Move Over Barbie, Here Comes Something Average…

If you’ve ever considered how representations of female bodies contribute to women’s negative body image – then you’ve realized that Barbie, the icon of little girl’s toys, may not be the best influence on a girl’s relationship to the reality of her body. Take a look at this comparison image that has been floating around the internet lately:

article-2308658-19469C29000005DC-844_634x467The numbers detailed are downright absurd. Her wrists and ankles are exactly the same size. Her bust is distinctly larger than her hips – and her waist is half the size of her bust. It seems like if she was a living woman she would fall over. Actually, we know she would fall over because her feet are permanently on tip toe so that they can fit into her plastic heels. That said, even if we put her unusual foot shape aside, Barbie is not a real shaped woman.

Because Barbie doesn’t even emulate the proportions of a living woman and therefore is an arguably poor influence on perceptions of women’s bodies, graphic designer Nickolay Lamm created The Lammily Doll.0cef20209 This doll and Barbie seem to come from two very different places. Acorrding to the Lammily Website:

  • Lammily is made according to typical human body proportions and therefore promotes realistic beauty standards.
  • Lammily wears minimal makeup.
  • Lammily’s wardrobe isn’t composed of typical clothing for dolls – she is dressed with striking simplicity.
  • Lammily is fit and strong.

Another positive attribute the  of the new doll that the website does not mention is that Lammily  represents more diversity than Barbie. She has brown hair and a darker skin tone than Barbie – which means that she can be understood as either Caucasian, Hispanic or of mixed race – whereas Barbie is pretty much descendant from Aryans.

Lammily was crowdfunded and she was a great success. Lamm initially posited that to manufacture his doll he needed $95,000. He raised $465,952. This kind of response points out that we are hungry for representations that actively reject impossible body ideals and embrace a more empowered image of womanhood.

While I know Lammily is a step in the right direction – I find that I am still disheartened because I don’t really feel like she looks like the women in my life. She still idealizes a certain age and health standard and this “average” seems almost as mythical as Barbie’s disproportionate one. Perhaps Lammily needs some friends – a black girl, a fat girl, a differently-abled girl, a trans girl, a pear shaped girl, a girl with thick thighs, a girl with a juicy bootie, a curly haired girl, and yes, a blond girl… Obviously I could go on for ever.

What I’m trying to say is that Lammily is awesome, but she is just the beginning. If we really want to forward positive representations of people’s bodies than we need to genuinely represent ALL bodies.

This was originally posted @Bitchtopia

Book of Mormon and Other Bullshit We Excuse Using the Heading “Funny.”

Last night I sphoto(1)aw Book of Mormon at the Broward County Preforming Arts Center. We bought the tickets months ago and I was really looking forward to it because I’ve heard only good things, which is surprising because I don’t have a whole lot of good things to say. What I do have to say is this: Book of Mormon is painfully racist and not really all that funny.

If you haven’t seen it, let me summarize: Two 19-year-old Mormon missionaries go to Uganda, Africa on a mission to recruit and baptize new Mormons. There is lunacy that ensues, which is the basic plot of the play but who could even focus on that when the “African” reality represented is so stereotypical, derogatory and embarrassingly prejudicial. In the context of this play there are two versions of Africa – the “lion king” version, which harkens to ideas of the noble savage, glorious nature, dancing, singing and marching around with spears and the “AIDS, MURDER and FEMALE CIRCUMCISION ” version, which is presented as the ‘legitimate’ spoof of Africa’s reality. In other words, the “lion king” version is what the missionaries think Africa will be like, and the “AIDS, MURDER and FEMALE CIRCUMCISION ” version is what Africa is “really” like when they arrive.

I am not going to deny the fact that Africa – a continent three times the size of the United States – has its share of problems and that included in those problems are war, female genital mutilation (FGM), AIDS, rape and other complicated and destructive forces. And it’s true that these are the aspects of Africa that the news likes to focus on. Arguably, because maintaining a racist understanding of Africa makes it that much easier for Western cultures to pillage the continent for natural resources like titanium and diamonds without a whole lot of outcry.  Despite all this, in reality Africa is a spectacular place of innovation and culture, which has given us amazing men and women, including the likes of Chinua Achebe, Leymah Gbowee, Wangari Maathai  and  Nelson Mandela – who died today.  Here’s a youtube video that looks at these stereotypes:

Book of Mormon took the stereotypical understanding of Africa as an untamable, contaminated place – an understanding that is linked to a history of racism but usually based on ignorance and quickly alleviated/dispelled with even a smidge of exposure – to an extreme, which showed no consideration or respect for African people and affirmed a colonialist history of racism.

