Authenticity has never been Barbie the doll’s strong suit. It’s estimated that if she were life sized, she would tip over because of the size of her breasts.
So I shouldn’t be surprised that as part of the 500 international outfits designed to mark Barbie’s 50th birthday — yes, she’s that old but doesn’t she look good for her age — “Muslim” Barbie is wearing a burka.
As a Muslim woman, I am sadly all too familiar with the media shorthand for “Muslim” and “woman” equalling Covered in Black Muslim Woman. This being Barbie though, the burka isn’t in forbidding black. Italian designer Eliana Lorena, who made the outfits for an auction Sotheby’s is holding to collect money for Save the Children, instead made Muslim Barbie’s burka vermillion and lime green!
What will the Taliban say?
What on Earth are little girls supposed to do with Burka Barbie? More intriguingly, what is Barbie wearing under that lime green burka? I was at a loss until I came across an ad by German lingerie company Liaison Dangereuse.
A woman steps out of the shower into stilettos (because they’re the first thing a woman wears after showering, of course). She stands nude at her mirror to apply makeup, followed by lingerie, on top of which she throws a burka (black, not lime green though). The clip ends with the tantalizing line “Sexiness for everyone. Everywhere.”
That’s more like the Barbie we’ve known for 50 years! So, are Burka Barbie and Liaison Dangereuse in some kind of marketing cahoots?
The final piece of the puzzle came when the BBC reported that on the Saudi religion channel Awtan TV women presenters are dressed from head to toe in a black niqab. (The burka has a mesh where the eyes are, the niqab leaves the eyes uncovered).
Those Burka Barbies must be spinoffs for those women presenters, one of whom told the BBC that wearing the niqab helps her to concentrate more on her work and what she looks like is irrelevant. It begs the question why she didn’t choose radio instead, but, hey, I’m still trying to figure out this Burka Barbie business.
Apparently, fans of these women in black from head to toe — gloves included — urge them to stay just the way they are. Little did Ms. Lorena realize that she was actually supplying a demand most of us never knew existed — Burka Barbie TV Presenter!
I never was one for dolls.