Thursday, July 28, 2011

Barbie for Little Girls

Lily embodies the stereotypical image of a four year old girl: her favorite color is pink, she likes wearing dresses, and is in love with her Barbie dolls. Barbie has become an influential role model for young girls of today. But is the popular doll brand sending the right message? Young girls are incredibly malleable and easily swayed through peer pressure and what’s popular. The doll has a very specific and idealistic image which not understood as unrealistic by its young consumers. Barbie has created an incredibly nonviable body image for girls like Lily, who strive to be just like their favorite toy.

When Barbie is mentioned, what image pops in your head? The iconic image of Barbie is a blonde haired, blue eyed, caucasian doll with a perfect body. Barbie dolls have slight variance in image. Sure, there are a few brunette and African American dolls, but the majority of Barbie products are generic. The existence of a redhead Barbie doll is extremely rare if not extinct. “Their image of the ideal girl is evidenced by the cover models: white, usually blonde, and invariably skinny.” (Higginbotham, 94) Girls like Lily are bombarded with imagery of perfect blonde hair that is unrealistic in itself. To get that perfect shade of blonde most (if not all) girls would have to alter their hair color with chemicals and bleach. Now why would a children’s toy be encouraging girls to idealize a trait that cannot be achieved naturally? It seems as if the company is creating this unrealistic image to mirror what magazines pose as the ideal body for teenagers and women. Almost as a precursor to magazines and models, Barbie is the ultimate influence in unrealistic body images.

Not only does Barbie set unrealistic expectations about body image, but also about race ratios. The caucasian and blonde Barbie is significantly more advertised and desirable than any other ethnic Barbies. “Granted, there is that one light-skinned black girl in every fashion layout. But she’s just as thin as the white girl standing next to her,” (Higginbotham, 95) Ethnic girls cannot relate to Barbie visually, so it is almost an exclusive club of those who can be like the doll. When going to the Barbie website, there overwhelming ratio of caucasian to African American dolls is immediately apparent. There few black Barbie dolls that do exist, are either stereotypically African American, with “ghetto” names such as “Trichelle”, or so light skinned that one can’t even recognize the difference in ethnicity. (Image 1). Barbie does not nurture the diverse races not only of America, but the entire world.

Also, Barbie is very gendered in that she is almost never depicted as a tomboy or is portrayed participating in any activity that is masculine. Regarding the gaping difference between masculine activities and feminine activities, Messner states: “For the boys in this study, it became "natural" to equate masculinity with competition, physical strength and skills. Girls simply did not (could not, it was believed) participate in these activities.”(Messner, 128) Barbie seems to back this belief, that girls cannot do what boys do. Even the “Barbie Camper”(Image 2) is incredibly feminine. The RV is gaudy and covered in pink and purple. The set comes with a portable pool, a hammock, an indoor toilet, a television, and a kitchen. Even when camping, Barbie still needs all the comforts and amenities of a home because she is a girl and cannot “rough it” like most boys can. This effectively discourages little girls from straying from the stereotype of a girly girl. If Barbie doesn’t ride motorcycles or play in the mud, little girls can’t either. Girls are expected to follow in the footsteps of Barbie, a stereotype almost nobody can fit into.

The way girls play with Barbie dolls involves dressing the doll up in fancy clothes and changing her hairstyle, as mentioned in the “Barbie Girl” song by Aqua. The toy advocates dressing up to impress boys, setting young girls up for the brainwashing from teen magazines and television shows in the future. Higginbotham explains the messages of teen magazines: “In each of these magazines, cover lines offer the girls ‘Model hair: how to get it,’ ‘Boy-magnet beauty,’ ‘Your looks: what they say about you,’” (Higginbotham, 94) which is strikingly similar to the image Barbie conveys. Barbie is always wearing makeup and high heels. She is always dressed in the most current fashions and never seems to be unpopular, therefore little girls want to follow her lead. By learning to change how they look to gain popularity at a young age, girls have no qualms about setting aside their self-esteem for a makeover at any age. Barbie dolls encourage girls to change how they look for others because beauty comes from the outside not the inside.

Little girls are being influenced by Barbie’s morals and the doll is becoming more and more popular every day. The doll positively reinforces a self image that is unattainable by most girls. Also, there is very little variety in the the doll’s image regarding race; this excludes girls who are ethnic and cannot find Barbie to be a plausible role model. Barbie stereotypes what acceptable activities for girls are, such as playing with hair, cooking, horseback-riding, etc. Masculine activities are disregarded a majority of the time, and when they are addressed, they are feminized with pink and other girly traits. Finally, the act of playing with Barbies enforces the idea that girls are to manipulate their appearance for others. Barbie is a very gendered toy and has the ability to subliminally inspire young girls to fit into the gender role.

Images



(Image 1)


(Image 2)



Resources
Aqua. Barbie Girl. Aqua. Universal Music, 1997.

Higginbotham, Anastasia. "Teen Mags: How to Get a Guy, Drop 20 Pounds, and Lose Your Self-  Esteem." Learning Gender. Print.

Mattel. BARBIE® SISTERS GO CAMPING!™ Camper. Digital image. Mattel Shop. Web. .

Mattel. S.I.S.™ SO IN STYLE™ 2 SHOP™ TRICHELLE™ & CHANDRA™ Dolls. Digital image. Mattel Shop. Web. .

