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Barbies Banned From Iranian Toy Shops

Barbies Banned From Iranian Toy Shops

In a move that I’m feeling ethically ambiguous about, Iranian “Morality Police” swept in to stores on Monday to warn shopkeepers that Barbies were not to be sold in Iran. “About three weeks ago they [the morality police] came to our shop, asking us to remove all the Barbies,” a Tehran shopkeeper claimed. Many shopkeepers, however, are defying the ban, putting Barbies in behind other toys in order to fool the authorities but still have the popular toys available for customers.

Iran first declared Barbie an Undesireable in 1996, stating the leggy dolls had “destructive cultural and social consequences.” The Iranian government introduced alternative dolls, Sara and Dara, cute little folks who wear more culturally appropriate clothing – Sara even comes with four head scarves, although she is meant to be younger than the required age for females to cover their heads in Iran.

Would this move work in North America? Banning toys that aren’t outright harmful to children simply because they espouse a different set of values is certainly censorship. Free speech is free speech, and choice in toys is part of that free personal expression. And yet, I’m not so fond of Barbie dolls and the message they give to children either – that as long as you’re blonde, leggy and have big boobs, then you too can grow up to get the pink car and the handsome man, and who would want anything else?

Frankly, I despise Barbies, and will do my best to keep them out of my house. But if the government told me that I couldn’t buy Barbies because they thought I wasn’t smart enough to realize they were Bad For Me, then I’d be carrying every placard I could to protest their draconian measures, right before I told my daughter that Barbies suck. Because it’s my decision on how to educate my child, not theirs.

The damage, perhaps, has already been done in Iran: one mother lamented the absence of Barbie, saying “My daughter prefers Barbies. She says Sara and Dara are ugly and fat.”

Perhaps the statement that Barbies have “destructive cultural and social” consequences isn’t quite as off base as we’d like to claim.

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Sexism in the Toy Store Aisles

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Photo Credit: Vaniljapulla on Flickr

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111 comments

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9:02PM PDT on May 12, 2012

It is a conundrum. I believe in freedom, no banning, no "morality police," .... yet, Barbie is an affront to all girls and women.

3:21AM PST on Feb 3, 2012

I think little girls of all cultures like to see what other little girls play with and see how different they are.

They have been calling Barbies "Undesireable" for 16 years and they are just now trying to ban them?

11:57PM PST on Jan 29, 2012

Interesting, thank you.

4:13AM PST on Jan 27, 2012

Iran is Xenophobic?

7:08PM PST on Jan 25, 2012

Chad A says it best...

2:58AM PST on Jan 25, 2012

It's a good idea but for all the wrong reasons

10:47PM PST on Jan 24, 2012

A barbie isn't going to change a child's prespective very much. Sure, it will for some children, but only a very small percentage. Besides, Barbie is an iconic and adored doll.

7:19AM PST on Jan 24, 2012

i can totally see your point, i think its impossible to pick one side... but id probably ended up agreeing with the gov there. its true that its wrong to ban things like that, but i guess some kids/parents will be saved from their own ignorance...

8:02PM PST on Jan 22, 2012

What's with all the Barbie-bashing lately? Every little girl wants a pretty doll. Let them have one.

7:57PM PST on Jan 22, 2012

I am uncomfortable with both the Barbie and banning Barbie. I think we should be educating our children to have realistic body images and expectations and there should be a realistic range of dolls out there, but I am very uncomfortable when the state steps in on this sort of thing. If they can do this, what can't they do?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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Colleen H. Colleen H. is an Online Campaigner with Care2 and a recent transplant to San Francisco from the East... more
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