This past June I was getting off my bus at the Greyhound Station in Boise, Idaho, to get my bag. The employee asked which bag was mine, I pointed, and he handed it to me, and as I was walking away a commotion began. The employee was sharing the handle of the bag begrudgingly with its rightful owner, a black man. The employee began shouting that the man was stealing the bag. The man protested that in fact, it was his bag and he could prove it if the employee would just release his property. The employee began thrashing the bag violently to get it away from the man while screaming that he was being harassed. After much struggle, with the man’s shirt torn off his body and one of his shoes strewn across the ground, the employee called the police. The police showed up to the scene and separately asked the men what had happened. Later the employee went back to work and the man was arrested with his bag, and his shirt was thrown away.
I recorded on video the altercation that happened between the two men. I also wrote a witness statement and recorded a witness statement with the police. When I asked them, why the man was being arrested and the employee was free to go back to work they told me that it was due to a company policy technicality that the man apparently did not follow. He apparently did not have a check-in tag on his luggage. Therefore, it seemed, as though the ‘unidentified’ bag was being stolen. But, I didn’t have a tag on my luggage, and neither did other white passengers who didn’t get asked or have a second glance given to us when taking our bags.
When I watched that man be driven away in the cop car, hand cuffed and behind bars, I was frustrated. I was frustrated with the police for handling the situation poorly and giving the white guy the benefit of the doubt. I was frustrated because I knew that if that man had been white he would have been given his bag without a tag, and without a problem. I was frustrated because even though I told the truth and did the best to do the right thing, I was powerless.
Who knew four words could be so subversive, so controversial? With those four words, Ariana Grande changed her career, probably forever. These words show us that when it comes to power, especially the extreme power of a deity, gender matters. Gender really matters. You can’t just ignore gender when it comes to gods, artists, or U.S. presidents. Those roles are reserved for men, and when you dare to say otherwise, there will be backlash.
Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”
Ariana Grande’s version
If you have yet to see the music video for “God is a Woman” by Ariana Grande, I would recommend taking a moment to view it at this link before you continue to read. This video is filled with imagery empowering to women. In my personal favorite part of the music video, Grande literally breaks the glass ceiling with a giant metal hammer. The video also alludes to many classic artworks, recreating them with Grande at the helm instead of a man. For example, the last shot of the video shows a new version of Michaelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. There is also a depiction of The Thinker by Rodin, in which Grande sits in the same posture as the thinking man while men throw gendered slurs at her, trying to tear her down. It is through these gender-reversed images that the viewer begins the realize how infrequently women are shown in positions of power historically. It is almost difficult to recognize how little representation there is until you are confronted with images that you have, amazingly, never seen before.
She is perched at the top of a steep, concrete step, the curve of her calf accentuated by the strain of her pose. There are her legs, tan and endless; a flip of a sleek ponytail; the seductive pucker of her lips as she peeks over her shoulder and leers at the camera; the strip of her flat belly, framed by her tight black crop top and the Daisy Dukes clinging to her waist; then, finally, her perfect butt, like two crescent suns emerging from the clouds of denim.
I am almost salivating, wanting to shout, “Damn, look at her butt!” but I keep my thoughts to myself.
Today’s Barbie doll is often seen as an “anti-feminist” doll. It’s argued that she body shames women into thinking that her figure is the “ideal” of how a woman is supposed to look.
On the contrary, Barbie actually started out as a symbol for feminism. She was the first doll to exist that wasn’t a baby doll. It was society’s first doll that didn’t teach young girls how to nurture and become caregivers.
Barbie also allowed girls to imagine having a variety of occupations. Throughout history, it taught young girls that they could become anything, including but not limited to: an astronaut, a lawyer, a teacher, or an athlete.
With the onslaught of feminist critique, the makers of Barbie are currently concerned with the low sales of the dolls. This is due to the body image the dolls are portraying.
Over time, Barbie has evolved into a series of “ideals” that mothers no longer want to showcase to their young daughters.
Her “un-relatable” hourglass figure. Her long blonde hair. Her bright blue eyes, and her perky breasts appear as what society calls the “perfect woman.”
“Moms are probably the most important influence on a daughter’s body image. Even if a mom says to the daughter, ‘You look so beautiful, but I’m so fat,’ it can be detrimental.”
