing is ignorant on so many levels I hardly know where to begin.