Spoon Fed Barbie

Surface appearances can be deceiving, says artist, Yvonne Escalante.

Commenting on the pieces shown here, she reflects, 

Spoon Fed
Spoon Fed
“From the day we are born, our behavior and tastes are controlled by the social status quo. Little girls are fed an idealized image. Barbie has been deconstructed and reassembled for even easier consumption.”
Baby's Rattle

Baby's Rattle

Sucker
Sucker

As a first generation American,  Escalante’s father had stressed American identity over cultural ties. Today, her work explores the conflict she feels, caught in the kaleidoscope of identity, gender roles, and societal norms.

Her work can be viewed this month at an exhibit titled, “CONTROL” at New York’s Ceres Gallery.

Here’s what these pieces say to me.

Like most little girls, I grew up spoon fed on Barbie. But not just Barbie. She was an emblem of all that mass media, friends and schoolmates, told me to be. A good shopper. Paired with Ken. Skinny and curvy all at once. The emblem of perfect womanhood, where body defines us.

Oddly, all this spoon feeding can lead to a dearth of feeding of any sort. I’ve gone through phases of not eating like I should, hoping to look like what turn out to be phony photoshopped images that don’t even resemble the starving models who posed for the pics.

What did I know?

Of course, skinny isn’t enough. We must be buxom, too. Which leads to unnecessary, and sometimes life-threatening, surgeries in pursuit of Barbie breasts. At least that’s what happens when boobs define us, creating our worth. For too many women and men, surface is all.

When women are told they must acquire surreal measurements, and when obtaining them is the source of self-worth, the pursuit takes unending time and energy.

Obsessed with diet and exercise, women can become distracted from the rest of life; so much so that (as Naomi Wolf can tell you) advances of the women’s movement can quickly wane. Frantic pursuit of the perfect body removes agitation for power of greater substance.

Hence, the pacifier. Here, called “Sucker.”

Any wonder the exhibit’s theme is “CONTROL”?

This piece can be viewed at “CONTROL,” an exhibition of  California women artists presented by The Women’s Caucus for Art at New York’s  Ceres Gallery, February 1 – February 26th, 2011.

For more on Yvonne Escalante’s work go to ARTslant.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on February 9, 2011, in body image, feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, race/ethnicity, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Darlene Pizzitolo

    Hi all

    My thoughts on Yvonne Escalant’s image of Barbie’s arm on a spoon.
    For years society has spoon fed young girls this unrealistic image of
    women making young girls believe they need to look like Barbie
    for society approval. Young girls need realistic image of Barbie doll.

  2. I agree with this post completely. We women from when we are young are in a way shown how we should be and act. Personally and like many other women growing up I felt pressure and put down. Whenever I would visit my family in other towns an aunt of mine would always be comparing my cousin and I. She would point out our “flows and our assets” according to her. How I was in a way better and how my cousin was in a way better. Around the world young girls are told that they are fat and they should drop some weight or they will never find a husband. Which in most every society marriage is extremely important, which puts a lot of pressure on young women to be a “Barbie”(as stated above).

  3. Something behind the history of barbie is that it started with a girl named barbara playing with adult paper dolls, she preffered the adult dolls over the boring looking stuffed animals and such. Ruth the mother observed this and decided to make barbies. It became popular over young girls. Now the point I want to make is that even back in the day to young girls, a more attractive female bodied toy was sort of there idol or role model, and as they grow up this would become the ideal person they would want to be. So I guess its safe to say that women having a good physical appearance has been pressured around since back in the days and its become so much of a custome to everyday life and media that it will continue to be like this for years to come.

  4. I loved the works in the “Control” show! I agree completely with your analysis of Barbie. Despite much peer pressure, I refused to allow the Barbie products in my home as I resented them for the very reasons you wrote. It’s past time that we address these insidious issues which subconsciously subvert our minds! Good on you!

  5. I think that barbie has created many problems with eting disorders among girls because most of them want to look like barbie. I even have friends that are not happy with their body they always want to be more skinny. Even I wished to look like barbie at some point in my life, but I have learned that every body is beautiful in their own way. Is pointless if you keep forcing your body to be perfect. I have always been skinny because it runs in my family, and when I was little my mom try to do everything that was possible to make me gain weight, unfortunately she never could. Now im the one taking vitamins that will “make me gain weight” but as of right now I still look the same. I might just give up and stay the way I am because no one will ever be perfect.

