Barbie and Representation

Mattel recently revealed what they’re calling “The Evolution of Barbie”. It includes three new body types (along with new hair and eye colors, and funky new hairstyles) that will sell along side the original doll. These body types are curvy, petite, and tall.

I love Barbie. I had about 30 of them when I was little. Most of them were the white, blue eyed, blonde Barbie. I had a few brunettes, one Teresa (she was the Hispanic Barbie), and the Puerto Rican Barbie which was part of the Dolls of the World collection.

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(image is of two dolls. Both dolls are brunettes. The doll on the left is the Happy Birthday Barbie doll. She is wearing a pink and white ball gown with balloons and ribbons print. She has a party hat on her head. The doll on the right is wearing a pink and white dress. She has a pink flower in her hair. She is the Puerto Rican doll.)

When I was little, I hated my big nose and my huge curly hair. White skin was prized and I was always told it was a good thing I wasn’t darker. It wasn’t until recently that I started appreciating my natural hair. My mother was constantly buying hair straightening cream “para matar el rizo” (kill the curl).
I always liked the brunette and darker skin dolls best but I was always given white Barbie. So I would take my mother’s brown eye shadows, crush it and mix it with water and dunk my blonde Barbies hair in. It lasted until I decided to wash my dolls.

I got the message that my natural hair wasn’t beautiful. I was always told I was too fat. I would hear people say girls looked like a Barbie if they were thin, white and pretty. I would never be a Barbie. But I could pretend. My Barbies had fantastic adventures. They were singers, cops, teachers, spies, feminist bad asses who didn’t need Ken. Although that was mostly because I only had one Ken. So that Ken played different characters, while my Barbies had different names and personalities, I still remember most of their names.

My Barbies provided me an escape from my unhappy childhood.

It’s a little tough being a feminist and a huge Barbie fan. For a while I thought I was a bad feminist for loving Barbie. I didn’t realize I could appreciate Barbie but also critique her shortcomings. I was also hesitant to apply any critical thought to Barbie because I was worried it would tarnish my childhood memories of her.

Once I had a daughter, I realized I needed to look at Barbie (and all other media directed towards her) critically. My daughter doesn’t look like Barbie, and she never will. That is ok. That’s what I need to hear when I was little. Barbie was an unrealistic standard. I didn’t need to look like her to have worth and be loved.
Barbie didn’t make me have self-esteem issues. It was the adults around me with fat-phobia, anti-blackness and colorism who caused my self-esteem problems.
My daughter knows that her curls are beautiful. That her light skin doesn’t make her any better than someone darker.

Barbie has been pretty good in showing racial diversity. I always could say Teresa was “for me” but never “she looks like me” because Teresa was thin.

Having a fashion doll who’s curvy is a huge deal. Not only will chubby girls finally see themselves in a doll, but they’re also getting the message that they too can be fashion forward and fun.

Curvy Barbie is not without her problems. She could be bigger. Her figure is the “acceptable fat”; an hourglass shape. That’s a problem plus-size modeling and the body positivity movement have as well. But, I’m glad that Curvy Barbie is here. It’s a step in the right direction. Curvy Barbie is the doll I wished would have existed when I was little. Needless to say, my inner child is excited for this.

I’ve posted a review of Curvy and Tall Barbie! Click on links to read them!

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I'm not beautiful and that is OK.

I’ve started therapy at a new clinic. My therapist is a WOC who identifies as a feminist so she gets points for that. We’ve talked about growing as girl children in machista families. She understands where I’m coming from with certain things.

However, every time I mention the word ugly she stops to ask if I really think I’m ugly.

No, I don’t. By conventional standards, I am ugly and not very feminine looking. I’m fat, I have stretch marks and cellulite. I have jiggly and flabby skin. I have scars from self injury. I’m tall. I have short hair dyed an unnatural color. I have piercings and I’m hairy.

But I really don’t give a fuck if I’m ugly or not. Not anymore.
When I was little all I heard from my family was how fat and ugly I was. So, as I got older and the other girls were trying on make up and exploring their femininity I decided that those things were vain and frivolous. They were weak and I wouldn’t be.

I had internalized the misogyny hurled at me all my life. I would be one of the guys, not like those other silly girls. I shunned anything that could be called feminine while simultaneously adhered to other rigid gender norms like shaving. And why did I shave? Because hairy women are “ugly”. Men don’t like hairy women. So while I shunned certain aspects of femininity to protect myself I also chose to follow some to also protect myself. I was a mess. A chill girl mess.

As I’ve matured into my feminism, I’ve learned that femininity isn’t weakness. Once I learned to let go of that internalized misogyny, I realized femininity is powerful. I wear make up and dresses now because it makes me feel good about myself. It makes me feel pretty. Not pretty for other people. Pretty for me. I don’t shave because it’s too much hassle and I was only doing it for other people.