For example, in the Ugandan town that the Mormon Missionaries were sent to many of the people have AIDS – not HIV, AIDS. One of the African men believes that if he has sex with a virgin he will cure his AIDS. None of the adult women in the town are virgins – because clearly Africans are promiscuous (sarcasm) – so this man attempts to rape a baby. This attempted rape is repeatedly noted as a punch line in the song lyrics and scenes. This scenario is racist on so many levels – the assumed promiscuity of the African people, the horrifying ignorance of a man who would believe that raping a baby could cure disease, the prevalence of AIDS etc. There are other instances that are equally absurd as well as little prickles like the two African men who steal the missionaries’ bags as soon as they arrive, and local woman who warns the missionaries to shut their windows at night to keep out the murderers. It’s appalling.

photoIt’s worth noting that the play also clearly critiques Mormonism by highlighting the need for good Mormons to “just believe” the dubious roots of the Mormon religion and strangely the entire playbill was filled with ads for learning more about the Mormon faith. This is painfully ironic considering this is a play that actively attempts to render the Mormon faith inane and ludicrous.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that lately, it’s not just Book of Mormon that has offended me. Go ahead call me a party pooper or a grouchy bitch, I’m okay with that because these ideas, images, representation lack a basic sense of respect for the people they are portraying. It’s not funny when people make jokes about rape, bodies, races, nationalities, genders, etc. These kinds of jokes are lazy. They rely of human cruelty and hate. And to be honest, I’m not sure why we think they’re funny. How does it even make sense that we find ways to laugh at rape? What is up with that?

Thank you Rad Fatty for Dancing your ass off.

I know I’m a sentimental fool but in this world that puts down and torments fat women, seeing Amber Riley win Dancing with the Stars, made my cry.

And then she said this:

And now she’s my hero. I love to see strong proud women open their mouths and voice the reality that your body shape/size/color should not hinder you.

Hell Yeah. GO Amber Riley go.

Don Jon: Legit critique of Porn and Rom-Coms

SPOILER ALERT:

MV5BMTQxNTc3NDM2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzQ5NTQ3OQ@@._V1._CR28,28.649993896484375,1271,1991.0000305175781._SX640_SY987_So, I went to see Don Jon, Joesph Gordon Levitt’s new film.  (Literally.  He wrote, directed and starred in the damn thing.)  The film is centered on the main character, Jon’s (Levitt) growth from a Jersey-shore-esq, macho, porn-addicted, women-objectifying goof into a more enlightened and fulfilled man, who values genuine connection based on the reality of individuals.

Jon, who spends most of his time acquiring notches on belt, cleaning, working out and masturbating to internet porn, begins to change by falling for Barbara (Scarlet Johansson). Basically, Jon’s porn addiction has created a monster – a man who functions as one in a constant search for female perfection, with perfection defined according to a pornographic beauty ideal. Notably, the film makes it clear that this pornographic ideal isn’t just confined to the seedy dark corners of the internet by showing  Jon oogling women on the covers of magazines on stands in supermarkets and in tv commercials. When Jon meets Barbara  the hottest girl that he has ever encountered, he decides to play the “long game” and commits to her in an attempt to score/screw/sleep with her.   Jon is able to give up other women for Barbara, but he cannot give up porn. He tells viewers that porn is “better than real pussy” – because he’ loses himself in porn, and real women are never as good. [POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING: It’s worth noting that all this ‘telling’ comes with a lot of pornographic imagery]. Porn basically teaches Jon that there is a certain way that sex should be and the reality does not live up to the representation.   Throughout their relationship Barbara is clearly a pornographic conquest — but what is interesting is that Jon is equally so for Barbara.

imagesLike Jon, Barbara is basically a stereotype. She is a woman who is interested in controlling a man using sex, so that she might achieve her ultimate goal, getting married. Repeatedly in the film we see her manipulate Jon using sex – for example she convinces him to go to school and pursue a better job, while he is on the verge of orgasm. Like Jon’s porn addiction, Barbara  consistently watches romantic comedies (rom-coms) – which teach her that there is a certain way that “love” looks. Barbara’s rom-com obsession is presented as a foil to Jon’s porn obsession. In other words, the film makes a clear argument that the representations that we are watching obscure reality, rendering women as objects for sexual pleasure to men and men as objects of responsibility and violence to women.  Don Jon goes as far as to argue that these representations are forcing us to live as disconnected empty shells. The point Don Jon is making reminds me of Jane Caputi’s The Pornography of Everyday Life.

Ultimately,  Esther (Juileanne Moore), a widow teaches Jon that women are more that objects – and sex is way more than porn.  DONJON_JulianneThe movie is graphic – but it’s also funny and enjoyable. The acting is spot on and if you ask me, this is the first movie I’ve seen in a long time, which I would genuinely call feminist slanted social critique.  As long as you’re willing to put up with the pornographic images, I say see it. Here’s the preview:

 

I am not the first person to notice this – BUST magazine covered these ideas as well.