Messner, Michael A. "Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities." Gender Socialization. Print.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blog Assignment 1


Throughout their adolescence, teenagers have been caught in a flood of brainwashing through television shows that have a common theme. An example of such a show is Nickelodeon's hit teenage drama Degrassi: The Next Generation. This television show concentrates all of the excitement and emotions of four years of high school into a 30 minute segment that is aired once a week. One of the main focuses of Degrassi is the social identity of the teenage girl, and how she is portrayed in high school. This is exemplified in the episode "Rock This Town." Overall, the "Rock This Town" episode of the hit series Degrassi enforces the already existing stereotype of the average teenage girl to be one who is overly emotional, shallow, lacking self-sufficiency, and socially inferior.


Hegemony is defined as: “the power or dominance that one social group holds over others” and “a method for gaining and maintaining power.” (Lull, 61) Women are usually portrayed to be inferior and frail, this hegemonic ideal is clearly apparent  in “Rock This Town”. At the start of the episode, one of the girls, Manny notices her friend Liberty is dispirited. Analytically, one can assume this reaction could be to a number of situations; for example, a failed exam or problems at home. However, Manny assumes it is because Liberty lacks the stereotypical perfect boyfriend in her life. This enforces the idea that women are nothing without a male counterpart in their life; that socially, its acceptable and expected that women are to be depressed without such a vital component of their social life. The gender dominance is clear in this situation, and the teenage society in the television show encourages the hegemony between men and women.


Liberty’s depression can realistically be attributed to her love life, regardless of Manny’s assumption. The fact is, that Liberty was recently dumped by her boyfriend, and still has not acclimated to the social dynamic that being single creates. Liberty embodies the character trope of the “Weeper who wonders, when she’s dumped, ‘What’s so wrong with me that someone cannot love me?’” (Pozner, 98) Manny’s instinctual solution to Liberty’s depression is to prove to her that she can gain male attraction. Note this is a physical attraction and not a deeper meaningful attraction followed by love. The relationships between males and females in this television show are stereotypically 

So far, Liberty has been portrayed in this one specific episode as weepy and frail, specifically because she is lacking a relationship to keep her strong. Manny then decides that Liberty needs a makeover to win over Damien, the boy Manny has picked out for her friend. This situation insinuates that Liberty is not naturally beautiful enough to ensnare herself a male suitor, and that Manny must adorn her friend with makeup and a new dress to catch the eye of a guy who is clearly not interested in Liberty. This enforces the idea that women must change themselves to appeal to men, and then be put on a pedestal to look pretty and be perfect. The matchup between Liberty and the male suitor is based solely on appearance, there is no mention of love or chemistry between the two. This brings up the fact that men necessarily do not need to have feelings for the girl they are pursuing or pursued by. 
To further enforce the stereotype that chemistry is not necessary in a budding relationship, Damien clearly is attracted to Manny rather than Liberty. This has no relevance, however, in the setup between Liberty and Damien, and does not phase Manny at all. Liberty feels the lack of spark and lets herself be roped into the never-ending cycle of love hate between her and her ex. Now this is a familiar trend viewed in similar teenage dramas. However, the counter-hegemonic idea is that her ex-boyfriend prefers the comfort of his past relationship to the excitement and spontaneity of his current courtship. This goes against the concept this episode has been fueling so far, that women have to be beautiful and dressed to the nines to gain male attention. However, this occurrence proves that personality can be just as sexy as a low cut dress.  This introduces a bit of confusion for the identity of women in the television show, but mirrors society in general. 


In conclusion, this episode has revealed that regardless of the idealized hegemony between males and females, that society does not necessarily follow the norms. Single women are viewed as fragile and decrepit, and are encouraged to force about any sort of relationship, regardless of the consequences. But towards the end of the episode, in a sort of twist for drama, the characters counter the clich├ęd concept of gender roles and character tropes and act more realistically. 




Sources
Dines, Gail, Jean McMahon Humez, and James Lull. Gender, Race, and Class in Media: a Text-reader.     Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. Print.


Pozner, Jennifer L. "The Unreal World." Learning Gender. By Amy Kesselman, Lily D. McNair, and Nancy Schniedewind. 4th ed. McGraw-Hill, 2006. 96-99. Print.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Link Hunt!

Gender Roles and Sexism in Gaming: The Gamers’ Perspective
June 29, 2011
http://beertainment.tv/2011/06/29/gender-roles-and-sexism-in-gaming-the-gamers-perspective/
Dain Melendez
Beertainment

Sporting Analysis
December 5, 2010
http://durhamwonderland.blogspot.com/2010/12/sporting-analysis.html
KC Johnson
Durham - In - Wonderland

Secret Feminism of Our Youth: Degrassi
July 19, 2010
http://feministcampus.blogspot.com/2010/07/secret-feminism-of-our-youth-degrassi_19.html
Allison T
Choices Campus Blog

Gender Roles in Disney
April 19, 2011
http://rhalabi.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/gender-roles-in-disney/
Rayan Halabi
Analytical Reading and Writing Blog

Chavs, Reality TV and Class Prejudice
June 13, 2011
http://corabuhlert.com/2011/06/13/chavs-reality-tv-and-class-prejudice/
Cora Buhlert
Cora Buhlert