Mrs Potato Head wins a Nobel prize for physics


Yes but does gender stereotyping actually matter? Isn’t it just some trivial thing that floats past like dandelion fluff but doesn’t actually do anything? A couple of researchers decided to ask the question.

A duo of researchers at Oregon State University hypothesized that playing with sexualized dolls not only hurts self-esteem, it influences the way young girls think about their adult lives.

Past research in the U.K. has shown that nearly a third of female teenagers want to be models, while only 4 percent wanted to be engineers. Adolescent girls, it seems, are drawn to careers based on appearance, not knowledge.

That’s a pretty shocking finding, if it’s true. Models? Nearly a third? One of the most brainless and passive lines of “work” it’s possible to think of, and also one of the most useless…and that’s a big career goal. Ugh.

For the study, published in the journal Sex Roles, 37 girls between the ages of 4 and 7 were randomly assigned to play with one of three dolls: a typical Barbie doll wearing a fancy party dress; a “career” Barbie, decked in her career-ready lab coat, stethoscope, and “low-heeled shoes” (look out world!); or a Mrs. Potato Head doll, who comes adorned with chunky high heels and hot-pink purse, but otherwise has the countenance of a tuber, like her husband.

The children played with their respective toys for five minutes. Then they were presented with photos of 11 male- and female-dominated professions, so appointed according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The female dominated occupations were teacher, librarian, day care worker, flight attendant, and nurse. The male dominated occupations included construction worker, firefighter, pilot, doctor, and police officer. The neutral occupation was a server in a restaurant.

The girls were then asked, “Could you do this job when you grow up?” and “Could a boy do this job when he grows up?”

Depressingly, all of the girls thought a boy would more likely be able to do more of both the male- and female jobs…

…but the potato head girls thought they could do more of both kinds of jobs than the girls who played with either kind of Barbie.

It’s a small study and a small effect but WHAT ARE WE DOING TO GIRLS AROUND HERE? In a decade or two will all women actually resemble the Martian-world Real Housewives?

Women have been shown to perform worse on math tests when they wear swimsuits rather than sweaters. Barbie, then, might act like a perpetual swimsuit for the brain.

“Barbie may be one way that ideas about a girls’ place in the world is communicated to the girl,” Sherman said.

Ya think?

There are other things too; Barbie dolls aren’t the only cultural artifact girls ever see or play with…but there is a hell of a lot of this gender-policing pink bubble-gum girls-are-airheads stuff around, one way and another. It’s not good enough.

 

Comments

  1. sawells says

    This morning my daughter carefully picked a daffodil from the garden and took it to nursery to give to her key worker …

    … because she wanted to show how you can extract pollen.

    Vive la resistance :)

  2. jenBPhillips says

    My daughter texted me from the home-bound school bus yesterday to relate the caption of a t-shirt worn by a 4th grade boy (for non-USA folks, that would make him 9 or 10 years old): “Great story babe, now go fix me a sandwich”.

    Good news–my daughter was PISSED, and named it immediately as sexist.
    Bad news–some adult thought it was perfectly ok to give that t-shirt to a 9 or 10 year old child to wear to school.

    My head aches from all the desking.

  3. Rob says

    Thing is Ophelia, dandelion fluff is not harmless. It carries the weed’s seeds and spreads it insidiously everywhere. Next you know you’re up to you eyebrows in the damn things. Pretty good metaphor for low grade sexism in society actually.

    Bring on the herbicide!

  4. H2S says

    Worrying.
    There is a very obvious problem with comparing “Could you do this job?” with “Could a boy do this job?” . I expect that the answer might still be the same with “Could another girl do this job”, shame they didn’t ask it. Or maybe that would be leading. I dunno.

  5. says

    One of the most brainless and passive lines of “work” it’s possible to think of, and also one of the most useless…

    Useless?? Certainly not entirely brainless and passive; it depends a lot on what the model’s doing. At one end of the spectrum you’ve got what amounts to acting, but with awareness of lighting and stage layout and graphical composition thrown in. Sure, it’s not as elevated and important a role as, say, blogging…. but like any other job, you can put a lot into it and be really good at it and be a valuable contributor in someone else’s creative endeavors.

    I’m a bit biassed, I suppose. My ex put herself through nursing school working as a model for bridal stuff and sporting goods, and she was neither brainless about it nor disengaged. It’s hard work to hit the same pose in 30 different sweatshirts and still project “wow! sweatshirt!” after the 15th…

    Anyhow, I was a bit surprised to see you deriding a career some people take pretty seriously. For fuck’s sake I know people who work in fast food that take their jobs pretty seriously, too.

