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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Photo Credit: Vaniljapulla on Flickr


Martha Eberle
Martha E5 years ago

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

Debbie Crowe
Debbie C5 years ago

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?

New G.
W. C5 years ago

Interesting, thank you.

colleen p.
colleen p5 years ago

Iran is Xenophobic?

iii q.
g d c5 years ago

Chad A says it best...

Natasha Lopez
Natasha L5 years ago

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

Rin S.
Rin S5 years ago

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.

Sara C.
Sara H5 years ago

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...

Nimue Pendragon
Nimue Michelle P6 years ago

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

Chad A.
Chad A6 years ago

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?