Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Can Be Anything

According to Wikipedia, Barbie has had over 125 careers since her plastic birth in 1959. I once loved Barbies, and especially enjoyed my gymnastics and ballerina Barbies, because, quite frankly, they were much more talented in those areas than I was. So, her is a salute to Barbie's careers because beauty is nothing without brains (though I'm not sure Mattel would agree).

1. Sign Language Teacher 

First off, hats off to Mattel for recognizing that there are Deaf children in the world who want to see themselves reflected in toys. However, everyone now please put your hats back on. That's a cool poster you've got there, Ms. Barbie, depicting twelve different signs. Can you show me with your hands? Oh, what's that you say? Your fingers are glued together? That must make it difficult to be a teacher of American Sign Language. One might note that Barbie's right hand is positioned in the "I Love You" sign, but it cannot deviate. Also, a miniskirt and bobby socks? Really?

2. Canadian Mountie Barbie

I wish this were a joke or at the very least a satire. But no. Although you can't in the picture, Barbie is sporting sexy leather boots with heels completely inappropriate for patrolling Canada. And, seriously, the one god damned time she actually needs a horse she doesn't have one? What's that about? 

3. Architect Barbie 

"Hey, Barbie! Where are you headed with that enormous thermos and tiny tool kit?" 

"Oh, just off to build some houses!" 

Apparently Barbies was present on the day she learned about hydration, but missed the rest of the units on actual architecture. I see she's got a hard hat, but I don't think it's going to fit over her stylish side ponytail. Also, I think she's going to have a difficult time navigating a construction site in those shoes. Maybe the hard hat or the tiny tool kit or the comically large thermos will break her fall?

4. UNICEF Barbie

I'm not entirely sure this counts as a career, but Mattel thinks it does so I'll go with it. UNICEF Barbie, I think, has never been to a job judging by her outfit, and clearly doesn't understand that sleeves are never appropriate for an evening gown and an evening gown is never appropriate for work... unless you're hiding pennies for UNICEF under it! But she's not. 

5. Surgeon Barbie 

Well, thankfully she left her heels at home, but apparently she left her pants there, too. It doesn't bode well when your alleged surgeon doesn't remember his/her pants. Also, I can pretty well ascertain that she didn't do too well in medical school if she thinks she can operate using a stethoscope and a towel. I would hope her operating room has a heart monitor and that her support staff would bring any necessary linens. Additionally, I'm pretty sure her hair needs to be up in that hairnet not hanging loosely around waiting to drop into an open body when she opens them up with her...nails? 

6. Astronaut Barbie

How Barbie got to space is anyone's guess, especially considering she's apparently removed the computer from the space ship. I'm not sure what's in that tiny little box, but I hope it's tools and not a PBJ. Kudos to her for remembering her helmet, but I think she's still going to have a difficult time negotiating heels in zero-gravity in that faux-satin Victorian riding suit. Plus, when she steps off the space craft, all the capillaries in her hand are going to burst. 

7. Nascar Driver Barbie 

...and once again, she forgot her pants. Seriously, this is a lady who's had over two careers per year, if we're doing math, and she hasn't figured out that some jobs require pants yet? Also, apparently with this career she missed the safety lectures, too, because she is sans helmet and riding gloves. Methinks she will not make it through a crash! Luckily, though, she did remember to bring her flag - rah! rah! - and her sunglasses. 

8. Firefighter Barbie 

Hat: check. Belt: check. Mask: check. Flashlight: check. Coat/shirt (can't decide what to call it): check. Extinguisher: check. Jeans (forgot my actual firefighting pants at home): check. Hooks: check. Phone: check. Boots: check. Ax: check. Pup: check. Bucket (for splashing bucketfuls of water onto burning buildings): check. Backgammon board: check. Because nothing says firefighter like a backgammon game.

9. Dr. Barbie 

While it's true she is a doctor, I'm a bit miffed that Mattel couldn't define her career further. If their true intent is to show young girls that women can do or be anything (and I'm not fully sure that is their message), calling her "Pediatric Doctor Barbie" or "OBGYN Barbie" might have been more in line with their goal. Here, Barbie shows us how to hold a baby - just kinda grab on and balance it because newborns can support themselves just fine - and a first aid kit at the same time all the while wearing a stethoscope. Mattel is privy to the knowledge that multitasking is a highly sought after skill by employers.

10. Veterinarian Barbie 

Worst. Vet. Ever. I think that pretty much sums it up. Apparently Barbie was too busy dangling kittens from archaic basket scales to pay attention in medical school. Apparently a check-up at Barbie's Vet Clinic consists of getting your cat weighed, put in a basket where it's photo is taken, it's given a shot, and offered some medicine, then pushed down a slide into a bucket of water. This ends well. But she's got her trusty stethoscope. 

11. Yoga Teacher Barbie

Finally! A career that Barbie is suited for. While real-life yoga teachers need to be zen and practiced in the art of chakras and setu bandassanas, Barbie has a trump card here: flexibility. She can literally spin her arms in a full windmill without bending her elbow or having to move her arm away from her body. She can also lift both her legs above her head - at the same time. Someone ought to warn her about that tiny chihuahua about to lunge at her crotch, though. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

You Wanna Hug Me? What Rhymes With Hug Me?

