Would you want to be Barbie?

Here’s another revamped article from the past…

I don’t know why, but I’m sat in the hairdresser’s getting my fringe back, having put away my iPad with a few decent books on it, in order to mindlessly flick through a magazine that even the hairdresser confesses she doesn’t bother to read during her lunch break. I forget the name of it.

There are the usual ‘celebrities without makeup’ drivel articles, or to ring a change, which famous person is doing what, where, when and with whom, and then some? Eventually,  I come across this little snippet that leaves me gobsmacked with incomprehension.

American former model, 38-year-old ‘Blondie Bennett’ from California apparently wants to be Barbie. She wants it so much, she has had numerous (well, just the five, really) boob jobs to get her breasts (or what passes for them) to a 32JJ (how do you sleep with those, then?) That’s not so unusual, I guess. Lots of women seem to wish to pump themselves up with silicone. However, it leads to an interesting discussion in the salon, mainly about sleeping and sex.

I can live with the desire for abnormally big, hard, plasticised breasts (not a desire I’ve ever had, I hasten to add). It seems commonplace enough.

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This, for me, was the gobsmackingly appalling bit…Additionally, Bennett has undertaken hypnotherapy to reduce her IQ, to make her ‘brainless’. One or two commentators suggest she didn’t need it, for she’s already hit the pinnacle. I play the video to my (then) 23-year-old son who is not (then, has matured) totally averse to the bimbo look. Halfway way through he asks me to switch it off; he’s had enough.

Personally, I’m rather disturbed she has even dared call herself Blondie. Now, THIS was Blondie! Apparently, not only gorgeous but smart and intelligent, too, a sassy woman, with attitude. Something to aspire to, maybe, a role model?

Unlike Barbie! Well, I’m wrong, because lots of girls apparently adore Barbie.

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I can get the doll fantasy for little girls playing at being grown ups, but, why would anyone truly wish to be (like) Barbie? Especially once they have grown up.

We have to face the obvious here, that she is actually a lifeless, inanimate plastic doll.

Even as a primary-aged schoolgirl, I disliked Barbie. Even then I realised she was an airhead. I wanted a career. I didn’t want to even play with Barbie. Wasn’t mad about Sindy either, because she had a boyfriend called Paul and I wasn’t terribly into the domesticity of that little arrangement, thank you. Besides, he was dull.  Tressy was a little different. She had hair which magically grew and shrunk, all at the push of a belly button. That struck me as just a little eccentric, thus intriguing. 

I digress. But only slightly, as my response to Barbie, it seems, was not that unusual.  Some of us just loathe(d) the creature.

In 2005, a team of British researchers from the University of Bath:

 “found that many 7- to 11-year-old girls hate the doll so much that they physically attack it. … Barbie is hated because she is ‘babyish,’ ‘unfashionable,’ ‘plastic,’ has multiple selves and because she is a feminine icon.”

As a result, some  actively mutilate and torture their dolls as “legitimate play activity”. Imagine. And I thought I was the only one wanting to cut her hair off. 

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A Guardian article discussed the Barbie phenomenon. Barbie was created in 1959, the same year I was born, when we hadn’t even hit the hallucinogenic, psychedelic 60s.  She was built, as the article suggests, like an anorexic teenager but with breasts (vital statistics would be 38-18-34 if real; these seem to have grown, breastwise, over time). Now, I’m sorry but anorexia and 38 inch breasts do not go together.  To achieve this would require plastic surgery and elaborate corsetry – and does –  a number of women really seem to go for the look, especially in eastern Europe.

I’m loving the 2006 study mentioned in the piece, where children were exposed to a size 16 doll, a Barbie or no doll, which left those exposed to Barbie with low self esteem and desire to be unrealistically thin. However, Barbie has changed according to this 2016 Guardian article. She’s more realistic now. Manufacturers, Mattel, even managed Hijabi Barbie. 

Curiously, I was a skinny child who aspired to be fatter (maybe that’s why Barbie was not for me.) A girl whose mother (now dead and forgiven) fed her ‘Super Wate On’ tablets because no one (men, mainly) liked girls who were too skinny. I was fair, too. Well on the way to Barbiedom, without even wanting to be. Something went wrong along the way when I wanted to be Blondie instead. Maybe I just didn’t have the cash.  £100,000 is apparently ‘normal’ expenditure to achieve the Barbie look.

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It isn’t just the much-maligned Barbie. It is the doll look in general. This young lady, Katella Dash,  spent $99,000 dollars trying to look as fake as possible, like a blow up sex doll. Why? A simple love of caricature? Probably not.

Joking aside, I suspect most men are not that fond of blow up sex dolls unless they really have no other choice, and most women would not choose to have one for a friend.

To be fair, Katella started out in life as a boy, so maybe that had an impact on her feminine choices, but really, would many women choose to look like this?

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It seems that Katella has had a huge amount of plastic surgery, most notably on her breasts. She also spends three hours a day on hair and make up. Not for her a quick three-minute makeup job, a hair wash and brush and leaving the house with it still damp, then. No, because that is what pretty ordinary women do.

I wish I could say she looks great. Sadly, I would be lying.

There is a sociological analysis of Barbie (of course) which I cannot profess to have read, but don’t let me stop you. There is also a book called Barbie Culture by Mary F. Rogers.  Here, Barbie the icon, is discussed as representing various statuses: female, young adult, white, with no family, no bosses, no teachers.  Some people become a little obsessive over Barbie in a more socially acceptable way: they collect dolls, finding the whole notion of it romantic, “emphatically feminine”.