  6. corwyn says

    Women have been shown to perform worse on math tests when they wear swimsuits rather than sweaters.

    Seriously? I can’t begin to imagine how that works. I will predict that anyone who thinks it is obvious is wrong.

    It carries the weed’s seeds and spreads it insidiously everywhere. Next you know you’re up to you eyebrows in the damn things.

    Actually, dandelions are great. They are opportunistic plants, which means they grow well and quickly in damaged areas, have deep roots to quickly bring up nutrients from deep below, are pretty,and taste darn good in early spring (the first greens). They are pointing out how we are screwing up our local ecosystem. If you have them be thankful.

  7. daved says

    My ex put herself through nursing school working as a model for bridal stuff and sporting goods, and she was neither brainless about it nor disengaged. It’s hard work to hit the same pose in 30 different sweatshirts and still project “wow! sweatshirt!” after the 15th…

    IIRC, Cindy Crawford was due to head off to college on a chemical engineering scholarship until she landed a job with a modeling agency. I think she’s done OK for herself.

    I once wound up in conversation with a woman on an airplane and discovered that she worked for Calvin Klein, but before that had been a model for Calvin Klein. She was obviously quite intelligent and a pleasure to talk to — but I asked her, “When you were a model, did people automatically assume you were dumb?” She said “Oh, yeah.”

  8. Blanche Quizno says

    “Models? Nearly a third? One of the most brainless and passive lines of “work” it’s possible to think of, and also one of the most useless…and that’s a big career goal. Ugh.”

    If you are a model, that is incontestable proof that you are beautiful.

  9. Blanche Quizno says

    Even in a fluff film like “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”, there’s one point where John is pulling some handguns out of a box that supposedly contains a train set. He gives the first gun he pull out to Jane and then pulls out a second gun, which is bigger, and starts loading it.

    Jane looks at him. “Why do I get the girl gun?”

    John says, “Whaaa?”

    Jane reiterates: “Why do I get the girl gun?”

    So John trades with her.

    I liked it because 1) it acknowledged that women are typically given little dainty less-powerful things (the little Mazda Miata sportscar had a reputation for being a women’s car), and 2) she insisted on getting the big one.

    um…now I’m all distracted. Excuse me, I’m going to go watch the movie again. Toodles!!

  10. Tessa says

    Seriously? I can’t begin to imagine how that works. I will predict that anyone who thinks it is obvious is wrong.

    It’s really interesting. It’s about body shame and objectification affecting focus on subsequent tasks.

  11. says

    We are always a bit worried how our daughter wants everything in pink and adores fairies, unicorns, fairies, princesses, fairies, Angelina Ballerina, and, especially, fairies. (Growing up in an unbelieving household, she also classifies angels as fairies. Humanoids with wings, right?)

    Then again, she currently wants to become an astronaut, so this stuff cannot have been too bad for her.

  12. says

    One good bit of news about stereotype threat is that when women are taught about it the effect is much less. So even being brought up in a sexist culture and having this imposed on you doesn’t mean it’s permanent. Teach your daughters about stereotype threat!

  13. unity says

    Having looked at the paper’s abstract the one thing that leaps out immediately beyond the small number of participants and small ‘effect’ size is that the experiment lacks any kind of control group or before and after comparison.

    In short, the paper fails to produce any clear evidence of an effect at all. For that the researchers here know, they could have given the kids three random selections of Lego and have still have got the same results because the study fails to provide any kind of baseline from which an effect can be measured.

    The most surprising thing about this paper for me is that it got into print at all.

  14. markd555 says

    Great article, it really highlights exactly how much early toys influence us.
    All children are unique human beings first, with unique interests. Not a gender. I hope we can start treating them that way.

    That’s a pretty shocking finding, if it’s true. Models? Nearly a third? One of the most brainless and passive lines of “work” it’s possible to think of, and also one of the most useless…and that’s a big career goal. Ugh.

    I think “sadly, choosing a career based solely on appearance” would have gotten the point across just fine without revulsion sound and being judgmental to a profession.

    The prevalence and societal value we put on modeling is a symptom of a problem. Let’s go after the problem, not the symptom. The people doing it are just trying to make a living, and are not necessarily “brainless”. They may not have many options for employment.

    We can build up just fine without tearing down.

    But the annoyance at the results? I am right there with you.

