Connect with us

#NNPA BlackPress

BMA’s Barbie Exhibit: How Society Views Beauty and Women of Color

BIRMINGHAM TIMES — What has Barbie done for you, and what has Barbie done to you? These are the questions curators at the Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA) want visitors to ponder as they explore the new exhibit “Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future.” The exhibition, which opened on August 10 and will be open through January 2020, takes a critical look at Barbie as toy-manufacturing company Mattel marks the 60th anniversary of the iconic doll.

Published

on

Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future, depicting a view of a modern Barbie's house is displayed at the Birmingham Museum of Art. (Photo by: Mark Almond)

By Javacia Harris Bowser

What has Barbie done for you, and what has Barbie done to you?

These are the questions curators at the Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA) want visitors to ponder as they explore the new exhibit “Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future.”

The exhibition, which opened on August 10 and will be open through January 2020, takes a critical look at Barbie as toy-manufacturing company Mattel marks the 60th anniversary of the iconic doll.

While Barbie has sparked the imaginations of children around the world for six decades, the doll has also promoted narrow beauty standards and body ideals that are unattainable for most women, particularly for girls and women of color. The exhibit is the brainchild of Hallie Ringle, the BMA’s Hugh Paul Curator of Contemporary Art.

“Many of us have a very complicated relationship with Barbie,” Ringle said. “While she is very much a figure promoting white womanhood and white standards of beauty, she was also the only doll—for many years, at least—that was telling girls to aspire to different careers; telling girls they didn’t have to have a Ken in their life, that their existence didn’t have to rely on a man or a baby, and that they could build their own spaces.”

Black Barbie

For the exhibit, Ringle wanted to create a literal space for visitors to explore as they examined their relationship to Barbie. The first Barbie Dreamhouse launched in 1962, and for this exhibit Ringle called on interior designers from the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Studio BOCA to create a life-size Barbie Dreamhouse in the BMA’s Arrington Gallery that guests can walk through and view contemporary art inspired by the doll.

Ringle said one of her inspirations for the exhibit was the work of Atlanta, Ga-based photographic artist Sheila Pree Bright, whose pieces hang over the sofa in Barbie’s BMA living room. These works are from Bright’s 2003 collection “Plastic Bodies,” which explores the complex relationship women of color have with white beauty standards by combining images of real women’s faces and bodies with those of Barbie dolls.

“I started looking at how multiethnic women perceived themselves when it came to beauty and looking at African American women and how they viewed themselves and their bodies based on the Western concepts and narrative,” Bright explained to The Birmingham Times.

Though Bright didn’t play with Barbie dolls herself as a child, thinking of American beauty standards led her to thinking of Mattel’s mainstay.

“Barbie is a cultural icon and the most popular doll in America. Even to this day, it’s the number-one fashion doll,” Bright said. “So, I started looking at how this applied to society’s views of beauty and women, especially women of color.”

Bright believes that in popular American culture, the essence of natural beauty is replaced by fantasy, a fantasy of which Barbie is both a product and promotion.

“In the media, we fabricate the illusion of the perfect body or beauty, even with the Barbie doll, and it’s rooted in Western concepts,” Bright said. “As a society, we get caught up in this illusion. I think that, as a metaphor, Barbie has become human and we have become plastic.”

Bright pointed out that even as voluptuous shapes and sizes have become more celebrated in mainstream media, this too has an element of artificiality. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimates that buttock augmentation surgery increased by 252 percent between the years 2000 and 2015. And it’s not lost on Bright that rapper Nicki Minaj calls herself “Black Barbie.”

Barbie has had black friends since the release of Christie in 1968. The first diverse dolls named “Barbie” were released in 1980, and Barbie’s Dolls of the World collection hit shelves in 1981. It wasn’t until 2016 that Mattel introduced three new Barbie body types: curvy, petite, and tall. According to the company’s website, the new body types were meant to “reflect the world girls see today.” The launch landed Barbie on the cover of Time magazine.

