Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dr. Barbie or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Doll #unapologetic #Barbie

I wasn't allowed to have a Barbie as a kid. My Mom told me that my Dad thought they were too sexy for little girls to play with. It wasn't a big deal because I never really wanted one. I was more of a stuffed animal kind of girl. My friend Katie had mountains of them, but the thing that was really special about Barbie was getting to play with them with Katie. For my own doll collection, I liked My Little Pony better.

That I wasn't allowed to have a barbie says a lot about where my life was headed. Girls who have parents that are anti-barbie tend to belong to a special class. If you grew up in a barbie free house, more than likely your parents were both well educated, and your mom worked. Your house was probably gun free as well. You were read to a lot and read a lot. You were a little odd in school. You probably became a punk who spent time on student council. Yes, you know who I mean. Smart, weird, outsider kids. The kind of kid who goes to art school.

Barbie is not very popular in art School. I've seen women with eating disorders rant about what a bad role model she is. I read weird depressing poems about barbies with melted feet from fire sales in what passed for an English class. I saw a Chicken wire and paper mache' barbie scaled up to human size to show how unrealistic she was. In art school, Barbie was an object to be reviled, an evil pop culture icon made by little girls in the Philippines who couldn't afford one for themselves, a symbol of an unrealistic body image forced on young girls here, a magnifier all things socially, culturally and economically wrong with America. Looking back, I wonder if the anti Barbie bias had anything to do with our proximity to Mattel's smaller arch rival, Hasbro, who recruited on campus.

My world after graduation was not kind to barbie either. I lived with my then boyfriend in Ithaca, New York. They hated barbie there, too. In Ithaca, parents were liberal and idealistic, children played with non gender specified, educational, sweatshop free, organic toys. The same people never noticed that the "handmade in America" store where I worked didn't pay a living wage or offer me affordable health care.

I didn't find a lot of friends of barbie in her home state of California either. Artists in general, particularly female ones, tend to not like Barbie. Perhaps its just part of the cannon at this point. Burning Man had something called "Barbie Death Camp," how original, I saw it, it was even more lame than it sounds.

I'm pretty sure that most of my adult life I've never heard one kind word about Barbie, I began to feel sorry for her. What had she done wrong, really? She couldn't help the way she looked, or where she came from, and she couldn't speak for herself. Of course she has weird proportions, I thought, she's only a doll, its not like raggedy ann looks like a real little girl, either.

I was nearly thirty before Barbie became relevant to my life. All my life I had been taught that Barbie, was a horrible, superficial sexist toy, but I had no experience with her personally, so I tried to keep an open mind. Until I worked with inner city kids. If this were an essay I had been assigned to read in college, this is the part where I would talk about how wrong it was for little African American girls with kinky hair to have Barbie as a role model, but this is my life, a real life where things are not black and white. They're pink.

The little girls I worked with don't have ideal lives to say the least. They grew up in a world where shootings are as familiar as Snow Days were to me. These little girls don't really trust outsiders, but for some reason, they trusted me. One of the things that opened them up to me was my long, blond hair. It was a BIG deal. From the beginning the girls I taught asked me if they could touch it, they begged me to let them comb it, they pleaded with me to let them braid it. They would pull back my hair back to show their friends and exclaim with wonder, "see, it's real!" When they were very, very, good and we had time, I did let them "do" my hair, much to the shock and horror of my co workers, who thought I was crazy to trust the little girls with my long hair. My long, blond, hair, Barbie hair. Even with my "realistic proportions" I looked like someone they already knew, someone they trusted, someone they admired, someone with long blond hair and blue eyes. After being told my whole life how terrible Barbie was, I was Barbie. That's how I stopped worrying and learned to love the doll.

One year for Christmas, my in laws gave me a barbie that they found on clearance for $4 at Big Lots as a gag gift. It's one of those new barbies where her proportions are more "realistic" unlike the top heavy barbies my friends had when I was a kid, shes about a b cup and has wide hips, and dare I say it, a big butt. It's calld "Street Styles Barbie" and has streaks of darker blond hair. She is wearing a miniskirt, chunky platform heels and a striped belly shirt. I have the same outfit, but my shoes are black. It really looks eerily like me.

Now I wonder how being told my whole life that a blue eyed, blond haired, doll that looked a lot like me was wrong had affected me. It seemed backwards of all the barbie criticism. Had I inadvertently developed a poor self image from all the well meaning people trying to save me? What else do I have in common with her? Maybe the people who scale her up to 6 feet are wrong, maybe she's only 5'3" and the heels help her feel confident, and reach the top shelf. Maybe she has the great body from riding her bike instead of taking the car. Maybe she looks that way because she realized she needed to take better care of her body since she's a role model. People say she's too thin, people say her boobs are too big. Maybe she works out because it helps her deal with the stress in her life. Maybe she got the boobs from her dad's mom, who used to take her shopping all the time when she was little. Maybe she got the blond hair from her other grandmother. Did she become a model after her mom sent her to modeling school because she thought she had low self esteem and bad posture? Maybe she always feels just a little out of place, a little misunderstood because of the way she looks, or how she talks, or how she moves. Maybe she doesn't feel graceful with those stiff legs and arms. Why has she had so many careers? She has a lot of clothes, and she loves to shop, maybe she finds them on clearance like I do. Maybe she goes shopping to clear her head, not buying much, walking around looking at pretty things, thinking about how they are made, getting ideas for something creative later on. Maybe she has a lot of clothes she made herself. Maybe she has so many clothes because that's how she expresses herself, or maybe she cant decide what to wear because after all that criticism she's uncomfortable with her body. Maybe people underestimate her. Maybe she's just as self conscious as the rest of us.

