We all know Barbie is not the best role model for girls, and manufacturer Mattel is starting to see that. Thanks to a plethora of information widely available on the internet and conversations that are being had in communities and families about unhealthy body image portrayals, it’s pretty clear that Barbie has had her day in terms of being an inspirational toy.
Or so we thought. Mattel decided to overhaul her image and attempt to make her more “real”. They created a Linkedin page for her, which seems kinda ironic especially since the networking site is very strict about only allowing real people to set up a profile. First red flag. Even though the page is listed as a company, the profile is set up in first person so there’s a bit of a dilemma there.
In February this year the buxom doll also appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition, which kinda goes against the whole image overhaul and wanting the public to take her seriously. The hashtag they used leading up to the campaign was #unapologetic which, again, also created a dilemma. Clearly Barbie is apologetic somewhat about her appeal, otherwise she wouldn’t try to promote her latest STEM-related career would she?
What all these examples add up to is Barbie fatigue, or as one woman so rightly puts it “Barbie BS”. That woman is poet, performer and speaker Christina Dunbar whose mission it is to empower and inspire girls to find their inner freak, badass and live life to the fullest.
Christina told us that while it is obvious she is a beautiful woman, she felt ugly on the inside and was constantly hearing messages telling women to stay quiet and hidden.
“Inside I have felt shame and confusion around my sexual body. Inside I have built prison walls around my voice and taped my mouth shut.
So for me personally, having this kind of shame kept me very dis-empowered for a long while.”
Her take on the bigger implications of the Barbie image is that she doesn’t need to be eliminated from society altogether but changed dramatically by women in real life.
“I think when we give Barbie a voice is when we will see some real change. Meaning, right now there are very few writers, producers and directors that are female. We need the voice of the Feminine and she’s missing big time in main stream media. However we have so much opportunity right
now. With the internet age, any woman can have a voice and that is exciting. We can reach others globally, and be the change.”
In the video below, she sets up the typical sweet, big-boobed, polite, shy and sexy Barbie stereotypes and smashes them toward the end by saying how fake they are.
“I’m Barbie,” she says in a saccharine-sweet voice. “You know me as the popular doll for girls ages 5-10, the age when a mind is most pliable and absorbs everything. You know me as quite perfect.”
“If you really knew me you’d know I rep the fake smile on behalf of man’s child. The little girls donning pretty clothes but whose souls know there must be something more…I rep the hollow ones, the girls that there’s something wrong with them. Climbed up the beauty ladder, convinced that was all that mattered.”
“If you really knew me you’d know I rep the fake smile on behalf of man’s child. The little girls donning pretty clothes but whose souls know there must be something more…I rep the hollow ones, the girls that there’s something wrong with them. Climbed up the beauty ladder, convinced that was all that mattered,” which is quite the poetic take on what’s wrong with what society teaches girls.
“I don’t have to smile for you to like me,” she continues, breaking away from the Barbie-esque voice into the part of the poem where reality sets in. It reminds us of the ‘Stop Telling Women To Smile’ art series by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh from Brooklyn, NY whose images have served as a powerful voice addressing the issue of street harassment.
“Let’s flip this play and write a tale that doesn’t start with fairies…can we start with…Queens that aren’t called mean just ‘coz their voice ain’t dead. And yes they may use it to ‘off with your head’ but when males do these deeds they are heroes of the land, then when women choose to lead we are divas that are damned.”
Aside from her powerful message in this video, Christina has some practical and powerful ways we as women an unite against the harmful messages that serve to dis-empower us.
“Find community that A) inspires you and B) cheers you on to be you most authentic self. In this very fast-paced flaky world, it’s easy to get swirled up into the spinning energy of “fitting in” or comparing. And that type of inner dialogue keeps our voice on mute. When we have tribe that cares for
us and sisters that call out our deepest, most gorgeous, and unique selves; we soar.”
“We can’t wait for companies to change; we must be the ones to birth our art, our voice, our non-profit, our biz and create a new way to rep the soul of a badass woman.”
Darn right it’s time to flip that script. Thank you Christina for being that badass woman encouraging us all to freak our truth and not follow the rules just because they exist.