This year, Mattel debuted a doll with a prosthetic leg and another that comes with a wheelchair as part of the 2019 Barbie Fashionista line, which aims to offer youngsters more diverse representations of beauty. Nonetheless, Bright is not convinced that the message Barbie conveys has changed, especially when she browses Barbie’s social media influencer style Instagram account @BarbieStyle.

“When you look at the images on their Instagram, you still see that Western narrative,” Bright said. “They’re not promoting those body types. It’s the same old narrative and a few different ethnic dolls as Barbie’s friends. So, what has changed?”

Click to view slideshow.

Barbie’s Dreamhouse

The BMA’s “Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future” was created to be an interactive exhibit. There are no “Please Do Not Touch” signs in Barbie’s Dreamhouse. Visitors are encouraged to make themselves at home. Guests can lounge on the sofa in Barbie’s living room or go to the sitting room and watch artist Lauren Kelley’s thought-provoking video vignettes. There are iPads visitors can use to scroll through to learn more about the exhibit.

Barbie’s library is stocked with feminist literature by the likes of Margaret Atwood, Naomi Wolf, and Betty Friedan. There are children’s books, too, such as “Malala’s Magic Pencil” by Malala Yousafzai. Ringle has said her dream is to find people reading to their children in the exhibit. Kids can also have a make-believe meal in Barbie’s dining room and even write a letter to Barbie at her computer.

Visitors can check their makeup or hair at Barbie’s vanity in her dressing room, which features glowing furniture by Kim Markel. Then they can strike a pose in front of the Grace Hartigan painting hanging in Barbie’s foyer or the rhinestone-studded pink wallpaper by the New York design studio Flat Vernacular.

Artists from Flat Vernacular also created the eye-catching work that hangs just outside Barbie’s Dreamhouse. “If the Shoe Fits” reimagines a mariner’s quilt with hundreds of Barbie shoes to honor and highlight women’s labor in the American South.

Studio BOCA, the architectural and interior design company tasked with building Barbie’s Dreamhouse for the exhibit, is run by sisters Kate Taylor Boehm and Kirby Caldwell.

“We just wanted to honor the process of female imagination,” Boehm said. “So, we figured rather than trying to convey a particular message, our approach would be just to incorporate the work of all female designers.”

Fond Memories

Boehm and Caldwell played with Barbie dolls as girls, and their memories of Barbie are mostly fond ones.

“She was just this strong female lead. When we were growing up in the 1980s, almost all movies had these male leads, and the female characters were all secondary,” Boehm said. “Barbie was a place where we could write our own story and have the female be the hero.”

Through Barbie, these two sisters also began to imagine themselves as business owners, a dream they would eventually make come true.

“Barbie planted a lot of seeds in our heads of what it meant to be a career woman and have a vision and have drive,” Caldwell said.

Boehm, however, does have a memory of one day looking at her thighs when she was only 7 years old and thinking they were too big: “I guess that may have had something to do with seeing Barbie’s unrealistic thighs for so many years, but I never had a moment where I was like, ‘Oh I wish I looked like Barbie.’ It wasn’t really about that for me.”

It was about imagination.

“She was this blank canvas to which we could apply our imagination,” Boehm said. “Once we got a taste of being career women, even if it was only in our imaginations, there was no going back.”

A Female Future

The title of the exhibit is a nod to the phrase “The future is female,” which was first used in the 1970s but gained mainstream popularity in the past few years as it’s shown up on social media, T-shirts, lapel pins, and onesies. The phrase was adopted by supporters of former First Lady and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her historic run for president and has even been used by Clinton herself.

“A female future to me means control over our bodies and future and lives,” Ringle said, adding that she hopes the exhibit, filled with works by female artists and designers, will help visitors dream of that day. She also hopes men who view the exhibit will recognize the role and importance of womanhood in their own lives.

In 2018, the Barbie brand launched The Dream Gap Project, a global initiative aimed at giving girls the resources and role models they need to dream big and make those dreams come true.

“The exhibit really is just a celebration of people who have had the opportunity for their dreams to become reality and for their visions to be made tangible,” Boehm said. “It’s an expression of our hope that every person and, especially for this moment, every young girl will have the opportunity for her dreams to be made real at some point in her life.”

“Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future,” on exhibit through Jan. 26, 2020, in the Birmingham Museum of Art’s Arrington Gallery

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#NNPA BlackPress

Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.
The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

Published

on

By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D, NNPA Newswire Entertainment and Culture Editor

The documentary She Had A Dream by Tunisian filmmaker Raja Amari premieres on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange series tonight at 8 p.m. EST on WORLD CHANNEL. Season 14 of the acclaimed documentary series captures Black artists and activists shaping and reclaiming culture, advocating for change and mobilizing for brighter futures. She Had A Dream offers an intimate portrayal of one young Black Tunisian woman’s quest for political office and her fight against racism and oppression in a society that often seeks to overlook both.

The documentary follows Ghofrane, a 20-something Black woman from Tunisia as she walks the path of self-discovery of young adulthood while running for political office in a homeland where many still view her as an outsider.

Watch the trailer below:

A dedicated, charismatic activist and a modern, free-speaking woman, Ghofrane in many ways is the embodiment of contemporary Tunisian political hopes still alive years after the Arab Spring. She Had A Dream follows Ghofrane as she works to conquer her own self-doubts while attempting to persuade close friends and complete strangers to vote for her. As audiences follow her campaign, they also follow the dichotomies of her life as a woman striving for a role in politics in the Arab world and as a Black person in a country where racism is prevalent, yet often denied.

“The 14th season of AfroPoP shines a light on the collective power, strength and resilience of Black people and movements around the world,” said Leslie Fields-Cruz, AfroPoP executive producer. “Viewers will see artists use their platforms to push for progress and human rights and see ‘ordinary’ people do the remarkable in the interest of justice.”

Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.

She Had A Dream airs on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange Monday, April 11 at 8 p.m. ET on WORLD Channel and begins streaming on worldchannel.org at the same time.

AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange is presented by Black Public Media and WORLD Channel. For more information, visit worldchannel.org or blackpublicmedia.org.

This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

Continue Reading

#NNPA BlackPress

Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena.
The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

Published

on

BBC Africa is reporting Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, is facing a water shortage because of changing weather patterns and aging water facilities. The article reports, “Residents in informal communities like Kibra pay private vendors for water, meaning they now control the supply and access to water in the community.” The privatization of water access has led to an increase in the exploitation of women and girls in exchange for water.

“Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena. Check out the 2018 ANEW documentary short below:

The water crisis and the sexual exploitation of girls and women as a result of the water crisis shows no signs of slowing down.

To read more about this crisis, visit BBC Africa‘s series of articles and videos on Kenya’s water crisis and the Water Integrity Network’s (WIN) study on sextortion.

This news brief was curated by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

Continue Reading

#NNPA BlackPress

#WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright

THE AFRO — Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.
The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

Published

on

By Maya Pottiger, Word in Black

It’s no surprise that we’re living through difficult times. After two years, we’re still in a global pandemic, which has predominantly impacted people of color. In addition, Book bans, attacks on critical race theory, and partisan political fights target everything from Black youths’ sexuality, to history, to health.

And we’re seeing the effects.

Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.

For a variety of reasons — ongoing stigma, lack of insurance, most accessible — Black students often rely on the mental health services offered at school.Outside of a mental health-specific practice, Black students were nearly 600 times as likely to get mental health help in an academic setting compared to other options, according to 2020 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In fact, mental health services in schools have been steadily gaining popularity among students since 2009, before dropping slightly in 2020 when the school year was interrupted, according to the SAMHSA report. As a result, the rate of students receiving mental health care through school decreased by 14 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.

So how are schools changing the way they address and prioritize mental health — and the specific needs of Black students — since 2020?

The Renewed Focus on Mental Health

For school-aged people, the majority of their time is spent in a school building — about eight hours per day, 10 months out of the year. To help address mental health during academic hours, schools are trying to focus on social-emotional learning: self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills. This includes teaching kids how to be in touch with their emotions and protect against adverse mental health outcomes.

But it’s been difficult.

