☆☆☆ "Appropriate & subvert the patriarchal semiotic hegemony of the hetero-normative dyad!" ☆☆☆

Saturday, November 28, 2015

"I'm not a Barbie Doll."

In the movie "Heartbreak Kid" (2009), Maggie is a hard-driving, hard-drinkng Publicist, and on the plane headed for a book signing promotion she remarks,

"Excuse me stewardess, may I please get a full-sized bottle? (Holding a single-serve, "airplane bottle.") I'm an alcoholic, not a Barbie Doll."

Barbie is a sex-role stereotype. Mattel, who manufactures and markets Barbie is working to bring the stereotype into the 21st Century. This revamp of Barbie during the 70's, 80's into "Career Barbie" was very much prompted by criticism from radical feminists -- and women generally. ,

"Women's Lib" was trotted out when Barbie decided she liked her hair curly. Ken liked it straight. Barbie decided on curls, asserting her "female autonomy" -- Never mind that curling one's hair is about conforming to gender role expectation about what is "beauty" and that women are expected to work at it -- to be Barbie Dolls for their men.

PBS radio just yesterday had a feature on Barbie, gender-roles, marketing. It seems Barbie is now being marketed to cis-boys. Mattel's marketing pitch is something in effect: "Barbie is about story telling. Boys tell stories too."

OK, we recall back in 1959 when Barbie was a new item from Mattel, and my sister got one for Christmas. Barbie was a new idea in dolls; Barbie had mammaries -- and as a 10 yr. old cis-M, heterosexual, we were curious.



Criticisms of Barbie are often centred around concerns that children consider Barbie a role model and will attempt to emulate her. One of the most common criticisms of Barbie is that she promotes an unrealistic idea of body image for a young woman, leading to a risk that girls who attempt to emulate her will become anorexic.[citation needed] A standard Barbie doll is 11.5 inches tall, giving a height of 5 feet 9 inches at 1/6 scale. Barbie's vital statistics have been estimated at 36 inches (chest), 18 inches (waist) and 33 inches (hips). According to research by the University Central Hospital in Helsinki, Finland, she would lack the 17 to 22 percent body fat required for a woman to menstruate.[18] In 1963, the outfit "Barbie Baby-Sits" came with a book entitled How to Lose Weight which advised: "Don't eat!."[19] The same book was included in another ensemble called "Slumber Party" in 1965 along with a pink bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs.,[19] which would be around 35 lbs. underweight for a woman 5 feet 9 inches tall.[20] Mattel said that the waist of the Barbie doll was made small because the waistbands of her clothes, along with their seams, snaps, and zippers, added bulk to her figure.[21] In 1997, Barbie's body mold was redesigned and given a wider waist, with Mattel saying that this would make the doll better suited to contemporary fashion designs.

And here we are -- 5'9", 36" 18" 33" and 110 lbs. -- 35 lbs underweight, anorexic.

Let us concede, confess . . . having been raised around women's fashion, we find anorexic models attractive. But then we ran marathons, raced bicycles and thin/athletic is an aesthetic ideal for us. Fashion photographers -- let us add -- understand that "the camera adds ten pounds." We should note that we worked as a studio photographer, and very much enjoyed the work we produced with waifs as models.

The fashion industry annual sales in the US was pegged at $361 billion  in 2013. That's a great deal of gender-role stereotyping. Let us note here, and probably draw some flames for it, we're a bit disconcerted when we read descriptions regarding the extent to which cis-M go to appear "en femme." And we ask ourselves, "Are you presenting gender or building a Barbie Doll?"

My cis-F colleagues, associates, friends mostly don't look like Barbie Dolls. They don't act like Barbie for the most part. Of course there are exceptions. Gender diversity and presentation is infinitely variable. Mostly we ask ourselves, "What are we presenting in gender?"

Radical feminists among us (Janice Raymond, "Transsexual Empire" 1979) assert, in essence that trans-women (MtF) are not women  because they don't have female chromosomes (XX), don't experience menses, childbearing, menopause, etc. Gloria Steinem asserts, "Trans women are not women; they have never dealt with a smelly vagina." At bottom the argument being that cis-M who transition do not share the fundamental Weltanschauung that is the ontological essence of being female., Instead, these MtF "men" aspire to the gender-stereotype of the Barbie Doll -- a fundamentally patriarchal, hegemonic oppression derived from what the patriarchy expects from cis-women.

Transition, they argue, is about constructing  Barbie Dolls, assuming a "disguise" of sorts. Judith Butler, Ph.D. UC Berkeley, Dept. Gender Theory, notes that "drag" is an exaggeration of the feminine stereotype. These stereotypes are often presented as "stock figures" -- the "Upstairs Maid" comes to mind. Drag is not intended, for the most part, to "pass" as cis-F, but rather as a parody of stereotypical gender-role expression.

"Cross-dressing" -- seems to parrot stereotypes, only rather than presenting a gender parody, cross-dressing seems more about fetish and objectification of a sexual target. It's sublimation on the one hand, and synecdoche "a figure wherein a part represents the whole" . . . or to paraphrase with license, "The clothes make the woman,"

We're not Barbie. We're not Ken. Mostly we're somewhere in between. We're not buying into the strict stereotype of the cis-M, and we are not female, (despite our fondest wishes). We can disguise ourselves as female, but it's a costume, like on Halloween.

Hawai'ian culture recognizes the "Mahu" -- having the "spirit" of both "kane" (cis-M) and "wahinee" (cis-F). "Mahu" gets bastardized in the culture to denote transvestites, drag queens, but the native Hawai'ian tradition views the Mahu as "two spirit" and the keeper of the culture, tradition (because capable of function in both kane and wahinee roles.) Native speakers often refer to Mahu variously as "kane/wahinee" "wahinee/kane." Not much concern about gender presentation, mahu are who they are, present who they present. No disguises, no Barbie.

The model currently working for us looks like this:

cis-F 5 4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4 5 cis-M

We present most days, somewhere in the 1 to 3 range on the right. Not macho, not Barbie.

Presentation is fluid, poetical.  Some days it's trucks and chainsaws -- with my cis-Sisters. Some days it's making jewelry, shopping for lingerie . . . which most of my cis-Sisters refuse to wear. LMAO

We're not Barbie . . .  Stewardess? 


No comments:

Post a Comment