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Saint Mary’s students redesign Barbies for class assignment

Meaghan Daly | Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Students in Terri Russ’ Female Beauty class outgrew playing with Barbies years ago. However, a recent project allowed them to dust off their old toys and look at Barbie in a whole new light.

On Tuesday, some thirty students took turns presenting their modified Barbie doll to classmates. Throughout the semester, Russ and her students discussed Barbie as a cultural icon and form of beauty discourse. As part of that discussion, Russ gave her students an assignment: modify Barbie in order to more accurately represent an aspect of the range of female beauty.

Senior Michelle Marshall modified her Barbie to be more masculine.

“My Barbie goes against the expectations of females in today’s society by being masculine and very athletically inclined,” Marshall said. “I learned through this class that society shapes our views and expectations of gender and sex. I felt encouraged to defy the odds against society’s expectations to fulfill my own dreams and inspirations.”

The Barbies represented some of society’s images of beauty in a variety of ways. Senior Danae Jimenez chose to discuss dress size and its implication.

“Real Curves Barbie is a size 14 and she is confident in who she is and what she does,” Jimenez said.

Mattel, the manufacturer of Barbie, says Barbie allows for females to create their own feminine image.

“Barbie lets you be anything you want to be,” Barbie.com says. Russ, however, disagrees.

“Even though Mattel says Barbie can be anything, something as simple as a Barbie can have greater ramifications [on consumers],” Russ said.

A theme throughout the presentations was the idea Barbie represents is not applicable to everyone.

Call Me Maybe Barbie is insecure and wears short, tight clothes.

“She is able to represent actual struggles that college girls face. These Barbies put a funny spin on something that really is important,” Dilan Yuksel said.

All of the Barbie modifications play on the various pressures or effects of society for women. The collection included Real Curves Barbie, Teenager Barbie, Aging Barbie, Long-term Relationship Barbie, Jersey Chaser Barbie, Calorie Counting Barbie, and many more.

The Barbies will be presented at the BOLD Beauty Conference, to be held Tuesday, May 1, 2012. This conference will allow participants to discuss and learn about beauty related issues facing women today through student and faculty presentations. Barbies on Parade will be displayed in the Student Center Lounge from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Contact Meaghan Daly at mdaly01@saintmarys.edu