  15. Silentbob says

    I’m with Marcus on this one.

    Modelling is no more “brainless” than being a chef, no more “passive” than being an actor, no more “useless” than being a painter. And what’s with the scare quotes around “work”? I’ve known a couple of models, and the impact on your life is not dissimilar to the regime followed by a professional athlete. It’s fucking hard. It’s not like you just turn up and accidentally look gorgeous.

    Look, I get the whole thing about women being subjected to stereotypes that say they must either reproduce or be purely decorative. I get how limiting and destructive such messaging is. But still… the sneering at those in the modelling profession is uncalled for.

  16. says

    Calling modelling brainless is perhaps a bit harsh, but really I would have to think hard to come up with a profession, any profession, that is less useful and less productive. Basically it is being a human display dummy…

  17. Guess Who? says

    I am a Gen X’er. I grew up playing with Barbies and grew up to be a software developer. Barbie’s proportions and jobs never really registered with me because my friends and I dressed her up in homemade clothes and made up our own jobs for her. OTOH, I was an adult before the purely-sexualized slutty Bratz dolls and the world of wall-to-wall pink for girls.

  18. says

    Marcus @ 5

    Useless?? Certainly not entirely brainless and passive; it depends a lot on what the model’s doing. At one end of the spectrum you’ve got what amounts to acting, but with awareness of lighting and stage layout and graphical composition thrown in. Sure, it’s not as elevated and important a role as, say, blogging

    That’s cute. I don’t think I’ve ever said blogging is an “elevated and important role.” If you have contempt for blogging I wonder why you read this blog regularly.

    …. but like any other job, you can put a lot into it and be really good at it and be a valuable contributor in someone else’s creative endeavors.

    I didn’t say you couldn’t. But I don’t consider advertising a “creative endeavor.” I know lots of people do; I know Mad Men has helped amplify that; I know 30-something did the same when it was on tv; but I think that’s about 90% bullshit. It’s marketing. It’s not art, it’s marketing. Yes it can be done in artful ways; I’ve blogged some tv ads I consider artful here over the years; but it’s still not fundamentally an art form, it’s an arm of commerce.

    Anyhow, I was a bit surprised to see you deriding a career some people take pretty seriously. For fuck’s sake I know people who work in fast food that take their jobs pretty seriously, too.

    I take fast food jobs more seriously myself. They’re important. They serve a very real need. Fashion modeling not so much.

    I’m not deriding the people who do the jobs, but I am deriding the standing the jobs apparently have, given the claim that 30% of girls aspire to that as a career.

  19. says

    Silentbob @ 14

    Modelling is no more “brainless” than being a chef, no more “passive” than being an actor, no more “useless” than being a painter.

    Yes it is. Get real. Of course it is. It’s a lot more brainless than being a chef, a lot more passive than being an actor, a lot more useless than being a painter (well, a good painter – it’s probably no more useless than being a bad painter). Why wouldn’t it be? How could it help being, given the nature of it? It is what it is. You want to pretend it’s something else, because – what – I’m insulting the people who do it for a living? Well fuck that. It is what it is, and I’m not going to pretend it isn’t because all the fashion models who read this blog will find it insulting.

  20. Anthony K says

    Seriously? I can’t begin to imagine how that works. I will predict that anyone who thinks it is obvious is wrong.

    It’s really interesting. It’s about body shame and objectification affecting focus on subsequent tasks.

    More generally, this seems like another example of stereotype threat.

  21. says

    markd @ 14

    I think “sadly, choosing a career based solely on appearance” would have gotten the point across just fine without revulsion sound and being judgmental to a profession.

    The prevalence and societal value we put on modeling is a symptom of a problem. Let’s go after the problem, not the symptom. The people doing it are just trying to make a living, and are not necessarily “brainless”. They may not have many options for employment.

    We can build up just fine without tearing down.

    Of course the people doing modeling are not necessarily brainless, and I never said they were. It’s the job I called brainless, not the people doing it. Some jobs are brainless.

    And I don’t agree that the “societal value we put on modeling is a symptom of a problem.” I don’t even agree about the value – I think you meant the kind of value I put on it, but surely the societal value overall is much too high as opposed to much too low. That’s why way too many girls want to do it! And because of that, I don’t agree at all that it’s just a symptom.

    I don’t consider modeling a profession. In any case what’s wrong with being judgmental to a profession? Why should we assume, or talk as if, all professions or all jobs were of the same value?

  22. says

    If you have contempt for blogging I wonder why you read this blog regularly.