And they're, like, it's better than yours. 
A friend of mine recently sent me a link to an article regarding Robin Thicke's hit single, "Blurred Lines" asking what I thought of it. You can read the full article here, but here's a summary for those who don't feel like reading the entirety. This article contrasts the initial feminist interpretation of the song and suggests that the feminist parody of the music video is actually more offensive than backwards than the original song and video, which this particular author finds at least somewhat progressive.

For those of you who haven't heard the song or watched the video (and, might I add, I need to loofa my eyes after that video), it is essentially four or five women strutting around topless while Robin Thicke and two cronies sing about/to them, and intermittently we see a message on the wall that "Robin Thicke has has a big dick." Oh, the cleverness of you. Perhaps the most problematic part of the whole video for me is a girl on her hands and knees, booty-tooching like crazy with a miniature stop sign posted on her butt. You don't have to read too far between the lines there.

Anyway, let's start at the very beginning - that's a very good place to start. The first time I heard the song I enjoyed it. It's got a good beat, it's catchy. The first time I saw the video, well, suffice to say I was unimpressed. Firstly, as I've already explained, it's just a handful of half naked women walking around, so their only allure is that they're conventionally beautiful and half naked - uh, congratulations? - and I think, for the purposes of this video, nobody was really looking at their faces anyway. I didn't have any sort of feminist meltdown or strong reaction to it, but I did (do, really) tend to think that things like that aren't empowering or progressive, but I will get to that later. After I read the article, I started to read more articles and I watched the feminist parody of the video, which was pretty shaming and made me think that, although we'd definitely seen the same video, we might have heard different songs. Then I watched the original video again. It was then I realized that I've heard more or less the same thing at every single bar ever. It's a pick up song, and Thicke actually uses some relatively empowering language like, "You're far from plastic" and "That man is not your maker" and "Just let me liberate you." But here's the feminist punch in the groin: I didn't need you to give me that power. It is mine implicitly.

Which brings me to my next point: feminism. It took me a long time to identify as a feminist. For many, many years, my vision of feminism was a bunch of Neanderthal women who didn't shave, convening around a cauldron, conspiring to rid the world of men while they cooked one for dinner. But then somebody told me that was stupid. And he was a white man in an average to above average socioeconomic bracket, so of course I had to believe him. Feminism is about choice and the ability and freedom to make that choice. I can choose to shave my legs and wear makeup, and other women can choose otherwise. I can choose to flirt with you all night and then not go home with you, and you can be annoyed or angry, but it is my body, my life, my right. But you don't have to have a college degree to see the disparity apparent between the sexes. It is truly a man's world, and, in my opinion, Thicke's video is a prime example of that.

There is an argument among the feminist movement as to whether nudity, sex, porn, and other related things widely available to the public can be feminist and empowering. I really struggle with this concept, because I see a little of both sides, but can't fully grasp either. On the one hand, throughout history, sex has been truly a masculine activity. Women were married off, rape was considered a right for raiders, Victorian women who enjoyed sex were thought to be psychotic, the list goes on. When I think about these things, all I can ponder is how utterly backwards that is. But when I think of public domain nudity and sex being empowering, here is where my mind goes: A staple of the feminist movement is that women are more than just sexual objects to men. But parading around topless or feeding into that fantasy recognizes the fact that many men just see women as sexual objects. So feminists are using an exploitation that they readily complain about as an advantage - totally hypocritical - and as I've said previously, hypocrisy is ugly. But then what's a woman to do? Closet herself in an unseemly burlap sack and never acknowledge the fact that she is sexual? No, that's stupid, too. And then it cycles.

I mentioned before a problematic area of the video - the woman on all fours with the mini-stop sign on her butt. A very problematic area of the lyrics for me, considerably more dubious than the video frame, is "You know you want it." Why, you ask, does this pose a problem? Well, because this is classic power-hungry, victim-blaming language. You asked for it by wearing that short skirt. You told me it was okay by flashing me some cleavage. You shouldn't have been walking home by yourself. It's your fault because you brought this on yourself. RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG. It is never, ever, ever, ever, EVER okay to blame the victim. If a child on the playground gets beat up for having glasses you don't say, "Well, you should get rid of the glasses." So, this whole idea of "You know you want it" doesn't sit well with me. BUT and this is a but that's bigger than mine, all the women in Thicke's video, despite being objectified by nature of what they're doing, are not in any sort of submissive positions or roles where they are depicted as being anything less than confident.

So here's what it comes down to. Do I think Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" is contrary to feminism? No. Do I think it's empowering and female-friendly? No. I think it's a pick up line in verse form with all the qualities of a man who means well but doesn't quite get it. But truly, I think we're all missing the point. Given on the hype surrounding his song, you'd think he'd be a more adept lyricist, yet he wants to know "What rhymes with 'hug me?'" and here are some answers for him.