By Carrie Friedman
At the toy store, my four-year-old daughter made a beeline for the Barbie aisle. I’m not a fan of Barbies, but lately, the company has been trying harder and I appreciate that: there are Barbies with normal-looking bodies now, not that wrist-width waist and those giant boobs and stick legs. There are Barbies with actual jobs, not just “girl jobs” like dog walker Barbie, ballet teacher Barbie, and babysitter Barbie. There are doctor Barbies now. And astronauts. And that’s about it, but still—it’s better than before.
So imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw, on the lowest shelf, practically hidden, a package of two Barbies, with the labels: “President and Vice President Barbie” and “first all-female ticket.” Was I dreaming this? Was I hallucinating these dolls?
I called out for my young daughter. “You’ve got to see this!” She came over. I pointed at the two—one African American, one white!—dolls, both dressed in snazzy, professional boucle jackets and conservatively-lengthed pencil skirts, standing in front of a cardboard podium, their arms in the air, victorious.
“Look!” I practically screamed, my eyes watering. “They won!” I turned to find my daughter had already walked away. “It’s the highest office in the land,” I exclaimed to her and probably the whole store. “One even has glasses! They’re very smart!”
My daughter was staring at the blonde mermaid Barbies, while I held in my hands the first all-female ticket.
Then I looked more closely. The box said: “Commemorative 2016 Edition.” The dolls don’t look like Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, but they were, nonetheless, put on the market in 2016 because we finally had our first major-party female presidential candidate. On the bottom shelf, I saw there were dozens still there, unbought, actually collecting dust. And the worst thing of all. A red placard that advertised, CLEARANCE: $7.99.
“$7.99?!” I said in disbelief. A single Barbie is usually $12.99.
“Look! Look!” my daughter said to me, bringing over her blonde mermaid doll of choice. “Isn’t she pretty?”
I nodded enthusiastically, trying to share in her excitement: after all, she was there with six months of her hard-earned chore money and so was allowed to choose whatever she wanted, under $15.
I was most disturbed by the stacks and stacks of President Barbies that remained. What parent wouldn’t buy this for their daughter? What parent wouldn’t want their daughter to aspire to be—and have a doll that is—the leader of the free world?
Granted, Hillary, the most-qualified person ever to run for president was barely defeated by, but nonetheless lost to, the least-qualified person ever to run for president. But is that enough to make the whole “female president” idea seem null and void, out of reach?
Are we all so jaded and depressed and desensitized by Hillary’s loss that we’ve just said, to hell with it. Who cares, it’ll never happen. Mermaids from here on out.
I loaded my arms up with the boxes, wishing I had grabbed a cart when I walked in. I decided right then that I will wrap up the first all-female ticket for any gift-giving holiday and will give them to every one of my daughter’s friends as birthday presents, and will donate a few to charity as well.
But on that day I let my daughter get the mermaid she wanted, even though there will never be a mermaid president.
When not writing, Carrie Friedman is raising her strong, brilliant daughters to believe they can be president someday. You can find her on Facebook.