    I don’t. I was being sarcastic. As I expressed in my comment, I think your dismissive attitude toward a profession is shallow and incorrect. Indeed, it borders on stereotyping.

    You could just say “I was stereotyping models and I was wrong.” You could even throw a “maybe” in there. But why did you have to double down?

    I don’t consider advertising a “creative endeavor.”

    The model is doing creative work. They get told “OK, now take that tennis racket and look excited and happy to be here.” and they pull it off. It’s like acting. It’s hard work and it takes brains. My experience with the hundreds of models I’ve worked with is that they fall along more or less a normal distribution of intelligence, motivation and education. Sneering at models is stereotyping and – basically – what you did was dismiss models as less intelligent and creative Why? Is it because they are women? Are you being a classist, an elitist, or a sexist? I can’t quite figure out which.

    Advertising may be immoral, but creative it certainly is. Again, it falls along a normal distribution – there’s some advertising that is painfully horrible and some that is incredibly clever – which means creative – yes, it’s commercial. Are you sneering at commerce, now, too?

    Yes, that’s anecdote. But your comment and your response lead me to believe you know less about the modelling profession than I do.

    It’s not art, it’s marketing.

    OK, my elitist snob friend – Tell me what ART is and how you can discern art from marketing.

    I am so disappointed in you right now, I could spit.

    I take fast food jobs more seriously myself. They’re important.

    The reason I threw that sneer in about blogging was to illustrate what an absolute ass you just made of yourself. I don’t (obviously) think bloggers are unimportant – I don’t think anything that anyone chooses to work hard at with passion or desperation or simply drudgery is unimportant. What gives us meaning in our lives is the importance to us of what we do, and the importance of what we do to those who care about us or depend on us. There is no abstract great pit of meaning floating out there, that divides important jobs from unimportant ones and, even if there was, I see no reason to believe you’re tapped into it.

    And you’re doubling and tripling down. Please re-think your position. Who the fuck are you to say what jobs are important? And how the fuck do you know?

    I am deriding the standing the jobs apparently have, given the claim that 30% of girls aspire to that as a career.

    And now you’re weaseling by throwing in “apparently” after you just threw those jobs under a bus. C’mon – if you’re going to play the aesthete snob, play it to the hilt!!!

  23. says

    I am not weaseling. I said “apparently” because the fact that so many girls aspire to the job seems to indicate high status but could just indicate that young girls are confused – it could be that no adults at all see modeling that way, and we generally don’t determine cultural status on the basis of what children think.

  24. says

    It’s the job I called brainless, not the people doing it. Some jobs are brainless.

    You apparently know nothing, whatsoever, about modelling, then.

    Yes, it can be brainless. But every modelling gig is going to fall on a continuum as far as what it takes from the models and the other creative people involved. Sometimes you have a photographer or a creative director who has a very strong and precise idea of what they expect and they treat the model like a mannequin made of flesh, but other times the model is as deeply plugged into the creative process as the photographer, artist, or creative director. You may wish to consider some pieces of art like Rodin’s naiade, which was a pose that (supposedly) the model hit (I believe it was Camille Claudel, actually) and he fell in love with it and created a masterpiece. Many many of the great art photographs – and a lot of commercial ones – came from the model’s interaction with the photographer or artist. Go watch some documentaries of Irving Penn shooting someone, or watch something like “Helmut, by June” and see how Helmut Newton put together amazing ads incredibly creatively, by interacting with the models and producing some absolutely amazing photographs: commercial photos that most anyone who likes black and white erotica would be happy to hang on their wall. You might enjoy “Helmut by June” particularly because you can see how fucking switched on and intense Stephanie Seymour is when Helmut’s shooting her – she’s no idiot and she’s sure as hell not being a brainless meat puppet.

    There are “burger flippers” and fast food workers who kick ass and take their jobs seriously and do a damn good job of it. There are models who kick ass, and take their jobs seriously, and do a damn good job of it, too. There are bloggers who kick ass and take their jobs seriously, and do a damn good job of it, etc, etc.

    Dismissing a job is elitist. You can dismiss someone for sucking at their job, sure. But when you try to dismiss a whole career-field you’re probably ignorant of all the wonderful and fascinating details inherent in every job from fast food to bookbinding to modelling to blogging to – whatever.

  25. says

    I am not weaseling. I said “apparently” because the fact that so many girls aspire to the job seems to indicate high status but could just indicate that young girls are confused

    Well, you’ve already assumed that the job doesn’t have worth, therefore “apparently” it shouldn’t have status.