Parents sometimes don’t realize how much children observe and learn while they are still growing.
I grew up with a mom and grandma who would diet fairly often. While I was always a petite girl, I still have that nagging voice in my head saying I need to “eat better and exercise more.” It was just the type of environment I was raised in.
We are so quick to blame television, the radio, famous icons, and anyone else other than ourselves. Granted, those mediums of information do play a role in how society views things. However, they are not the sole instigator.
If the traditional Barbie was a real woman, she would be 5’9”, have a 39-inch bust, an 18-inch waist, 33-inch hips, wear a size 3 in shoes, and weigh about 120 pounds. This “perfect” body image would likely result in A LOT of health issues. For instance, the woman described would likely not be able to menstruate at all.
This was NEVER the common body image, but it was the “ideal” body image. Therefore, it gives an unrealistic expectation to young girls. One in 100 thousand women are born with this body type. But, should we be body shaming the girls that are thinner or bigger than Barbie?
In 2016, the average American girl between the ages of 3 and 11 owned approximately 11 Barbie dolls. All were the same size, so that they could share Barbie clothes.
Barbie’s body image influenced Cindy Jackson so much that she underwent over 20 different cosmetic surgeries so that she would fit the Barbie body image. In 2006, she was named, “Britain’s most surgically altered woman.”
“Why should we live in a face that’s foisted on us from birth? We choose our clothes, our hair-colouring. Why not our face?”- Cindy Jackson
Cosmetic surgery is a heated topic among feminists, in regard to whether it’s right or wrong. Some feminists think that we should be able to do whatever we want with our bodies. Including altering them into the way we want them to look. Others argue that cosmetic surgeons, “ruthlessly prey on women’s body insecurities.”
No matter where you stand on the issue, it’s safe to say that idolizing a plastic toy so much, that they spend millions of dollars to look like it, is a little overboard.
Kim Culmone, VP designer at Mattel, said, “Barbie’s body was never designed to be realistic. She was designed for girls to easily dress and undress.”
Barbie was supposed to be a fantasy for little girls. The dolls were meant to be a tool for young girls to imagine more for their lives–other than the expectations to get married, have children, take care of the house, etc.
The company that created Barbie, Mattel, is now redesigning Barbie to be all different sizes: short and tall, a variety of waist sizes, and a variety of ethnicities. They are completely rethinking the image of Barbie.
Mattel struggled with deciding to redesign such a traditional figure, because in past test marketing groups, the children did not like the new variety of dolls. They wanted them to look like the traditional Barbie.
In this documentary, Mattel tells the history of Barbie and how she has evolved.
“Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie, examines the world’s most popular doll, from her humble origins to her controversial persona today. In her 59 years, Barbie has become a fashion icon, a lightning rod, and a target for feminists. This documentary reveals unprecedented access to the inner workings of a toy giant during Barbie’s biggest reinvention.” –IMDb
After watching the insightful documentary, my view of Barbie has changed. I think she was just misunderstood and a little delayed in evolving with society.
When I think about defining “White Privilege,” I think about how it has affected me in my life. So many moments that I can’t seem to name a specific one. When searching for “white privilege” definitions, it was hard to find some examples. Here is what I found:
“White Privilege: the fact of people with white skin having advantages in society that other people do not have. The concept of white privilege explains why white people have greater access to society’s legal and political institutions.”
I graduated from high school in 2016 at the age of 17, and I was so excited to start fresh in Moscow Idaho. When I first got here, I didn’t realize how much I would be changing in just a short period of time.
When you look forward at what you believe and hope is a long life for yourself, 4 years is like “4 pages” in your 80 or so page “life” book. I find it’s easy to feel like these pages could last forever, and when it’s over it feels like they barely happened. But, these 4 years are for you. They aren’t for your parents, your boss, your future or present husband, wife, or kids. Entering at 17 means I will be exiting at 21, and I can only imagine who I will be, by then.
There are things I wish I had known when I arrived at this stage of my life, but there are some things one cannot explain. I wanted to write this post to initially help the future young women attending U of I, or any other university, because although there are lessons that must be learned, some can at least come with a warning.