The Truth About Barbie

What follows are two images that ask us to consider the unrealistic nature of Barbie’s physical build. The first image is a life size Barbie – i.e a model of Barbie’s measurements if she were life-sized – compared standing next to a young woman and an image of current Barbie next to what Barbie would look like if she had measurements that were more in line with the reality of human bodies:


In April of 2011 CBS NEWS noted that with her current dimensions, Barbie would be diagnosed as dangerously thin – and possibly suffering from an eating disorder. So why not change her — why not make Barbie more in line with a realistic body type – or at least give parents the option. Why not make Barbie dolls in a variety of body types? Perhaps — we need a petition.

I’m not trying to slam Mattel – in fact, last year they produced presidential candidate Barbie – sponsored by the White House Project which was pretty cool:

20130703-091610.jpgBut the reality here is that — Barbie creates unreal body expectations in the girls that play with her … remember the woman who has actually had multiple surgeries attempting to make herself look like Barbie. Just sayin’barbie2


Lesbian Love Octogon – Final Weekend

So, if you happen to be in New York this week you should take the time and go to see The Lesbian Love Octogon, a musical, currently housed at the Krain theater.

I had the pleasure of giggling and belly laughing at this poignant and well performed show last Saturday night. The plot revolves around a group of lesbian women living on the lower east side in the ’90s. The music and lyrics are quippy and hilarious — ditties like “dyke drama and tofu scramble.” And the message the audience is left with is an increasingly valid notion – we are more than the theory that has been written about our identities.

If you don’t take my word for it check out this Time Out review.

It is also worth mentioning that the fabulous Viri Lieberman has been documenting this musical comedy’s trip too off off Broadway — so if you go there’s a chance you might spot her! Check out her promo on indie gogo.

Huffington Post Plugs ‘Plus-size’ Models

o-BEST-PLUS-SIZE-MODELS-570While I hate the term ‘plus-size’ because it instinctually implies larger than ‘normal’ – I love that the Huffington Post published and advertised (via an emailed mailer) and article entitled “Best Plus Size Models: Who is Dominating the Industry Right Now” and I love that they included some models who are ‘genuinely’ fitted to larger clothes – versus the more traditional larger sized model who is anyone over a size 6.

It’s also worth noting that two of the mentioned models are on the cover of French Elle and Quebec Elle: Justine LeGault and Tara Lynn. Bravo Elle! How about some of this body positivity on US magazine Covers.TARA-LYNN-FRENCH-ELLE-COVER That said, there is a part of me that wonders what impact magazines still have. Do any of you regularly read magazines or has our western  media guzzling culture become completely reliant information derived from the internet and other high-tech sources?

Either way – check out the Huffington Post article – I smiled.

Vagina, Vagina, Vagina!!! And Vagina Some More!

Last bit tonight, I promise. But as I imagine many of you know women’s rights are under attack and tonight the issue at hand is that the Republicans in the Michigan state legislature feel that  saying the word vagina is inappropriate – and in light of this they have banned two female state representatives. If I lived in Michigan I would be marching in front of the capitol building with some seriously fun vaginal picket signs. Alas – Michigan you are so far. Instead I will  mention this craziness to all I see and sport a Vagina pin – Thank you Zazzle.

For your reading pleasure  Jezebel  has published  response to this lunacy entitled, 25 Republican-Approved Ways to Say ‘Vagina’ Without Offending Political Pussies,” which I imagine will make you both cringe and giggle – but either way I think you should read it because while I am still I’m gonna say vagina and all the other terms that describe my body – such as vulva, clitoris, fallopian tubes, period and whatever else you can think of whenever I see fit – in the classroom, legislature, hallway, bedroom and/or supermarket – I will henceforth endearingly refer to my vagina as the lovely and illustrious Ms. Kant from now on.

Tell me Ladies – how will you respond to this throwback into the dark ages?

Have you Heard about Feminist Frequency?

Anna Curran – the founder of and a very good friend of mine, for like ever, mentioned a feminist kickstarter phenomena to me – Tropes vs. Women in video games. No need to contribute your pennies – Anita Sarkeesian – the project’s creator has more that reached her goal – raising $120,000+ (She was hoping to raise $6000 – yeah kickstarter!!)

