Wednesday, April 18, 2007

the tide is high, and we're moving on

My recollection of playing with Barbie was that I tried to make her look like Debra Harry from Blondie. I got in trouble for cutting her hair into a very cool punk rock shag and drawing on fancy eyeliner with a blue ballpoint pen. My mom didn't have a lot of money to spare on toys, so I was stuck with my Blondie Barbie until I got too old to play with her, but that was okay. I still like Blondie. But that's beside the point...

Like the majority of women, I occasionally feel victimized by the media's fascist beauty standards. My appreciation for Denise Duhamel's book stems from her portrayal of Barbie as a fellow victim, not the victimizer. It has become de rigueur for women, even feminist women, to lambaste thin women for simply being skinny, when they are actually under the same or similar pressures as the rest of us. Who hasn't heard (or even said), “I HATE her! She's so thin!” Perhaps she was just born that way and is filled with other insecurities. Maybe she doesn't like her slender frame and longs to be curvier. Maybe her thinness is the result of an eating disorder or obsessive exercising. Thin women are not the enemy. Judging them for their size makes it okay for men or society to judge women by their size. Fighting against other women detracts focus from the real problem.

I think it is important for women to view other women as comrades in arms instead of enemies, and by portraying the ever-perfect Barbie as a victim of impossibly idealistic beauty standards, Duhamel draws appropriate attention to the source of the victimization, which includes the media and the fashion industry, and encourages us all (no matter the size) to work together to change those standards.

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