Believe it or not, a Barbie doll—the iconic little girl’s toy—can change the way your significant other and you communicate about guns.
Every woman loves a good pair of shoes and a new purse. When looking at shoes or purses, we agonize over the details of what each new designer and type offers. Yet, I used to wonder how my 12-year-old son could look at a photo of a gun and immediately identify the make and model.
One day, I was talking to him about the Sears catalog of my youth; that everything I ever wanted was inside. It was the Amazon Prime of the 1980s. While explaining this, I told him about the one thing I wanted as a kid and had hinted at for Christmas but never got. It was then that I unlocked the mystery of my son’s gun obsession. I realized that not only does my son take a picture in his mind of every gun he sees, it’s like when I look at a pair of running shoes … and I want them.
I make a mental note of the way the laces run, the amount of cushioning and whether they are made for trails or the road. He’s doing the same thing but is making notes about the magwell, hammer, slide cuts, the frame and grip angle—all the distinctive parts.
The way I felt about my son’s ability to see the minutia in guns is probably the same way some guys feel when their gals talk about purses (Louis Vuitton, Coach, Fendi): The only thing these guys see is a bag . But is it a bag for the night or the day? Are there pockets inside? Are there places for your phone and wallet? Little things. Tiny details. Those little things that are designed to make a purse unique.
Those “little things” are what guys see in guns. And one of the best ways to understand this is to revisit your childhood and the ultimate female pastime in accessorizing: Barbie.
“TO BARBIE”—A VERB
But we’re not going to talk about Barbie as a noun as much as we are going to refer to her as a verb. This might be one of the simplest ways to share with the opposite sex how similar our differences truly are.
At some point, everyone has held, looked at or played with a Barbie doll. Whether you love them, hate them or are “agnostic,” Barbie serves a greater good: She is the ultimate example of human beings’ love of accessorizing; our fascination with what is novel and new.
“Barbie” might be thought of as a noun/thing to some, but the real part of speech that “Barbie” fits is a verb. “To Barbie” something is an action verb—one of those parts of speech you learned about in grade school but never quite cared to understand.
However, the reason you should care to understand what it means “to Barbie” something is that it’s the undiscovered link to getting women and men onto the same page when talking guns.
GUN BARBIE IS A GAME
Everyone had their favorite childhood games. Some played hide-and-seek, some liked playing video games, and others liked their Barbie dolls. Ladies, what you did with Barbie dolls is exactly what guys are doing with guns. However, the cool thing is that guns can do more than sit there and look pretty.
Guns serve a purpose, and maybe a Barbie’s true purpose is in the way we can use her to talk about things that men and women tend to miscommunicate about. Most girls had Barbie dolls. They enjoyed dressing them up and styling their hair. For some guys, guns are just like dolls—but manlier.
Of course, guns are tools, first and foremost, but if you must have a new blender, are you buying the cheap, $10 blender that just blends or the good one that can create smoothies and margarita ice? It’s just a tool, but you want to get the most out of it. You want to invest in a tool that lasts a lifetime, can do more than one single task, and has accessories and options.
When you need to convince your significant other to buy quality, you talk about purchases as investments. You pick the blender that does it all. Guns should be the same. While a blender or a vacuum cleaner will never be an heirloom, guns will!
How many pairs of shoes a woman needs is proportionate to the number of ARs any guy owns … right? And just as a girl would put a different outfit on a Barbie, a different scope, handguard, stock or optic on a gun are all ways to dress it up.
Back to this verb thing: Guns are about actions and purpose. They can be long-range guns, a truck gun, hunting gun, competition gun, etc. Guns are accessorized based on their use. It’s very utilitarian.
Guys: What you can take away from this is how to explain to your significant other just why you need the Costa Carry Comp or an SBR (short-barreled rifle) or even that AK you really want. Use this to find the common ground.
If you tell her you want it because you’ve always wanted it, maybe she says she’s always wanted a Coach purse, but she’s not spending the money on it. You’re going to get shut down.
Accessorizing guns isn’t about buying more toys. It’s about making sure each gun fits the person using it and the task it’s designed for. From mag pouches to magazine base pads, stocks and springs, “Barbie-ing up” something that fits the owner’s taste and task is integral to enjoying your firearms.
UNDERSTANDING THAT WOMEN AND MEN WANT “TO BARBIE” DIFFERENT THINGS IN LIFE IS A MAJOR COMPONENT OF INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS.