Barbie has good reason to concerned, she's getting older. Newer, younger, hipper dolls are on the scene now. After all her changing with the times, she can't keep up anymore. Some big headed, weird looking, ethnically ambiguous dolls called "Bratz" are taking her place. Barbie is becoming kitsch. Kitsch isn't a bad thing really, but its not what little girls want. I wonder if in 10 years someone at RISD will build a life size "bratz" doll, proclaiming no woman could stand up with a head that big. The first little girls who thought I was barbie are older now. I still get compared to her, but the last girls who did it thought it was funny. Blond Hair and blue eyes aren't cool anymore, they are goofy. Now it's all about hip hop and spinners and platinum. But that too will pass. When you are little time goes by so slowly, but watching from the other side it goes by so fast. There will always be little girls and there will always be dolls, and they will always outgrow them one day. Someone is always going to feel weird and good intentions will always have unintended consequences. What is beautiful to one person will be always be odd to someone else. And as we grow up, we realize that things aren't black and white, and they aren't even shades of gray, nothing is ever as simple as it seems and nothing is ever as bad as it seems. No one is ever exactly who they seem because they are always growing and always changing. No one is ever a completely new person either, but we can change our clothes and change our hair and try new things we grow and hopefully keep getting better. When we grow up, we don't need the dolls because we can do all the things we once imagined the dolls could do. So why not be idealized? Why not have fun? Why not play? Love the doll, be the doll. Not the inanimate object, but who she was in your imagination.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tesla Diss

I don't usually write about my work on my blog, but in this case it links into my activism, which was inevitable, my work has also cut into my activism substantially just due to time constraints. I figure that's OK since, you know, I build electric cars.

The disclaimer is that while I am an employee of Tesla Motors, but I am not in any way part of the media team and therefore must state that I am not speaking as a representative of Tesla Motors. This blog is my personal blog and my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent that of my employer.

The Major Party Candidate *Tesla Diss* made me do some web surfing that landed me on a terrible Detroit News article I am NOT going to link to, however, interestingly enough, the top commenters were Film Maker Chris Paine and activist Dave Rauschkolb, founder of Hands Across the Sand. I started reading Dave Rauschkolb's comment before I realized who he was, and he talked about being one of the S reservation holders, then when I realized who he was, I started to tear up. I get that emotional about the cars, but when I know the cars are going to be driven by someone I admire?

This is something I think about a lot making these cars, part is just a way to mentally pass time doing a repetitive but exacting and very mentally and physically taxing task. Who will this one go to? Since Dave Raushkolb said he was expecting delivery this month, the odds are just over 99% that one of the major engine* components was built by yours truly.


*it's not an engine, it's a linear induction motor, but everyone keeps calling it an engine because it's in a car.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

No harm in asking...

It's amazing how many little changes you can make just by saying something like "does this come in something other than plastic?" or can I get this made in the USA? I bought some lip balm today, and even though it did come in plastic, but just by asking the sales girl, she asked me why I was asking, and I told her about My Plastic Free life and my Keeper. Yep, told a total stranger about my Keeper.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sometimes Parents are Wrong

Ok, you know something that I wish my parents did differently? I wanted to play the viloin. So they made me learn piano, becuase it's supposed to be easier, and told me if I learned piano I could learn violin. The problem is I don't like the *sound* of a piano. I never have, especally when I was a little kid. It was hard to make myself practice an insturment I didn't like the sound of. I would do it even though it was torture. The fact that I stuck with it for as long as I did was a testament to how much I actually did want to play the violin, but of course I was no good at it, becuase no matter what, the piano would never sound good to me. It wouldn't matter if I could play piano like billy joel, I still don't like the sound of a piano.

So in my little kid mind it planted the seed that I just wasn't musical, becuase I had such a hard time learning piano, and I *had* to learn piano to get to play the instument I really wanted to play. Now that I'm a full grown adult with a fully developed ego and the ability to make my own choices I realize I had a hard time learning piano becuase I had no desire to play piano. I don't even like listening to piano when it's played by someone who is good at it. It's hard enough for kids to stick with practicing an insturment, and sure, the odds are that I would have given up the violin, too. However, I was never going to get good at piano. Making me learn an instument that I was never going to like was a terrible idea. It set me up for certain failue instead of likely failure.