  6. I agree with your analysis of barbies. I did not grow up in Western culture but still experienced “barbie influence.” Whenever my father came back from his business trip from America, he handed me different kinds of barbies. I thought that the images of barbies were what I was suppose to look like growing up even though I am not white. I learned not to get tan and stay pale as Whites or my barbies in my room. However, now that I live in America, I see some changes in media. For example, Dove commercials started using “average women” to promote their products. They are not photoshoped or not skinny as barbies. I hope to see more of these “real women” in media as well as in Hollywood movies.

  7. Emma Betancourt

    Oh Barbie! She has the perfect body, handsome perfect bodied husband (Ken), perfect car, perfect house, and she can do every profession out there! WHAT A LIE. Who is like Barbie? Realistically? Nobody. I’ve seen little girls try to live up expectations and it is indeed sad.

  8. This idea that young girls, especially in America are given this image of Barbie at such a young age which reads perfection and happiness, is an illusion that stabs girls in the back when they grow up and try to literally live up to these Barbie standards. The sad part is, by the time these young girls reach their teenage years, they are overworking themselves to have a perfect body, get a perfect guy or find their “prince”; that they aren’t even conscious they are trying to live up to these pure ILLUSION. It is not possible and it’s not reasonable. Not every single girl or woman will have the same body, so not every single girl’s body will reach a certain weight, if its too unrealistic for their body size, height,etc. The numerous and OLD Disney movies have and will continue to influence young girls from the age of toddlers.

  9. As a young girl, I loved Barbies and assumed that when I grew up that is what I would look like. Thankfully, I soon realized that no one looks like Barbie. The simple proportions of her body would not even allow her to stand up straight. Looking at Disney princesses and almost all other images of women marketed to young girls, you can see that literally, an impossible body type is portrayed. As a young girl I remember looking at myself and wishing my eyes were bigger, like Ariel’s. Now, I realize that I would look completely ridiculous with eyes that took up half of my face. Although one image of a mis-proportioned cartoon will most likely not give little girls a complex, the constant bombardment of impossible curves and frail frames surely will.
    I agree that the objectification of women sets us back in out pursuit for equality greatly. When we are taught from a young age that the most important thing is to look good, we are less likely to focus our energy on more important things. In general, all of society could benefit from women breaking from these gender roles and becoming more prominent members of society.

  10. Certain-to-be-wrong

    While reading this post, I find myself saying “yeah, that’s how it is and I’m tired of it”, but then I snap back to reality and find myself remembering that women help to keep these images going. We sell into this ideal image like the rest. I write this as I turn on one of the many pathetic shows that I help to keep on the air such as “Jersey Shores”, “Real Housewives of Orange County”, “Real Housewives of New Jersey” and last but not least “Desperate Housewives”.

  11. Certain-to-be-wrong

    While watching “Jersey Shores” I laugh to myself because it is all so fake. All they do is party, gossip, get laid or talk about it. I feel sorry for anyone who looks up to any of these dysfunctional individuals.

  12. Barbie is just a doll. She can do everything because the people creating her want you to buy her. They are saying if you buy Barbie you too can be a laywer/trainer/etc, find a man like Ken, have the cool car, dreamhouse, and whatever else comes with it. It is all an illusion to get you to buy the doll. You can be successful with or without a partner. You can find a good partner without buying Barbie! You do not need to look like barbie because no one looks like that. She isn’t real. Everyone is fine the way they are. People drive themselves sick trying to be like Barbie. It’s not healthy.

  13. There are average real women out there that we can look up to. It’s time we saw them in the media and what not. I mean the celebrities used to be like us before they got all famous. But most of them are sexualizing themselves and making themselves sex objects to get attention. Little kids want to be just like them and want to grow up so fast when they should stay a kid. The celebrities and people in these childrens’ lives should be showing them how to be better people and make the world a better place as well. You can be attractive as well as do the things you love without going over the top. It should be about the music and whatever you do. That’s the most important thing. Doing something because you love it. When you do it, it makes you remember the reason why you started becoming a surgeon, lawyer, veterinarian, astronaut, firefighter, police officer, singing/acting/dancing in the first place.

  14. Marcus Coleman

    Why is Barbie perfect? She seems boring to me! No personality but she does have a nice house, car, and a cute dog. Please girls dont be like barbie because I’m no Ken!

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