Thursday, 11 June 2009

Grumpy Feminist Warning!

So, after a hard days work, I am strolling down a major shopping precinct in a major European city, appreciating the fabulous weather and the late night shopping, when I see this slogan 'WHEN YOU LOOK THIS GOOD, NOBODY CARES IF YOU'RE PLASTIC', emblazoned on a shop window, behind which life-size mannequins are rotating on pedestals, with some quite out-there fashion. Huh, I thought, how very post-modern to address the relationship between the fashion we as humans are meant to be wearing and the non-living icons that model the clothes that they want us to wear- to make explicit the unsaid- yada, yada, yada. And then I got a bit closer.

And, it turns out, it is not post-modern at all. No, Barbie is back and this time she is for grown- ups. Paul's Boutique, London [the brand, not the city] has co-opted every little girl's fantasy, plastered it onto a range of extremely expensive, and certainly not for little girl's, handbags and hopes that grown women want to be seen wearing Barbie slogans. Infantalising much?

Really? What woman wants to be associated with a children's toy? Perhaps, the buyer of this, also from Paul's Boutique.

Now, I get the studenty, reclaim our childhood memories type memorabilia is popular at the moment, as people wear their favourite children's tv show on a t-shirt or carry around their Bagpuss bags. But, to spend hundreds of pounds on accessories so that you can look like a childhood toy, and a toy that symbolises the impossible standards of bodily perfection placed on women from a young age, is just disturbing.

And what about that slogan? The relationship between a desire to look like Barbie and plastic surgery is more than a little explicit in our culture, and to tie that into a message about the acceptability of being 'plastic' reinforces that if you don't conform to cultural beauty norms, it is a failure of your purchasing power. In essence, buy this bag [or your face, or this dress, or this pair of boobs, or these shoes] or you are not beautiful.

The link between capitalism and patriarchy at its most explicit. Thanks Paul.


Anonymous said...

People are going to buy those? S'riously?

And I thought I was extravagant spending £49.99 on a hoodie today.It'a not a Barbie hoodie though.

Anonymous said...

1. This is the most amazing internet read all day.
2. It's a shame that the second bag has to have my little pony and cherries on it. Cos if it just had the skull barrette sort of thing it would be awesome!
3. I am choosing to refuse to believe that a grown woman could possibly want a Barbie bag. Ergh, thinking about it makes me sick.

Larissa said...

Perhaps it's a question of a generation gap? An 18 year old feminist, I bought by Paul's Boutique Barbie bag the day it came out, along with a queue of other intelligent, independent women who are self assured enough to be able to buy the bags they want, and celebrate the icons that they cherish, without fear of being seen as 'infantalised' or 'being associated with a childrens toy'.

Although it is easy to critise the brands who create such products as renforcing a 'patriarchy', it is worth remembering that less than two years ago Paul's Boutique was still very much an obscure brand, rather than forcing My Little Pony upon women, women sought it out. Feminism is about allowing women to express they're individuality, and I think it somewhat saddening when a feminist critises her fellow women for freely expressing themselves.

Feminist Avatar said...

I am not sure there is such a thing as 'freely expressing themselves'. Our choices are both created and constrained within the context of our cultures and as such are open to critique. This is not the same as criticising the women who make those choices, both because ultimately freedom to make choices is central to modern feminism, and because there is rarely a 'right' or 'wrong' choice.