Cheat-Seeking Missles

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Barbie Vs. The Mullahs

Strong men don't beat women, and strong societies don't beat their people. Weaknesses, inadequacies and fears drive men and societies to lash out at or repress those important to them, so a sign of a society's strength is its ability to live without fear of its people or policies designed to cover inadequacies.

That's why in America we have to suffer through flag-burners and have to extend rights to our enemies. It's why things we know are bad for society, like pornography and attacks on our core beliefs, are allowed to exist.

And that's why in Iran, the Mullahs area afraid of Barbie.

Here's the story, from Thomas P.M. Barnett's The Pentagon's New Map, who is writing about the difficulties some countries have with opening their doors to globalization and the prosperity and freedoms it brings:

My favorite example of this effect is what happened to Barbie, the toy doll for young girls, when she decided to launch her one-woman invasion of Iran. Barbie apparently infiltrated Iranian toy stores at some point in the 1990s, exploiting the retaiil networks of the global economy. Soon after, the government-backed children's agency labeled Barbie a "Trojan horse" for Western influence, complete with her revealing attire.

Despite -- or perhaps because of -- this official warning, Barbie apparently proved too popular with young Iranian girls. Eventually, concerned local officials engineered a counterattack -- the moon-faced Sara doll clad head to toe in an Islamic Chador. But this officially approved anti-Barbie was not enough to stem Barbie's negative influence, and so orders went out to local police to detain Barbie whenever she was found. Barbie has become a doll on the run.
I can see why the story is Barnett's favorite, as it poses a big, tough nation against a tiny plastic doll, and all the openness of a global society against all the dogma and fear of a religious state that exhibits one of the hallmarks of a non-globalized society: The repression of women.

To accept Barbie is too much for the Mullahs. They would have to accept skirts on their women's hips and independence in their women's hearts and minds. It is too much for their non-global Islamic society to endure, and they know it, so they have to take away a freedom from their women and enforce it through their police.

As the father of three daughters, I am far more familiar with Barbie than I would like to be, and I'm not a big fan. She exposes more skin than I'd like, those big boobs and tiny waist seem likely to create self-image problems, and the clothes are an invitation to too much materialism.

But we're a strong family in a strong society, so all three Incredible Daughters were allowed to have their Barbies -- not a Sara in sight -- and all three have turned out, well, incredible. They don't dress like harlots, they shop at a level of womanly normalcy (i.e., somewhere between five and ten times more than I do), and they are self-assured and confident.

It's that last part that frightens the Mullahs so. For whatever reasons, Islam has determined that it needs to keep its women down, bound and unfree to achieve their best. So they shut the door on globalization and its Barbie nightmares, feeling it is better to deprive their entire population of wealth and health than to risk losing their power to impose their will on their people.

Wherever you are, Iran Barbie, keep fighting!

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