Instead, tell her why having a pistol with an integral comp holds value as a personal-protection gun (she wants you to be safe, right?). And that the hand-fit pistol from STI will retain its value over time, just like her Coach bag. Explain that an SBR and the required tax stamp are like getting a Dyson—nobody needs a British designer vacuum, but darn it if everyone shouldn’t have access to the best tools to do a job.
Explain that an SBR with a silencer is for her, too, because you’re thinking about a light, easy-to-maneuver, quiet gun she can use easily when she wants to have fun at the range—or, heaven forbid, she has to use it to protect herself. Another tactic is to explain that you want the gun to teach the kids.
When my youngest was 11 years old, he ran my 14.5-inch, pinned, comp Adams Arms rifle for competition. He did so like a boss, because it was manageable for his small stature.
I LIKE THE LOOK OF IT!
Women buy a lot of things men can’t stand. For instance, skinny jeans are not meant for everyone, but they’re stylish, so a lot of people buy them. The same goes for a foregrip on an AR. It is awkward and ugly, but someone likes the look of it.
The point is that we live in world with lots of choices, and choosing “to Barbie” an item into something we like the look of is our own prerogative. Understanding that women and men want to Barbie different things in life is a major component of interpersonal relationships. Just as men want to Barbie-up something in the house, on the car or on their guns, your right to accessorize is only limited by your imagination.
BARBIE AND WORLD PEACE
What if there were a place where Barbie and GI Joe could meet and see eye to eye on things in order to end the war between the sexes and end the misconnection? If there were a happy place where opposing world views of fashion and function meet, where looks meet utility or style meets deliverable performance, it would be guns.
If women could see what it is about guns that “clicks” with men and speaks to them (as a new pair of shoes does for themselves), and men could see just how a new pair of shoes makes women feel (just as a gun does for them), maybe we’d all look at the things each holds dear with a little less mystery and a little more understanding.
Guys wouldn’t hide their gun purchases from their wives, and women would know just what to equate their additional pair of shoes to: those four ARs that are “basically the same” but are really worlds apart and have a separate purpose.
Ladies: Just as guns are about action and purpose (hunting, truck gun, long range, competition, etc.), explain to your man that the boots for everyday wear are like an AK. And the expensive leather ones? Those are the precision rifle. They’re not cheap, and if you’re going to invest, buy the best.
THE BARBIE REVOLUTION
A gun isn’t an item you see Barbie rocking; it’s probably because most women grew up in a house in which guys did “guy things” and girls had their Barbies. But Barbie didn’t stay pinned into one corner—there were Skipper and Malibu Barbies, and Barbies had children and careers.
Don’t let your wife, daughter, girlfriend or mother be pinned into the category of an “observing female gunowner” who just takes what she’s handed. Don’t let them miss out on the feeling of putting together their very own gun to suit their preferences.
Tell your daughter that other kids can go to Build-a-Bear Workshops, but she’s going to build an AR. Tell your wife that other couples can pick out new furniture, but you’re getting her a custom pistol so she can shoot matches with you.
And ladies, just imagine guns as the purses and shoes that men don’t understand. Let them show you how they can “Barbie something up” for you to let you experience the pure joy of a new mount arriving for your optic or the elation of shooting an AR with a stock set up just for you. Your Barbie-ing could be as simple as new springs on a Glock 34 so the slide is easier to work or an oversized mag release to facilitate small hands. Maybe your duck-hunting husband buys that $500 Stoeger shotgun, cuts the stock off and puts a limb-saver pad on so you can shoot ducks with a gun that fits you.
But guys, use the things she knows to share what you love, whether that is plinking in the backyard or hunting coyotes in the dark. There’s something to be said for having skin in the game, and when you help your gal Barbie-up a gun, set it up just for her, and the work building it becomes part of the accomplishment.
Remember, you’re Barbie-ing more than the physical objects; you’re “accessorizing” your relationship. You’re adding some highlights and spending time to tweak the status quo with which most couples operate into one that’s got all the bells and whistles.
Author Becky Yackley competes in action shooting (3 Gun, USPSA, Bianchi and IPSC) with her husband and three sons. When she isn’t shooting matches or writing, she is busy with her camera. Becky is the founder of the 2A Heritage Junior shooting camps and works in social media for several firearms industry companies.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.