From Barbie to Britney and the sexualization of childhood.
Ruth Handler, legendary founder of Mattel Toys and creator of Barbie, the company's most successful product, died last week, thereby prompting the most urgent cultural debate since Botox made the headlines. Was Barbie, as feminists said, poisonous for young girls' self-image and the cause of an epidemic of anorexia and bulimia? Or was she -- as conservatives insisted, taking the view that "the enemy of my feminist enemy is my friend" -- simply good childhood fun?
Actually, both sides are wrong. Barbie may not have prompted a national crisis in female self-esteem, but she's no innocent either. The vampy fashion doll helped to bring about the sexualization of childhood, evidence of which is everywhere today. In truth, Barbie is the not-so-spiritual godmother of Britney Spears.
Kay Hymowitz is a contributing editor of City Journal.
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