The thing is, I realize with how much I've stuck to surfing, even though I am very bad at it, I probably would have stuck with the violin. I had the patience to go two years, surfing at least 3 times a week, in horrible conditions before I could even accomplish a simple pop up. That is not the work of a quitter. The difference is desire. Just because you may have zero natural ability to do something doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.

Then it happend again. In sixth grade I wanted to be in band. I wanted to play the flute, but since it was a very small school and they needed someone to play every insturment, I was chosen to play trumpet becuase they wanted to save the woodwinds for the kids who had to wear braces, and supposedly I had the correct shape of mouth or something for a brass instument. The problem was again, I hate the sound of trumpets. I've always had terribly sensitive hearing and it actually caused me physical pain to practice the trumpet. I did it because it's what the adults told me to do.
I didn't know until a few years ago that hypertussis is a real condition and I was not imagining the pain in my ears. Every time I would practice piano or trumpet, I would feel pain in my ears and jaw. The piano was percussive, like someone hitting the inside of my ear with different levels of force with each note. Middle C felt like a small brass ball peen hammer, high f felt like someone poking a ball point pen in my ear, E felt like a darning needle, D felt like when someone flicks you hard with a finger, other notes felt as if I was being pinched. Trumpet was a burning sensation, similar to an electric shock, with the pain varying by note. I got branded as "lazy" and "not musical" all because I wasn't allowed to play the instuments I wanted to play. In fact, adults chose for me two instuments I hate the sound of.

My ex husband's parents on the other hand, kept encouraging him try new insurments until he found one he would stick with. He still plays in a band to this day. Music is a huge part of his life.

I look at people who stuck with music, and I wish I'd been allowed to try what I wanted to try, and that my  parents hadn't given up on me just because I didn't learn the insurments I hated. And I still want to learn violin.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stoke Stuck

Pardon me sir, do you happen to have any extra stoke?
I see I haven't posted in months. Well, I'm having a problem here, and I think it's been going on for about a year now and I just don't seem to have enough stoke.

I'm frustrated. Frustrated beyond comprehension. I'm just tired of not getting any better. I know the answer is to just MAKE myself go out and surf more, but I'm at the end of my rope.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A month after "Unlimited"

I haven't posted an entry in a while, and its funny that the last entry was about my ultimately prophetic dream. A month and a day after I wrote it, I started what was quite literally my dream job:

I'm now a machinist at Tesla Automotive!

First, I got laid off, then, I realized how in demand I was, then after a brief trip to a place I like to call "Machinist Purgatory" I was offered a great job, which I ultimately turned down to work at Tesla. Not that working at Tesla isn't great, it's amazing. I'm just thrilled that I was in a position where I actually had to turn down a great job offer.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I had a weird little emotional trip on my drive home today, and I for some reason feel very grateful for all the people in my life and all my experiences.

I had a dream the other night that sounds like it would be a bad dream, but I woke up feeling very good and very positive and I've been puzzling over why a dream that could have (should have) been a nightmare made me feel so good. On my drive home I had a chance to think about it and I've come up with an answer. I'm unlimited.

I dreamed I was in the summer after my senior year in high school, and in the dream I had decided, as I often wished I had decided, that I didn't want to be an artist after all, that I wanted to go to a regular school and become an engineer, or maybe something else. Where the dream normally would have turned into the typical nightmare "I'm not going to the college I got accepted to, what am I going to do with my life?" instead, with the calm rational mind of an adult, I thought about all the possibilities that were now open to me. I thought about the schools I could attend instead, how much money I would save by not going to such an exclusive school, that I could get a job and go to work, have an apartment, that I didn't need RISD, or any ONE thing or any ONE else. The possibilities were endless, but not frighteningly so, there were two or three things I wanted to do, all I had to do was decide, and I knew that if my first choice didn't work my second or third would be fine, and then I woke up, forgetting the end of the dream or why it made me feel good. But I felt good.

I didn't know why this dream had me feeling so good. Thematically, it was one of those "Test I didn't study for" dreams, but emotionally, which is the real key to dream interpretation, the dream was different, it was like a flying dream.

I realized that its because I'm leaving high school, where I ate with the same kids at lunch, started out as a little trainee who didn't know anything. I'm going to miss my friends but it was time to grow up now. I remember when Ansgar left PR. I felt like he was graduating, and it was the last day of high school and I was being left behind, and that things would never be the same. A year later, after everything changed anyway, I got booted out of the nest, too.

And here I am. It wasn't hard for me to find a new job, a better job, not yet, but at least I'm making more money. I keep thinking that this is my lily pad. I'll learn stuff here, but I need to keep looking. In the mean time, at least my lily pad pays me well. I just need to remember the number one thing I DID learn from RISD:

NEVER let your skills get out of date. NEVER.

It cost me way too much to learn that. And boy did I ever learn it the hard way. I will not get lazy this time. I must keep looking. If all I do is take classes and stay at this job, then that is what I will do, but I can't be content to stay here no matter how much money they pay, because I MUST keep looking for something better, I MUST keep my skills up to date and I MUST be open to the possibilities that the world gives me. That is the only way to stay out of despair.