When I was given my first Barbie I thought she was a miniature version of my mom. Playing with Barbie dolls is probably part of every women’s life experiences since the late ‘50s. Certainly “looking like a Barbie doll” is somewhat of an unobtainable body image that probably shaped our perception of perfection. Nonetheless, she was the image of the perfect woman until recently, when she was altered and updated to include different body shapes. However, this week, Mattel, the makers of Barbie, introduced an altogether new doll of a non-specific gender, neither male nor female.
Under the brand called “Creatable World,” these versatile dolls are available in a variety of skin tones. They can be styled with a long-haired wig and dressed in pants, a skirt or shorts, as well as three different styles of shoes, sunglasses, and other accessories. The toy company claims they are the first of a kind to “create” a gender-neutral environment in which a child can explore a world with no labels. I’m not going to get into any politically correct or incorrect statement about gender or lifestyle. These dolls make a huge statement of their very own. The fact is that the toy giant Mattel would not be manufacturing and pushing a new brand if it wasn’t effectively test marketed and fully researched, which in itself gives you an idea of the real world we live in.
It’s rather comical (if not tragic) to debut these dolls exactly in the week of Hashem’s creation of His own human “dolls” called Adam and Eve with the divine and absolute definition of male and female.
On day number 6 of Hashem’s weeklong masterful creation of world He formed the first human out of earth particles and breathed life into his being. In truth, there are a number of different explanations as to what Eve was created from. The Torah declares that she was formed from one of Adam’s “tzelas” (Bereishit 2:21). The word tzela means “side” as a structural term.
Based on this, many of the commentators understand that Eve was created from Adam’s side (one opinion in Bereishit Rabbah 17:8, Rashi 2:21, Ibn Ezra 2:21, Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim 2:30, Ralbag 2:21). This follows the opinion in the Talmud (Brachot 61a) that Adam and Eve were initially created as a single being – with male and female halves, having both genders fused together. Hashem determined that it was “not good” that man be a complete unit – feeling he is perfect and needs no one else, and so Hashem turned His creation into two incomplete halves (Rashi to Bereishit 2:18). There is also an opinion that tzela means rib (alternate opinion in Bereishit Rabbah 17:8, Onkelos, Targum Yonatan, Chizkuni 2:21, Seforno 2:21). G-d initially created Adam with an extra rib so it could be used for this purpose (Targum Yonatan, Abarbanel). There is a third opinion (Talmud Brachot 61a) that Eve was created from a tail, or better explained as a tailbone.
On day number 5 Hashem created all the animals male and female from the outset. He did not follow through in the creation of woman (Eve) because He foresaw that Adam would complain against her manipulation upon eating forbidden fruit [he would tell God angrily (Bereishit 3:12): “The woman You put at my side”]; He therefore waited until Adam requested that she be created. Hashem had all the cattle, birds, and wild beasts pass before Adam two by two, and Hashem instructed Adam to name all the species. Adam said: “Each one has a mate, but I do not have a mate?” Once he demanded this with his own mouth, immediately (Bereishit 2:21) “the Lord G-d cast a deep sleep upon the man; and while he slept [...]” (Bereishit Rabbah 17:4). In this midrash, Eve’s creation is part of Hashem’s initial plan of creation.
My favorite in-depth explanation of the creation of Adam and Eve comes from the brilliant and innovative mind of Rabbi Soloveichik (z”l). In his book The Lonely Man of Faith he discusses the two version of Adam 1 and Adam 2. One is a male and female together as a team; the other, a man finding the world too lonely to navigate without a counterpart. I can read this masterpiece over and over again and still fail to capture the genius in every sentence.
The rabbis proclaim that Eve was the most beautiful woman ever. To illustrate this, they say that all humans resemble apes in comparison to Sarah’s beauty, while Sarah, in turn, looked like an ape in comparison with Eve. Only Adam was handsomer than she, beside whom she, in turn, looked like an ape (BT Bava Batra 58a). This midrash has Adam being the most beautiful creature in all the world since he was created in G-d’s image, and directly by Him. Eve, also, was Hashem’s handiwork, and therefore no woman was as beautiful as she, even though she was lesser than Adam for she was a secondary creation, from Adam’s body.
Another midrash is about the physical appearance of the woman’s body, which differs from that of the man. Bereishit 2:22 states: “And the Lord fashioned the rib,” from which the rabbis learned that Eve was designed as a storehouse [for fruits]. Just as a storehouse is narrow at the top and broad at the bottom to hold the fruits, so, too, the woman is narrow above and broad below so that she can bear the fetus (BT Brachot 61a). Eve’s body structure is here presented as functional, for purposes of pregnancy. This explains the different physical structure of man and woman as part of Hashem’s wisdom in Creation. Each body serves a particular need of its gender. We can also see this in the punishments each received for disobeying G-d’s instructions about dwelling in the Garden of Eden. Pains of pregnancy are undoubtedly female!
Hashem created a male and female with just about everything there is – from linguistics to spiritual plateaus, mitzvot obligations to valued roles, ceremonial ages to marriage contracts. G-d had no interest in creating gender-less, define-less, description-less, depiction-less, characterization-less, portrayal-less, specification-less, distinction-less beings.
So, I say to Mattel, their newest creation is really no creation at all. It’s just a means to capitalize on a world that continuously, and unfortunately, lacks the direction to find a sense of true self as Hashem has created.
I’ll just stick to my Barbie and Ken.
Tobi Rubinstein is a retired fashion and marketing executive of 35 years who currently produces runway and lifestyle events for NYFW, specializing in Israel’s leading artists and designers. She is the founder of The House of Faith N Fashion, fusing culture and Torah. Tobi was a fashion collaboration and guest expert for ABC, Geraldo Rivera, Huffington Post, Lifetime, NBC, Bravo, and Arise. She hosted her own radio and reality TV series. Tobi is a mother, wife, dog owner, and shoe lover.