    Please rethink this and, in the meantime, put down the shovel.

  26. says

    And, yes, you are weaselling terribly when you say things like:
    I don’t consider advertising a “creative endeavor.” and then follow up with It’s not art, it’s marketing
    A “I don’t consider” waffle followed by a declarative statement that broad-brushes a creative field as “not art” You’re trying to pass your opinions off as statements of fact but are simultaneously playing them as opinion. See how that works? Perhaps you’re doing it subconsciously but either way it’s intellectually dishonest.

  27. says

    Marcus @ 22 – A few more brief corrections (aka doubling and tripling down – another of those irregular verbs – I am arguing, you are tripling down).

    I think your dismissive attitude toward a profession is shallow and incorrect.

    I don’t think it’s a “profession.” I don’t see why it’s thought-crime to have an opinion about a kind of job (or profession).

    Sneering at models is stereotyping and – basically – what you did was dismiss models as less intelligent and creative

    No I didn’t. I said the job is not creative.

    I don’t think anything that anyone chooses to work hard at with passion or desperation or simply drudgery is unimportant.

    Then we differ. I think a lot of highly-paid work is fundamentally unimportant, while a lot of very underpaid work is far more important. That annoys me. It’s my elitism playing up, I guess.

  28. Donnie says

    Because the McDonald’s CEO is actually worth 300% more than the fast food service worker? Modeling is about ‘your looks’, ‘your weight’, and ‘your body with clothes on it’. The models are not brainless, and Ophelia never called the models brainless. The work of modeling is brainless – except for binge and purge in order to maintain impossible weight standards and then have an artist brush up (i.e., completely remake) the final image to project a societal notion that is beauty reinforcing the narrative that women should exceed at being beautiful.

    Sure, it is a career that some, very few, models make a lot of money. Others, are ripped up and tossed aside like college athletes in major football factories who are there only to try to make the pros. The individuals have brains, and intelligence but the work that they do is not consider brainy work, and it is said that so many aspire to those professions (at least without backup plans established).

  29. says

    Marcus @ 23, 24, 25 – a few more brief corrections.

    Dismissing a job is elitist.

    I disagree. I think we’re allowed to judge what kinds of work are offered, and why. I think we can say some are harmful, and some are wasteful, and some are trivial. Just because something is “a job” doesn’t make it sacrosanct.

    You’re trying to pass your opinions off as statements of fact but are simultaneously playing them as opinion. See how that works? Perhaps you’re doing it subconsciously but either way it’s intellectually dishonest.

    Stop calling me dishonest. I don’t use a qualifier in every single sentence because it’s redundant and repetitive and cluttered and tedious.

    I’m not lying about any of this.

  30. Blanche Quizno says

    Marcus, isn’t there a busy street somewhere that you could be whistling and catcalling at random female passersby instead? It really sounds like that’s more your speed :)

  31. markd555 says

    And I don’t agree that the “societal value we put on modeling is a symptom of a problem.” I don’t even agree about the value – I think you meant the kind of value I put on it, but surely the societal value overall is much too high as opposed to much too low. That’s why way too many girls want to do it! And because of that, I don’t agree at all that it’s just a symptom.

    I don’t consider modeling a profession. In any case what’s wrong with being judgmental to a profession? Why should we assume, or talk as if, all professions or all jobs were of the same value?

    Problem: Women are valued for their appearance too much.
    Symptom: Models are popular.

    Solution: Promote STEM careers and opportunities for young women.
    Not a solution: Trash models.
    Solution: Point out the modeling industry is harmful because ___, ___, and ___.
    Not a solution: Demean individual women just attempting to make a living wage right now that did not have many choices to do so in a society that discriminates against them.

    You might say “This does not demean individual women, just the work they do”. May want to double check by asking.
    Just my opinion. If people feel this is an effective way to better society, go for it.
    Personally I would rather build up better options and encourage other goals for women of the future instead of tearing down the current choices of those that have been limited in employment choice or opportunity.

  32. says

    No, you don’t get to claim that my contempt for the industry is actually contempt for the models, just because you say so. I didn’t trash models, I didn’t individual women just attempting to make a living wage right now.

  33. markd555 says

    No, you don’t get to claim that my contempt for the industry is actually contempt for the models, just because you say so. I didn’t trash models, I didn’t individual women just attempting to make a living wage right now.