It’s also worth mentioning that Sarkeesian’s website is an invaluable resource for feminist educators and thinkers – and really anyone who wants to think critically about representations of gender in the media.

Postcard from the Edge…

Don’t feel abandoned. I still love you. I can understand why you might feel rejection but it’s not you, it’s me. I’ve been insane busy – wrapping up life at KU, working on hunger games essay AND…

Planning my class for the Women’s Studies department at FAU!!!

Just wanted to share my little joyful update in the midst of all my crazy –

Not to worry I’ll be back writing soon…

I miss you too.

Feminist cupcake

Understanding a little Judith Butler…

So let’s be honest here – postmodern philosophers write using such dense language that I am fairly certain you need a graduate degree to dissect what they’re saying.  Perhaps and undergrad in philosophy can handle the serious post-modernists, but this PhD student (that’s right, I just talked about myself in the third person) didn’t really get a handle on postmodernists until grad school. That said, I think that  no matter whether you choose to agree or disagree with her, grasping Judith Butler is key to contemporary feminist thought/queer theory. In particular, I think we all need to genuinely understand her concept of performativty.

Judith Butler’s book  Gender Trouble (1999) presents the idea of gender as “performative,” implying that gender is not an innate quality linked to sex but rather a series of “fabrications manufactured and sustained through corporeal signs and other discursive means” (2584). Butler uses “the performance of drag” to exemplify “those aspects of gendered experience which are falsely naturalized as a unity” (2549-50). She shows how the very nature of the drag performance – the idea that both physical and mental gender codes can be enacted by any/either/all sexes – unearths gender as “parody” rather than innate bodily function (2550). In other words gender is an enactment separate from our chromosomal sex, which is learned and practiced, quite like playing the piano. Butler’s details an understanding of gender as performance and parody, so that she can underscore the idea that these performances are “repeated…with the strategic aim of maintaining gender within its binary frame,” which in turn maintains the patriarchal and heteronormative dynamic of western cultural traditions. Butler purposes that escape from this binary lockdown could possibly be achieved through the “failure to repeat, a de-formity, or a parodic repetition that exposes the effect of abiding identity as a politically tenuous construction” (2552). More simply, she is saying in order to escape the boxes imposed by culturally constructed gender norms, we have perform and repeat other gender constructions so that they might expose the nature of gender as performance.

If you are interested in Judith Butler’s ideas there was wonderful documentary  about her thinking created by Arte, which you can watch on You tube. Take a look at the first installment:

Work Cited

Butler, Judith. “Gender Trouble.” 2001. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed.Leitch Vincent, et al. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2010. 2540-53. Print.

Italian Vogue’s Curvy Cover…Is this continued objectification?

So the feminist blogosphere is talking about the “plus-size” models on the cover of Italian Vogue.  This year I am presenting a paper at NWSA that deal with issues I think this image is raising yet  again – My paper was concered with an image in Glamour Magazine in 2009 – Perhaps you remember it:

The Glamour article entitled “Oh. Wow. These  Bodies are Beautiful.”[1]  looked to prove plus-size[2] models equal in Beauty to their super thin counterparts. The article questioned the beauty/fashion industry’s obsession with thinness and announces Glamour magazine’s pledge to start a “body confidence…revolution” (Field 241). As you can see above, the visual focus of the article was a two page photograph of seven plus-size models, naked, their eyes wooing the camera, their lips poised to part, the bodies draped and cuddled together, like lovers, lovers being watched.  Like many models that have come before them, these plus-sized models are objectified, turned into the object of male-gaze.

In light of this objectification, I find myself wondering what exactly a ‘body confidence… revolution’ entails? True, it’s hard to deny the intrinsic joy in seeing somewhat bigger bodies, which could be considered Othered bodies, represented as both normal and sexual, and I enjoyed reading Glamour’s call for a ‘revolution,’ but on close inspection, these plus-sized models that Glamour was cheering about aren’t truly representative of the majority of bodies that have been Othered.

And beyond that I can’t help but note that this should not be the welcome these Othered bodies are looking for, an ushering into the realm of sexually subjugated objects? Is that what a ‘body confidence… revolution’ entails, a move from abjection to objectification?

