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SMC Beauty Conference displays projects on self-image

Ashley Charnley | Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Saint Mary’s associate professor of communications Teri Russ’ Female Beauty class showed off their semester long projects on self-image at a Mini-Beauty conference held in the student center atrium Tuesday.

The class displayed Barbie dolls they altered into different female stereotypes and pictures they took of themselves which they changed to portray unrealistic alterations at the event.

“Everyone grew up with Barbie so you don’t really think about her form or figure,” senior Megan Gray said.

The class created a group of Barbie’s they knew Mattel, the corporation who produces Barbie Dolls, would never produce, Gray said.

They displayed a Pole Dancing Barbie, Zen Barbie and Goth Barbie. Students also displayed Plastic Surgery Barbie covered in dotted lines, and Realistic Barbie with a padded body to make her look like the average woman. Other dolls included Homeless Barbie complete with dingy clothes, Mental Patient Barbie who came with her own padded room and Tanning Barbie with her skin colored in a dark brown color.

“I like it because it pushes the limits,” senior Victoria Frank said. “I wonder what everyone’s reaction [to the Barbie’s] will be.”

Junior Caitlin Morrison, who attended the conference, said she thought the dolls were an interesting way to portray women.

“I thought it was a great idea because it allowed the class to explore the concept in a different way as opposed to just discussing it,” she said.

Student body vice president, Sarah Falvey also attended the conference.

“I didn’t know much about it [but] it looked really interesting. I kind of passed by and they did some crazy things with those dolls,” she said.

Senior Jenny Anderson also presented a project on the popular children’s game Pretty, Pretty Princess she completed for the course at the conference.

“When you think of a princess you think of someone who sits there and is pretty,” she said, but the game she created explores what it really means to be a princess.

“[The game is] a critique on the stereotypes of royal families, more specifically princesses,” she said. “There’s a lot that goes into ‘princess training.'”

The board game has squares dealing with manners and etiquette. For example, if you land on the “Silence” square you must put lace over your mouth, and if you land on the “Posture” square, you are forced to place a book on your head and leave it there for the remainder of the game.

“My modified game is actually pretty difficult and it makes you look ridiculous,” she said. “At the end of the game, I want the players to realize that real beauty isn’t all that easy and practically impossible and that you look more ridiculous chasing it than you do without it.”

Russ tried to stress the idea that being comfortable with who you are doesn’t mean not wearing make-up or getting dressed up throughout the class and the conference, she said. The class teaches women to define themselves by what they know and who they are and the conference tires to show that to the rest of campus, she said.

Russ is currently working to expand the conference into a half-day event next year. The Female Beauty class will be offered in the spring of 2009 as a special topics class.

Mandi Stirone contributed reporting to this article.