There is no element of gender-neutrality/androgyny. One interesting point made in the book is that Barbie is very self-focused. She has no doll parents and has never given birth. She is busy doing exactly what she wants. Maybe this is part of the appeal. There is no “Self-Sacrificing Barbie” or “Knackered New Mum Barbie,” for example.  Rather differently to baby dolls which allegedly encourage girls into motherhood, Barbie encourages them into continuous teenager mode, a phase of “ageless puberty” with a fixation on appearance. Vacuous Barbie also cannot stand up on her own two feet. Her hands are moulded together so she cannot do anything. She doesn’t give birth or scrub floors. Everything about Barbie is linked to body image, and she is controlled by her owner. It rather makes her vulnerable, too.

Rogers uses sociologist, Erving Goffman’s, idea of impression management, to explain how Barbie always gets it right by wearing the right clothes, smiling and looking ‘perfect’ with an hour glass figure, long legs, faultless breasts and appearing ultra-feminine (pink). This seems to be an impression that Barbie wannabes aspire to.

Why?

Of course, the explanations for this weird Barbie fetish/obsession are out there by the bucketload. For example, women want to be Barbie because of body dysmorphia, an obsession with their own imperfections. There’s a sense of ‘perfectionism’ even if your and my idea of perfect or ideal is rather different to Barbie. Katella seeks what she thinks is hyper-feminine, and aspires to M cup breasts (yes, because all we women have those; it really helps us with that truly hyper-feminine activity, breastfeeding!)

Maybe in some cases, these ladies have just failed to grow up; they are stuck in some kind of pink teenage mode.

If we are generous, maybe body modification through surgery is an art form like any other body art? Somehow, I’m not convincing myself. Nor, I suspect, anyone else.

Or, perhaps, well, maybe… could it be that people who pay £100k to be like Barbie are just plain weird?

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Barbie Tips

If you secretly really wish to look like Barbie, here’s how you do it. Or for another video, check this out. At least this one only uses cosmetics and a great deal of pink. Incredible how quickly and easily one can transform though. I might try it!

There’s loads of Barbie look-alikes out there, using coloured contact lenses, and avoiding eating solid food to achieve the look…they look like breakable aliens.

However, I’m not sure whether we should be pleased that it isn’t just women who want to be dolls. Some men do, too. Mainly adorning the pages of the tabloid press, some men are also paying around £100,000 to have surgery to enable them to look like Ken, Barbie’s boyfriend. Here’s Rodrigo Alves for example. They have nose jobs, liposuction, six pack operations, implants and all manner of other things which include gel injected into arms to make them more muscular. It’s a surgery addiction.

Maybe it’s time for all good women to come to the aid of the party and abandon the likes of Barbie and Ken! If you have any explanations for this phenomenon, I’d be really keen to hear them.

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I’m just kind of thinking I’m glad my children never got a Barbie! And thanks, Tressy! Once I realised that if your belly button stopped working, your hair stopped growing, then dolls were never the same for me again.

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

My daughter recommended this prize-winning debut novel, as did a member of my writing group. I managed to get through it within days (it would have been sooner if I hadn’t drawn it out not quite wanting it to finish). Gail Honeyman’s debut novel is a stunner. Such a joy to have a book you do not want to end.

Eleanor Oliphant (I keep thinking elephant) is that girl we all know from school or work. We may even be her.

Slightly odd, wearer of old-fashioned clothes, a tad pedantic, the creature of habit who carries a shopping bag as a handbag, the person who rarely interacts but scuttles off home like a mouse at the end of her working day. The kind of person who struggles to socialise, the one others make fun of, yet who hears their laughter and unkind comments; the slightly superior outsider about whose life we know little.

The fact that she lives on Tesco pizza, despite having a penchant for good food, and survives by knocking back bottles of vodka until oblivion hits when on her own at weekends, makes her a sad and sorry sight.

She’s also extremely funny but in the way that someone who doesn’t quite get norms and values is funny. She is the person one somehow laughs at rather than with.

I read this paragraph out to my writing group:

Eleanor is drinking from her favourite mug:

“I purchased it in a charity shop some years ago, and it has a photograph of a moon-faced man. He is wearing a brown leather blouson. Along the top, in strange yellow font, it says ‘Top Gear’. I don’t profess to understand this mug. It holds the perfect amount of vodka, however, thereby obviating the need for frequent refills.”

Eleanor’s daily life is set in Glasgow. She is a young woman scarred by the traumas of her childhood, both physically and mentally, but also emotionally. Disturbing weekly telephone calls with her dysfunctional and frankly manipulative mother maintain the sense of Eleanor as a victim, as her story unfolds. There is a twist in this tale at the end. I’m not sure whether I like the grip that ‘mother’ has on her psyche.

Yet, she also happens upon kindness, stealing away her loneliness, gradually drawing her into society, through an ordinary kind of a guy called Raymond.

Eleanor doesn’t fit, so she has to learn, a difficult and at times, hilarious process, but also a painful one. I originally thought Eleanor may be on the autistic spectrum. By the end, I’m not convinced she isn’t, but we uncover that, more importantly,  she is badly damaged. Her social skills deficit may simply be the result of that.

I don’t want to write too much as it will ruin your enjoyment of the book.  All I would say is just read it. 1B710A61-24E4-4E5A-9370-EEF1828AED47

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