Understanding women as objects isn’t something new or unfamiliar.  Ringing in the second wave of Feminism, Simone de Beauvoir, explains the nature of women’s cultural standing. She says, “humanity is male and man defines woman not as herself but as relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being” (116). In other words, masculinity is perceived as the norm or the superior state of humanity and femininity exists as “inessential” opposition to this norm, the object against which the subject defines himself (116).  Beauvoir advocates the rise of woman from object to subject by assuming the role of the masculine. In other words women would no longer be confined to the ‘feminine’ roles, such as that of wife, mother, teacher or domestic. Arguably, women have attained this status; we can be everything from astronauts to porn stars, but our position as Other remains.

Like the postmodern feminists, I link this continued objectification to the controlling influence of that which gets representation and the limitations of how we understand our socially constructed genders. Currently, women can choose any lifestyle they desire but they are predominately represented as Beauty objects, and so we perceive ourselves as such. Theorists like Bordo and Bartky provide us with the feminist understanding of Foucault’s docile bodies, bodies that inflict self-disciplinary action in response to the internalization of cultural norms, or rather the nature of human beings to respond to cultural representations or metanarratives by trying to assimilate/homogenize to the standards set by them. The female Beauty standard is such a metanarrative.  The ingestion of this narrative as the prescriptive norm and the self-inflicted oppression occurring under its weight are at the center of women’s continued objectification.

[1] The title of the Glamour article insinuates surprise, as if no one would have guessed that the bodies that often kept from representation could be equally beautiful to the bodies we repeatedly represent.

[2] It is worth noting that the title plus-size is inherently prejudicial. Plus implies more than the norm, referencing the continued representation of larger models as Othered bodies.

Soapbox, Inc. Winter Term!! Who wants to go??

Every year the Ladies at Soapbox, Inc. – Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner – host an intensive session on taking your Feminism from theory to activism. I have always wanted to attend, but it just hasn’t happened yet.  [I think it’s possible that I’m getting a little old for it but phooey on that!] Here’s how describe the week on their website:

A transformative week of feminist immersion that can’t be found anywhere else. Your guides will be seasoned activists and Soapbox co-founders Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner, authors of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future and Grassroots: A Field Guide for Feminist Activism.

Each day, you will meet with two to three organizations; meetings are interspersed with debriefing sessions. You can expect to participate in path-breaking progressive campaigns launched from NYC, tackle fundraising and other practical but necessary skills for your cause, and explore dynamic issues like sexual rights, the arts, media, philanthropy, and practical skills for getting a job or internship.

Each session is designed to match the unique interest of that group. See below for a complete interest of all groups.

Here’s a typical day at Soapbox Feminist Winter Term:

Morning Meeting: Meet with Third Wave Foundation and learn about their grant-making strategies.   Meet Third Wave grant partners and learn about young feminist philanthropy through their innovative Why Give? program.

Lunch: Brownbag Discussion with Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner

Afternoon Meeting: Breakout into small group sessions with several reproductive justice organizations, such as National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Sistas on the Rise, and Choices in Childbirth.

Evening Entertainment: Mix and mingle with young New York feminists at a reading at the radical bookstore/collective Bluestockings or a networking party with Paradigm Shift or Reproductive Rights Happy Hour.

Participants come to Feminist Winter Term wanting to put their feminist values to work in the professional world. This includes learning how to stand out, network with employers and other young professionals, and explore professional avenues of interest. Every session includes a Career Day that offers concrete advice from student alums and leading professionals about entering the professional world and a half-day internship with a leading feminist organization.

What do you say – Should I register? Who wants to go with me? You can register here.

15 Books Every Feminist Should Read

1. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir2. Gyn/Ecology by Mary Daly

3. Borderlands/La Fontera: The New Metiza by Gloria Anzaldua

4. The Great Cosmic Mother by Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor

5. Goddesses and Monsters by Jane Caputi6. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature by Val Plumwood7. Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins8. Maternal Thinking: Towards a Politics of Peace by Sara Ruddick9. Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture by Janelle Hobson

10. The Unbearable Weight by Susan Bordo11. Pornland by Gail Dines 12. Guyland by Michael Kimmel13. Gender Trouble by Judith Butler14. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by Bell Hooks15. The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions
by Paula Gunn Allen