January 24, 2011

“Drown the Dolls” Panel Discussion: Join the Conversation!

Daena Title‘s “Drown the Dolls” exhibit at the Koplin del Rio Gallery in Culver City, CA has been drawing attention (and mixed reviews) since it was first announced on the Ms. blog by Stephanie Hallett 3 weeks ago. I’ll be part of a panel this Saturday that will critically examine and discuss Title’s body of work. View the show and  join us for a conversation on beauty norms, body image,  girlhood play, childhood socialization, violence against women and all things Barbie.


Artist, Daena Title; Ms. bloggers Natalie Wilson, Elline Lipkin and Melanie Klein; first-ever voice of Spanish Barbie, Marabina Jaimes and Beth Grant.


Koplin del Rio Gallery @ 6031 Washington Boulevard, Culver City CA


Saturday, January 29, 2011 3PM-5PM

This event is open to all! We hope to see you there.

Related posts:

Photographs of the exhibition by Stephanie Hallett.

January 6, 2011

This Image Speaks For Itself

Filed under: Gender — Tags: , — Rachel @ 10:47 am

Image via Reddit.

For more about the evolution of toys, please see my previous post: Toys Receiving Makeovers: New, Improved, Sexy?

November 24, 2010

Toy Ads and Learning Gender

Originally posted at Feminist Frequency. Cross-posted with permission. Created for Bitch Magazine’s Mad World Virtual Symposium.

I recently watched afternoon cartoons on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and I was shocked to find a flood of highly gendered toy commercials. These ads not only market toys to children but it also promotes and encourages gender specific values that are very limiting to boys and girls in different ways.  The values and skills promoted in these commercials can play a critical role in the socalization of youth and their development of emotional expression, conflict resolution, the confidence to pursue various careers and the ability to maintain healthy relationships as adults.

Related Links and Articles:

** This video is available to be translated into other languages by volunteers like you.  Please visit the subtitling page on Universal Subtitles and click TRANSLATE to get started.

NOTE from Melanie Klein on additional articles related to gender socialization in childhood:

June 20, 2010

Doll parts: Barbie, beauty and resistance

Barbie is a cultural icon. With her long, silky, blonde hair, perky breasts, cinched waist and mile-high legs Barbie represents mainstream definitions of physical perfection, the paragon of beauty and ideal femininity. Her shiny pink corvette, swanky townhouse, and oodles and oodles of perfectly accessorized outfits indicate her success within the consumer culture machine. Collectively, her physical and material assets (Eurocentric beauty, white-skin and class privilege rolled up into one statuesque doll), represent the collective dream spun by post-WWII advertisers and reinforced by the culture at large.

For more than 50 years, she has not waned in popularity (gained a pound, developed a wrinkle or gray hair) even in the face of mounting criticism.

Despite some of the negative headlines Barbie is still a hit with girls across America and the world.

More than one billion dolls have been sold since her inception, and according to the dolls makers, Mattel, 90% of American girls aged between three and 10 own at least one.

While Barbie is a manufactured fantasy, she remains an emblem of idealized femininity and a key element of gender socialization.

Barbie fan Danielle Scott, 16, said: “Playing with the hair, the brushes, switching outfits. It really just made girls be girls.

“All the characteristics of what to look forward to and what girls really could do…” she said.

While it is true that Barbie has had approximately 125 jobs over the last half-century (jobs that presumably allowed her to purchase her multiple homes, extensive wardrobe etc. etc)., Barbie is not famous for her resume. She is most well-known for her flawless figure and coveted beauty.

She is a beauty icon.


January 15, 2009

The sexual origins of Barbie

Filed under: Book Spotlight,Gender,Sexuality — Tags: , , , , , , — Melanie @ 12:27 pm


The popular all-American toys turn out to have been created by “a full-blown Seventies-style swinger” with “a manic need for sexual gratification,” who based their design on his favourite adult dolls, according to a new book.

Jack Ryan, whose five wives included the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, is accused of staging wild orgies at his mansion in the exclusive Los Angeles suburb of Bel Air and surrounding himself with busty prostitutes hired because of their resemblance to Barbie.

The Yale-educated executive, who died in 1991 at the age of 65, used his office at the toy firm Mattel to take calls from a local “madame,” and liked to pay for sex with “everyone from high-class call girls to streetwalkers,” including “a very thin and childlike hooker”.

In Toy Monster: The Big, Bad World of Mattel, the author Jerry Oppenheimer claims that Ryan, who also created the Chatty Cathy talking doll, spent decades hiding the seamy private life that might have sullied Barbie’s squeaky-clean reputation.

More sinisterly, the book suggests that Ryan’s colourful sexuality played a formative role in the design of the doll.

“When Jack talked about creating Barbie, it was like listening to somebody talk about a sexual episode,” Mr Ryan’s former friend, Stephen Gnass, reveals. “It was almost like listening to a sexual pervert.”

Oppenheimer reveals this, among other stories, in Toy Monster: The Big, Bad World of Mattel.

Read  complete article here.

Apparently, Barbie was modeled after a German prostitute. Read here.

September 14, 2008

Sarah Palin and Barbie

Suzi Parker at Alternet offered an explanation for the supposed increase in support among women for Sarah Palin.

“Sarah, as she’s called by her female fans, is a 21st century walking, talking, breathing brunette Barbie. Women long to be her friend and have her as a confidante — the very role Barbie played during childhood. Naturally, women won’t admit that Sarah is like Barbie because to do so seems unsupportively shallow and well, sexist, toward the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket.”

Read the full article here.