    Ok, cool.
    If I didn’t care about your blog and the difference it makes to society I wouldn’t have bothered.
    (And if I haven’t said it lately, you do a damn good job, keep it up)
    If you think the original article does not specifically offend and alienate individuals in the modeling industry *without reason*, that’s good. I felt it would.

    If someone called my line of “work”:

    One of the most brainless and passive lines of “work” it’s possible to think of, and also one of the most useless

    I would be personally offended, true statement or not. But that’s just me.
    If you do feel that message is effective in promoting your goals, go for it regardless of offense.
    I didn’t think it was productive.

  34. Jackie, all dressed in black says

    Thinking about Barbie, girlhood and being pretty:

    I have that pretty, smart daughter that Barbie wishes she was. She played with Barbies. I don’t have to say a word when people underestimate her. (It doesn’t happen often.) She’s a force to be reckoned with. She can win Ms. Hawaiian Tropic and take yo scholarship. Smart people can be pretty people and they can be tough people. Stereotypes are bullshit.

    She has a scar on her chest that shows in the summer when she wears a bikini. People ask how she got it. One boyfriend asked if she’d had surgery.

    Here is what happened:

    Our lazy Rottie took off unexpectedly one day when she was taking him out. He outweighed her by at least 40lbs. She held tight to his lead while he drug her across a gravel drive and over a pile of sticks that sliced into her. Her concern was for the stupid dog’s safety, not anything else. Had I known he’d take off like a stupid, stupid comet or she’d hold on if he took off, they would not have been together that morning. I was worried. She was pissed. She had to change clothes and go to school anyway. She was more angry that she had to change outfits than she was to be injured. She’d picked her outfit out especially for her first day of private school. I remember that she threatened to turn our dog into a rug if he ever thought of messing with her again. (He remains alive and sleeps in her room.) I remember cleaning her cuts and tut-tuting as I got her ready for school, scowling at the dog the whole time.

    I said all that to say this: That’s her all over. Some people just have grit and determination in their bones. She’s one of those people. She’s still pretty and stylish.

    I remember her Barbies and that they played with Xena, Mulan, Obi Wan, The Corpse Bribe and Death (the plushie from Meaning of Life). I remember that she loved to buy cheap rubber lizards and dress them in her Barbie clothes. She used marbles to fill out their busts. I explained to her that lizards are not mammals, but she would just shake her head and explain that reality wasn’t the point. I remember that the first fight she ever won with me was when I tried to tell her that all the naked Barbies in the car were inappropriate and she successfully argued against every point I made. The naked Barbies stayed.

    Me: Why are they topless?
    Her: They’re spies.
    Me: ??? OK. But, aren’t they cold?
    Her: Dolls aren’t real. They don’t get cold.
    Me: Don’t you think being naked in the car makes them unhappy?
    Her: Look at her face. She’s always smiling. Barbies can’t be unhappy.
    Me: I feel unconformable driving a car full of naked Barbies around.
    Her: :/
    Me. 😐
    Her: :/
    Me: Fine.

    They filled our shower. They rode with us in the car. They were everywhere. I learned how to untangle their hair with fabric softener. She used markers to give them make overs. I still don’t know how being topless helped spies go unnoticed, but she was sure it did at the time.

    So, is she a vapid model wannabe today? Did Barbie break her? Nope. She likes art and creative writing. She loves science, IT, and gaming. She’s taking film editing next semester.

    Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that fem people who enjoy fashion are wimps. They can look fabulous while they take your job. Pretty does not mean stupid, weak or malleable. Neither does fashionable.

    I don’t know how the people on this thread played with their Barbies, but mine lived in an Amazonian society that would have made Sybil Danning blush. Some of my friends dressed theirs as Joan of Arc and set them on fire. Others cut their hair and dressed them in Ken’s clothes to make them Annie Lennox. (Yeah, it was the 80’s. What?) There really should be a study into how girls really play with their Barbie dolls. Because I don’t think Mattel wants to know what Barbie has really been up to all these years.

    She isn’t always a wimp and the girls who play with her aren’t either.

    I’ve worked at vet’s offices and shelters. I’ve given shots and taken temps in bovine butts. I’ve dipped the USDA lab cats. I’ve shoveled alot of shit in my day. The women who work there may not wear miniskirts on the job, but they do wear them. I like the message that you can wear stripper heels and a micro-mini and still be a serious professional. So, I’m torn about Barbie. On one hand, she may teach us that being pretty is too important, but on the other hand, she also teaches us that being pretty isn’t a handicap. Being fem doesn’t mean you can’t be anything you want. She owns the Dream-house. Ken just visits. I’ll take that. As Harvey Feirstein once said of “sissies” in film “Exposure at all costs”. Barbie may not have been the perfect role model. But, she was there.

