“Jeez,” I muttered. “Can’t we just let kids be kids?”
“Tell me about it,” said Cori. “My parents pushed that agenda on me.”
“Yep. To avoid ‘forcing my gender identity,’ they made me play with both Barbie and GI Joe. It was so stupid. I was pure girl, so I stuck with traditional roles.”
“You played with GI Joe?”
“Sure. I still have him downstairs. But Barbie was my favorite! She wore pretty outfits for dances at her Dream Castle! I remember humming to myself, setting up elaborate balls—”
“—and when Barbie arrived, what a sight! There she was, descending a grand staircase for all to see! Like an angel! Barbie brought me hours of joy!”
“I kept it traditional. Like any girl would treat a boy chosen by her parents, I dragged Joe ten paces behind me at the end of a string.”
“Some people stared. There I was, walking through mud or riding my bike, humming while Joe bounced and scraped at a distance—”
“—and if Joe got snagged, I’d scream at him! That’s what you do with military men!”
“I was military.”
“Coddling dulls their instincts for battle! Soldiers need discipline—lots and lots of discipline!”
“At night, I’d prop Joe against Barbie’s castle window…(Cori grins slightly)…allowing him to see the food for her latest gala…the warm, plentiful food. But after a few minutes, I’d scream at him again! ‘Worthless urchin! Get a job!’”
“Actually, the military is a—”
“I wasn’t usually a screamer…but that Joe!”
“We should change the channel—”
(holding up an imaginary doll) “What? You served our country? Think that makes you special? Hmmmm??? Tell me Joe, have you ever looked in the mirror to see an adorable girl, only to have adults insist you ‘discover’ what you really are??? (she’s shaking it violently) Answer me, Joe! Answer me!!!”
“Okay, let’s put down the—your hands—”
(smiling widely) “But my voice would wear out! So I’d cuff Joe to the back fence, just inches beyond the dog’s chain. For hours that Doberman strained forward, barking madly in Joe’s face—”
“—often in the rain. Military men belong in the rain—”
“I was military.”
“—develops character…teaches a man his place…that dog really hated Joe…”
The Empire of Barbie
When I had a spare moment, I snuck downstairs and searched Cori’s old boxes—eventually finding GI Joe. He resembled numerous victims from “Saw.” I then realized Cori sees a natural order to things. Men need discipline. Women need to descend staircases in sweeping gowns. No gender confusion. No shifting roles. Despite all her parents’ efforts, my Cori embraced tradition.
Today’s parents are more insistent, however, and the Barbie Empire has adapted:
Business Barbie is a hot seller, with body-hugging corporate attire, and Ken doll assistants who will do anything for a promotion.
In California, many opt for PETA Barbie. Pull a string, and accenting her fierce expression are shouts of “Meat is murder!”, “Fur is murder!”, or more directly, “Hillary 2016!” Forever raised are PETA Barbie’s hands, revealing protest signs—and armpits unshaved. Though still a teenager, her hair is disheveled, with signs of gray, and there is a distinct smell of cat.
Some tension exists, of course, between PETA Barbie and Big Game Hunter Barbie, who drives a car made entirely of ivory. Then there is Wicca Barbie, who has several miniature Ken dolls of her own. Jihadi Barbie insists her sons have done nothing wrong, Pantsuit Barbie calls prepared speeches “her interviews,” and Ken-Barbie supplants Jackie Robinson as the most courageous athlete who ever lived.
Finally, there’s Rachel Dolezal Barbie, complete with dark spraypaint and a ludicrously oversized afro. Sporting the most authentic blac-cents of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, this Barbie warns NAACP chapters that Republicans will “Put y’all back in chains!”
Whatever the choice, today’s Barbie carries the same message for girls everywhere: “Just be yourself, as long as that bears no resemblance to how you were born.”
There are lots of confused children out there—and perhaps some dangerous wives. So what’s causing all this? Is it pink and blue sections at toy stores? Mmmmm…no. Whatever your thoughts on gender identity, using two colors when selling to a two-sex species is hardly indoctrinating the next wave of Hitler youth. Little girls run to pink sections full of dolls--on their own. This isn’t brainwashing. If girls want to play sports, no one’s stopping them from grabbing hockey sticks (though little boys will instinctively scatter).
Herein lies the beauty of the free market--it’s free. Go where you want. Be what you want. Call yourself Caitlyn, and we’ll all join you. But when you force children of a two-sex species to endlessly reconsider which body parts were mistakes, you’ll produce confusion. Painful confusion. You aren’t saving them from pink and blue, since your goal isn’t to save them at all. Your goal is retaliation. Your goal is to terrorize a gender system you resent, and children are just your human shields.
Here’s my request: If you want to remake your life or your world, then you’ve come to the right nation. Live it up. But if you want to unmake everyone else’s world, then pick another country. Kids are helpless and impressionable, while adults comprise a free market that is quite capable of deciding whether it wants pink and blue sections. That should be guided by their choices, not your protest.
And who knows? If a little girl isn’t forced to like GI Joe, she might even grow to like him on her own.
I know Joe would appreciate that. And so would I.