Barbie!

From CNN, the origin of Barbie, which I did not know before:

The now-legendary doll was conceived by Ruth Handler, a daughter of Polish immigrants, said Gerber, author of the newly published “Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her.” She and her husband, Elliott, owned Mattel until a scandal involving accusations of cooked books drove them out in 1975, Gerber said.

Handler, who died in 2002, used to watch her own daughter, Barbara, play with paper dolls. Then, on a trip to Europe, Barbara became fascinated with a buxom doll that Gerber said was based on a female German cartoon character, named Lilli, who used sex to get what she wanted.

“My guess is she didn’t know what it was when she bought it,” because at that point, four years after the Lilli doll’s release, it had landed in European toy stores, the author explained. Handler took the doll back to the states and insisted Mattel designers get to work.

“Who would have thought,” Gerber said. Barbie was thought up by a woman and modeled on a cartoon character “who was essentially a prostitute.”

INDEED. WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT. It’s not like you can find any hints of her origin by, say, looking at her!

Do these bodies look like they were designed for anything other than Ultimate Sexiness? No, I didn't think so, either.

Do these bodies look like they were designed for anything other than The Sex? No, I didn’t think so, either.

I also think it’s interesting that the quote isn’t just, “who would have thought Barbie was modeled on a prostitute?” but also “who would have thought Barbie was thought up by a women?” It seems like a very revealing rhetorical question, expecially considering the cultural narrative that’s all about how “Barbie is totes not sexist, we swear! Where do you get these crazy ideas?! She’s practically feminist!!” It’s as if even the people who make those arguments understand they they’re flawed, that there’s something not-quite-right about the perpetuation of the Barbie ideal, and that therefore it’s incongruous for it to be created by a woman.

Well, actually, it’s not incongruous at all– women can be pretty darn good at perpetuating the patriarchy, too. It’s one of the few “equal rights” we have.

So, hooray for Barbie! Who would have thought?

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7 Responses to Barbie!

  1. Crowfoot says:

    Guh. Who would have thought. *rolls eyes*

    Okay the bar has gotten really low here: I’m pleasantly surprised that the 00s version is a shape that actually looks possible for a woman to have. The older one? Could never exist.

    Wasn’t there something recently that pointed out that there was a 1 in 8 chance that a man might look like Ken but a 1 in 1000 chance that a woman might look like Barbie? Was that Shakesville?

  2. eloriane says:

    I was actually under the impression that it was impossible for a woman to survive looking like Barbie. Her feet were too small, her waist too narrow to support her torso… she couldn’t stand without dying. But that might’ve been about the original Barbie– the new Barbie may actually be anatomically possible, if vanishingly rare.

    • Crowfoot says:

      yeah I think so – that was what I was trying to say anyways, through my work-distracted brain, that the original Barbie is a physical impossibility. Also hence the low bar comment. Certainly vanishingly rare is an improvement on impossible! er, hooray?

  3. dirtyrose says:

    I must agree with Crowfoot. However, despite my dislike for Barbie’s image, I think one has to admit that in the grand scheme of things, while these dolls I’m about to mention are both pretty reprehensible concepts of what a woman or a teen should be, if my child had to play with one of them, I would rather it be Barbie than a Bratz doll. Hands down.

    • Crowfoot says:

      oh I completely agree! I mean, I see how the Bratz dolls are meant to be stylized, but jeez, do they have to be so… I Was A Teenage Prostitute?? Bleh. At least Barbie was an astronaut at one point.

  4. dirtyrose says:

    Exactly! The only career move a Bratz girl could make in that regard would be… …I don’t know, starring in 2009: A Spandex Odyssey? 😉

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