I think it is clear from my hibernation-like absence that this winter has done one thing for me: laziness. There are few things I have wanted to do besides curl up on the couch and avoid the extra harsh winter that has been upon us for far too long. One of the main reasons I so dearly love living in the South is a mild winter season. A couple of good snow showers, fine. But this year, we’ve had over a solid month of days that it has snowed- that adds up to more days than I can count of actual snow covered ground. So, have I done anything besides get myself hooked on the shows Parenthood, Girls or Pretty Little Liars? Well, not really. (And no, I do not feel like the time I took getting to know those shows was a waste.) However, this was a brief half- semester off and I am now staring down what will be the most intense semester of grad school that I’ll know: Independent Study, in which I will be creating my final, capstone project. The research I did last semester has been leading up to this, and truly, between understanding the dynamic of the Braverman family and taking guesses at who A is, I have been researching here and there. It has been a mix of frustrating and confusing though, I will admit. The basis for my project is to understand the media driven imagery that surrounds us, and specifically, how women are portrayed. I am a feminist at heart; there has never been any doubt of that, but what type of feminist? I had no idea I needed to define a type in this day and age. I feel I have to be careful not to be the bantering feminist, or the “we’re all victims (still)” feminist, and being still somewhat young, should I just be the newest type, the third wave feminist (I don’t think there’s a fourth wave feminist- yet)? It’s been a lot to take in, and that’s without even touching on what you come across when Googling “feminist art”. So, the latest feminist debacle I’ve come across? Barbie. And Sports Illustrated.
Empowerment or objectification? Much like defining what type of feminist that I am, I’m torn about my thoughts on this merger. Barbie’s “Unapologetic” campaign as the face for the Sports Illustrated 50th anniversary initially came off to me as one thing: sexist. One of these companies is known for exploiting women’s bodies, wearing next to nothing in their photo shoots, and the other makes a doll who’s actual body measurements are nearly impossible for any real woman to obtain. The two of them together- how could it be anything less than great? Well, I particularly appreciate fbomb’s blog on the topic and Julie Z for pointing out that the almost un-touchable body type that SI already presents yearly as the standard for “beauty” was replaced by nothing less than, what I’ve already mentioned to be, a doll with unnatural measurements. So on top of giving us a body type that is nearly impossible to reach, being replaced by a doll solidifies that in the view of many people behind this project, a woman’s body is merely an object. That’s one take on it. It’s also a hard one to deny. The surprising flip side to this argument, mentioned by SI’s creative director (a male, none the less) is that Barbie has always been about the empowerment of women. Barbie has held over 150 jobs. She’s an entrepreneur, just as many former SI models are. It is tempting to let myself fall into the trap of believing it’s ok to use a woman’s body when there are people (male and female alike) behind the cause saying it’s for “women’s power”! But on second thought, in this situation, I really do believe it’s exploiting the age-old sex sells campaign, and this power play is nothing more than a bunch of chauvinist pigs knowing exactly where they can capitalize.