    Let’s also not forget that Barbie doesn’t have or want kids. That’s still not socially acceptable for women. She is ahead of our time that way. We don’t have to love her, but Barbie did things years ago that women still cannot do without catching flack. Ain’t nobody gonna tell Barbie to stay home, have babies and stay scared to avoid getting raped. At least if they tried that with my childhood Barbies, they’d get shrived in the kidneys…and possibly eaten.

  35. Jackie, all dressed in black says

    I asked my eldest daughter what she thought of my opinion of “Exposure at all costs” she answered, “I may be the worst captain you’ve ever heard of, but you have heard of me”.

    I think that means she agrees.

  36. Malachite says

    It is logical that they would want to be models. They have observed that society puts high value on a woman’s appearance.

  37. says

    Marcus, isn’t there a busy street somewhere that you could be whistling and catcalling at random female passersby instead? It really sounds like that’s more your speed

    Excuse me? I’m arguing that it’s inappropriate to dismiss modelling as “brainless” and “passive” scarequoted work, and you’re leaping from that to assuming that I harass women?? Please check your perspective and try again.

  38. says

    I think he’s come unglued on this subject

    No, Ophelia, I’d be jumping on you just as hard if you had said something dismissive and unfair about – say – food service workers, as a class. I happen to know more models than I do food service workers, and have heard a lot of stories about the shit they put up with, which is why I called you on your remark. I’m deeply disappointed that, rather than simply correcting yourself, you chose to shovel and shovel.

    Let’s move this away from models, because it’ll make it harder for you to try to dismiss what I’m saying, and it’ll keep people like Blanche Quizno from deciding to attack me, instead of actually, you know, having a point.

    What you did was took a whole set of work and lumped them together into a great big stereotype, then dismissed your stereotyped idea of that set of work as “brainless” then further defended your dismissal by declaring that – apparently, since it may be commerce – it’s not possible to be an art form. I’m sorry, but that’s snobbery at best. First off, you’re nobody to say what is and isn’t art. The “what is art” debate is huge and we’re not going to resolve it here, but dismissing someone’s work as not potentially art-worthy is just another way of stereotyping it as valueless. Like calling it “brainless” is.

    And you’re wrong. You’re wrong because, as I pointed out, there are some people who work very hard and very creatively at even what you might consider demeaning and pointless, unartistic jobs. And there are people who are brainless and simply put their time in. When you dismiss an entire line of work, you also stereotype that line of work unfairly because most lines of work are complicated. Is there a difference between what a 4-star chef does and “burger flipping”? They’re both working in the food service industry, but I think the cordon bleu chef would be a bit miffed if some snobbish blogger dismissed “food service industry” workers as brainless and incapable of being artists in their field. For that matter, there are some people who make absolutely amazing hamburgers and would probably not appreciate being stereotypically lumped in as mere “burger flippers”. Like many many many fields, food service work runs a gamut from what is, perhaps describable as “brainless” to work that is incredibly creative (check out Ferran Adria’s creations) and artistic. Of course, I doubt you’d dismiss food service work as “brainless” because you’ve experienced the range of different kinds of work and creativity that can be shown in that field. So you’d be less likely to stereotype the entire field and then dismiss it.

    I’d be jumping on you if it was any field that I was deeply and passionately familiar with, and you stereotyped the entire field as “brainless” When you do that, you’re demonstrating ignorance and snobbery. And by “snobbery” I mean that you personally don’t value what a group of people do, so you’re going to dismiss them – even the ones who do care and who work hard and try to create art – as unimportant, or as wasting their time.

    I just happen to have a pretty good view of how life is, among one set of models. I know how hard they work and how creative they are, and how engaged they can be in what they’re doing. So, yeah, you’re an asshole to dismiss my friends as “brainless” – to dismiss art models, runway models, catalog models, the whole lot of them, in one fell swoop. That was a shitty thing to do, and I think less of you because of it.

    I also note that implying that I’m “unglued” is perilously close to trying to dismiss what I’m saying because, what, I’m crazy? Are you going all ableist on me, too? No, I’m just pissed off, not unglued. Stop it with the bullshit, it’s a poor substitute for argument.

  39. says

    I think we’re allowed to judge what kinds of work are offered, and why. I think we can say some are harmful, and some are wasteful, and some are trivial.