I’m going to have to explain that being ugly isn’t the worst thing. I’ll have to explain what I mean when I use the word ugly. I’ll have to spend part of my therapy session explaining 101 feminism/social justice stuff. And that’s exhausting. My thinking I’m “ugly” isn’t more important than treating my PTSD.

On a typical summer day, you’ll find me wearing a pretty dress, make up on my face all while my pits and legs are hairy. I’m not beautiful by conventional standards and that’s OK. I never will fit into the white ideal and I don’t want to. I’m beautiful for me.

Birthday

Growing up I had my whole life planned out. I saw how miserable the women in my family were as wives so I decided I would be a Career Woman and never marry. Then I decided I would marry and have children after getting a Ph.D. I’d live fabulously ever after in a mansion with two daughters and one son and some movie star husband. I had the children’s names picked out. I had my wedding planned down to the color of the table cloths. All this would happen by the time I was 30. All of this planning and I was only about seven.

Obviously most of that was a child’s fantasy. As I got older I realized I didn’t want children or marriage after all. But I still wanted to go to college. Growing up that’s how I heard adults measure their child’s success; with whether they had a degree or not. I felt neglected and lonely as a kid so I thought this would be the perfect way to finally get some validation.

I’ve dealt with, and in some cases I’m still dealing with, mental illness, extreme poverty, homelessness, single motherhood and domestic violence. All things which prevented me from going to school. I did complete two semesters but the system being what it is, I had to decide between school or work at the time since the shelter I was in preferred I was working. Currently, I’m not in the right place mentally for school.

As I get older, I’m realizing I don’t need a degree to matter. While I would like to go back to school, I’m not as upset with myself as I used to be. I do have days where I think I am huge failure but most days I think considering the circumstances I am alright.

So I don’t have a huge mansion, but I did finally leave the shelter and have my own apartment.

I don’t have a husband. Thank misandry for that!

I have one child and she is just about the greatest kid alive.

I’m not living a fabulous life but most days it isn’t half bad. I have a loving support network of friends. I have this blog, that while it may not be widely known, some people seem to like. I have my mom who’s extremely patient and understanding. We’ve had many ups and owns but I can count on her.

Through all the shit I’ve gone through, I’ve come out more compassionate, caring and stronger. Which isn’t to say that those things were blessings. If I had to choose character over having an easier life, I’d choose easier life every time. But I have to deal with what I got. Life and lemons and what not, right?

No, my life isn’t perfect and these last few sentences aren’t meant to erase the bullshit I deal with daily; a racist, sexist, classist, ableist system, mental illness, poverty. I wish I was financially stable, I wish I wasn’t disabled. I wish my bodily autonomy had been respected. I wish for a complete system overhaul.

In the meantime, all things considered, I am glad I’m the person I am.

"You matter"

You always see posts asking you what you would say to your child self. What advice would you give to teenage you? I usually reply with a joke but I’ve been thinking what would I have needed when I was a child that could have prevented at least some of the hurt I’ve gone through.

I needed someone to tell me I mattered. Someone to tell me my value didn’t lie in my appearance or intelligence. Someone to stand up for me when certain family members made fun of my weight or art projects. I needed someone to nurture my creativity and curiosity.

I needed someone to tell me morality had nothing to do with food. I needed someone to validate me when I protested my brothers being fed more than me or being let off the hook for behavior that would have gotten me in trouble.

I needed someone to introduce me to the words sexist and feminism. I needed someone who didn’t make fun of my interests.

I needed someone to tell me being pretty wasn’t a goal.

I needed to know someone cared about me.

To my teenaged self,

Life is pretty rough. It’ll get rougher. Actually, just when you think it can’t get any worse, it will. And surprisingly, you’ll always manage to get through it. But you don’t have to do it alone. Let people help you, ask for help. You’re strong, yes. But you aren’t Wonder Woman. Trusting people is hard. But you manage to learn how to tell who’s trust worthy and not. Trust your gut more.
No is a complete sentence.
Feed yourself when you’re hungry.
Your thoughts and opinions matter.
You aren’t defined by your mental illness.
You’ll be wrong sometimes but that doesn’t change that you are a person with worth.
Be the geekiest geek who ever geeked. The nerdiest nerd who ever nerded. In a few years all the stuff you were made fun of for liking will be cool. Then you can have smug superiority over all those poser losers.
Don’t ever lose your ability to laugh.
Have I mentioned trust your gut more? Because you should.
Embrace your feminism more.
For fucks sake, stop being such a chill girl.
Misandry
Finally, no is a complete sentence and trust your instincts. They’re good instincts and so are you.