Skip to main content

Barbie - The Object of Desire

A mother, who had always prevented her daughter from owning a Barbie Doll on the grounds that it was demeaning to women was recently persuaded to capitulate to her daughter's demands. “A friend pointed out that if I denied her what she wanted, then what was I saying about her desire?” the mother recounted.

I have no qualifications to comment on the morality of owning a Barbie. My experience of dolls thus far has been that of stealing them from my sister and using them as target practice for my air gun. I can, however, comment on the mother's judgment of human desire.

The problem with such an optimistic view of human desire is that they very often compete with someone else's desire. In this case, whose desire should we say is better: the mother's or the child's? Apparently the mother chose the child's desire over her own, but could just as well chosen otherwise. In which case, she could have quipped to her friend, “If I buy my daughter a Barbie, what does that say about my own desire?”

If our desires reign supreme, which desires get met and which don't? It seems that, after some kind of conflict, someone will lose out; one desire will trump another. Conflicting desires are the cause of human quarreling as James writes:
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight” (James 4:1-2).

We need a healthy suspicion of our desires. James tells us that God will often turn down a prayer because, “you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Unlike the mother, God doesn't give our desires carte blanche. His desire trumps ours.