    Well, obviously “we” aren’t saying that because I’m disagreeing with you. And, perhaps thousands or more models might disagree with you, too.

    But I see you’re attempting to democratize your opinion by implying that there are more than just you who hold it.

    Yes, there are kinds of work that are harmful, and to make that argument, you’d have a pretty simple case: show harm.
    Yes, there are kinds of work that are wasteful, and to make that argument, you have to point out where the waste is and, yeah.
    Now, how do you show work is “trivial”? I mean other than “because Ophelia thinks it’s trivial”? If someone thinks something is worth doing to the point that they’re willing to do it (even if only for money) it can hardly be trivial to them, right?

    Just because something is “a job” doesn’t make it sacrosanct.

    I didn’t say that, at all, and you know it. But, if it’s a job and someone’s getting paid for it, it’s their job, and it’s got meaning to them – even if that meaning is only their paycheck, or perhaps even the satisfaction of a job well done. But saying something is a job does show us that someone thought it was worthwhile enough to pay someone to do it, and someone else thought it was worthwhile enough to get paid to do.

    I’ll give you another hint: there are some jobs that are also hobbies. A hobby, I’d say, is something one does because one values the doing of it and therefore does it for fun, not money. I.e.: they think the thing is worth doing. There are hobbyist models and hobbyist food workers and hobbyist bricklayers and who knows what all else, because they’ve decided whatever it is, is worth doing.

    And your opinion about the value of what they’re doing doesn’t trump theirs.

    No, you don’t get to claim that my contempt for the industry is actually contempt for the models, just because you say so

    I’m not claiming it just because I say so; its that when you express contempt for an activity, anyone engaging in that activity will reasonably feel you are expressing contempt for them, since they chose to engage in that activity. That’s how splash damage works. Seriously, do you think that there is a single person who works as a model who wouldn’t feel a twinge if they read someone publicly dismissing what they do as “brainless”?

  40. says

    I don’t think it’s a “profession.”

    Your opinion is noted. I think it’d be hard to say something’s not a profession when some of its practitioners get paid millions of dollars for doing it. Perhaps Kate Moss and Christy Turlington and Claudia Schiffer and Carla Bruni and so forth don’t agree with your opinion any more than I do.

    I said the job is not creative

    I saw that, and I argued why you’re wrong by pointing out that, in fact, many models are crucial to the creation of both art works and commercial work. So, yeah, you can keep repeating that it’s not creative but, uhhh… sorry to inject opposing facts. I pointed out something that you’ve chosen to studiously ignore, namely that artists use models, too and often great artistic vision comes from a synthesis of the model and the artist. I don’t want to burst your bubble, but you do realize that a human model posed for Leonardo when he painted the Mona Lisa, right? Do you think Caravaggio and Vermeer just pulled those images out of their heads? Well, here’s more news for you: a lot of artists who get the kind of motion and dynamism you see in great art did it by asking the model to interpret a movement or emotion for them; in a sense the artist was the director and the person who captured the final result, but the model was critical in interpreting the creative visions and that’s a creative process. One of my model friends who does bridal catalogs goes to a shoot, and has an art director and a photographer and a make up artist and wardrobe artist set him up, and the female model, and then they’re given direction like: “go stand under the tree over there and look swooningly at eachother” Before you express your contempt for that kind of work as unartistic because it’s for advertising, you might want to wonder how many times artists like Caravaggio (how do you think he got his poses so lifelike!?) told their model, “OK, go over there in that pool of light and grab him like you’re wrestling!” and the model creatively interpreted the direction – the entire creative process and everyone engaged in it deserves their slice of appropriate credit for the result. Do you think an actor is creative? Do you think actors bring creative value to film and stage? Guess what? Acting is what many models do.

    I think a lot of highly-paid work is fundamentally unimportant, while a lot of very underpaid work is far more important. That annoys me. It’s my elitism playing up, I guess.

    I agree. Your opinion about what is important or unimportant is just your opinion.

    I understand that you shouldn’t have to qualify everything you write as “my opinion…” this and “it seems to me now that…” like some pyrhhonian skeptic. If you had said something like “modelling is something I think is brainless” I’d have just dismissed you as having ignorant opinions about models and modelling, and whatever.

    I guess it’s my fault – for taking your writing so seriously?

  41. says

    If you are a model, that is incontestable proof that you are beautiful.

    Uh, no. I guess you didn’t know there are models that are selected for being pretty average, build and appearance-wise?

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