Does controversy exist on its own or do we wait until the media tells us that we need to get hot and bothered about something?
Either way, the latest catalyst for consumer outrage is the new Yoga Teacher Barbie. She’s part of an exclusive line of Barbies in the “I Can Be…” series from Mattel and you can only find her in Target stores. The series isn’t new. Back in 2021, the brand ran an online voting competition to choose two Barbies for the series. The winners were a news anchor and computer engineer. The whole idea, according to Barbie.com, is to “ignite a national movement to inspire girls.” Who wouldn’t want to get on board with that?
Apparently it takes a twisty-legged, spandex-dressed doll to stir up a little unnecessary controversy. Just in time for the election year and the Olympics, the “I Can Be” series also includes a president and a tennis player, track star, swimmer, and gymnast. But it’s the yoga teacher that’s got people bent out of shape.
Chelsea Roff at IntentBlog.com said “Kids are being exposed to yoga at an early age, encouraged to stay active, and taught about mind-body awareness practices before they even hit kindergarten. All good things! But something about seeing that sickly-proportioned doll’s foot behind her head just makes me cringe. As if the stereotypes of yoga weren’t bad enough already, now kids are implicitly being taught that yoga teachers look like a big-headed Pam Anderson.”
We didn’t see it that way. We, like Kathryn Budig, saw a doll. Just a toy that lets little girls’ imaginations run wild.
Kathryn, a world-renowned yoga expert who is publishing Rodale’s Big Book of Yoga later this year, told us that she sees both sides of the coin on this issue. For the good, she said, “I grew up playing with lots of Barbie dolls and never thought the world was only made up of blonde, blue-eyed babes or did it give me body image or self-esteem issues. i just loved my dolls.”
There’s no harm in that, right? This isn’t the first time Barbie has been dressed in career-inspired garb. Her resume has included a vet, astronaut, teacher, dentist, various military positions, firefighter, and much more. Each position was meant to inspire young girls to chase their dreams and be anything they want.
Can’t Yoga Teacher Barbie inspire them to take on a fitness profession, or even live an active life, without a bunch of wagging fingers and soap boxes?
But Kathryn also said there’s a bad side too, so we listened. “She sure looks a lot like Malibu Barbie… a bit done up for yoga, aren’t we? That make-up is gonna run straight down her face after 5 sun salutations!”
OK, so Barbie’s “that girl” at the gym who makes us all cringe. Perfectly coifed hair, make-up applied just right, and the hottest new fashion in yoga apparel – “Will her workout be better than mine,” you have to wonder. She’s certainly glamming up a pretty sweaty (and sometimes gassy) activity.
Briana Rognlin at Blisstree.com wasn’t impressed with the accessories Yoga Barbie has either. “We’ll set aside the fact that yoga Barbie comes with a tiny dog instead of, say, a mat, strap or block,” she wrote. She also blasts Mattel for Barbie’s long-argued position as a role model given that “she’s still sporting a bust-waist-hip proportion that’s physically impossible for real-life women to attain, let alone maintain an active lifestyle with.”
Blogs are filled with diatribe against the newest Barbie career. It seems more pent up animosity for the “damaging” role Barbie plays in being a role model for girls. But she is a toy, and she is just a doll, and for decades she’s been a simple tool in helping girls see the world a little more broadly. In an age where childhood obesity is liken to a plague, having her practice yoga, with or without a dog or a mat, could stand to help a little.
“My meager little opinion is that I think anything that exposes kids to knowledge about yoga can be positive,” said Holly Mosier, author of author of Stress Less, Weigh Less. She said she didn’t learn about yoga until her late thirties, and that she could have benefited from knowing about the practice sooner. “Beyond that … well, I guess we can all pick apart what is wrong with it (or anything else for that matter). Why not focus on the positive aspects? Barbie is going to be around anyway.”
We like that sentiment, to focus on the positive. It’s a good life policy anyway. Girls are exposed to a sport or activity that they might not have been otherwise. Barbie stays fit so why shouldn’t they (regardless of Barbie’s proportions)? Barbie looks like she has a lot of fun exercising. We’ll stand that there isn’t anything wrong with any of that.
Mary Jo Ricketson, a yoga professional who wrote Moving Meditation, looked at the argument a bit differently. “Yoga is primarily an adult discipline that requires mindful practice,” she told us. “Children are not able to practice with full intention.” She defends the history and purpose of yoga, and feels that Yoga Teacher Barbie is “misguided unless the intention is a playful form.” While she appreciates the encouragement of our youth to be active, she thinks that “children should be more playing than practicing yoga.”
Maybe Barbie’s next career move should be an attorney or a judge because it doesn’t seem this is an argument her down-dogging friend is going to settle any time soon.
What’s your take on Yoga Teacher Barbie? Let her salute the sun or send her and the puppy back to the ashram?
image via mindbodygreen.com