Though there’s been more conversation, the implementation is challenging, says Dr. Kizzy Albritton, an associate professor of school psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. There was already a shortage of school-based mental health professionals before the pandemic, which has now been exacerbated, as have mental health issues. In addition, though schools clearly recognize the importance of mental health, they aren’t always provided adequate resources.

“Unless there are more resources funneled into the school system, we’re going to see a continued catch-up issue across the board,” Albritton says. “And, unfortunately, our Black students are going to continue to suffer the most.”

In a survey of high school principals and students, Education Week Research Center found discrepancies in how principals and students viewed a school’s mental health services. While 86 percent of the principals said their schools provided services, only about 66 percent of students agreed. The survey did point out it’s possible the school offers these services and students aren’t aware. The survey also found Black and Latinx students were less likely than their peers to say their schools offered services.

Dr. Celeste Malone, the president-elect of the National Association for School Psychologists and a Howard University associate professor, says she hasn’t previously seen this degree of attention to mental health in schools.

“I see that a lot in my role for a school psychology graduate program: the outreach and people contacting me with openings where they didn’t exist previously,” Malone says. “With this increased push in funding to hire more, that’s definitely a very, very positive movement.”

Mental Health Is Not One Size Fits All

Just like with many aspects of health, Black youths need different mental health support from their peers of other races. They need a counselor who understands their lived experiences, like microaggressions and other forms of discrimination or racism, without the student having to explain.

For example, in order to best address the specific mental health needs of Black students, districts need to provide information breaking down mental health stigmas; focus on hiring Black counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals; and fund anti-racist and trauma-informed mental health practices, according to the Center for American Progress.

While she hears a lot of talk, Albritton says she isn’t seeing widespread evidence of these solutions in practice.

“There needs to be a willingness, first of all, to understand that our Black students, their needs look a lot different,” Albritton says. School officials need to understand where Black students are coming from — that their families and households experience systemic and structural racism, which are known to trigger anxiety and depression. The effects of the racial wealth gap also play a role, from the neighborhood kids are living in, to the schools they can attend to the impacts on their health. Students might be bringing worries about these challenges to school, which could be reflected in their behavior. This is why, Albritton says, it’s crucial to also work with students’ families.

The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright appeared first on AFRO American Newspapers .

Continue Reading

Subscribe to receive news and updates from the Oakland Post

* indicates required

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Dr. Noha Aboelata of ROOTS and Dr. Tony Jackson of Pranamind and President of the Bay Area Association of Black Psychologists.
Activism1 month ago

Oakland Frontline Healers Launches Black Mental Health Initiative

#NNPA BlackPress2 months ago

Walkaround 2022 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD Sedan w/Premium Plus Package POV Test Drive

#NNPA BlackPress2 months ago

Asian Automotive Philosophy AutoNetwork Reports Black History Month

#NNPA BlackPress2 months ago

Best Detailed Walkaround 2022 GMC Sierra 2500 4WD Crew Cab AT4 HD | POV Test Drive

#NNPA BlackPress2 months ago

Car Reviews – Live Auto [Car] Talk Show – AutoNetwork Reports 351

#NNPA BlackPress2 months ago

Car Reviews Live Auto Car Talk Show AutoNetwork Reports 351

#NNPA BlackPress2 months ago

Best Detailed Walkaround 2022 Subaru BRZ Limited Sport Coupe | POV Test Drive

#NNPA BlackPress2 months ago

Best Detailed Walkaround 2022 Mazda CX 30 2.5 Turbo AWD | Subcompact SUV

#NNPA BlackPress2 months ago

Best Detailed Walkaround 2022 Toyota Corolla SE | POV Test Drive

#NNPA BlackPress2 months ago

Car Reviews – Live Auto [Car] Talk Show – AutoNetwork Reports 350

#NNPA BlackPress2 months ago

Car Reviews – Live Auto Car Talk Show – AutoNetwork Reports 350

#NNPA BlackPress8 months ago

NNPA – Black Press w/ Hendriks Video Interview

#NNPA BlackPress2 years ago

‘You Know Who to Vote For’ Martin Luther King’s Voting Message 56 Years Ago Today

Entertainment2 years ago

Music Spotlight with LaToya London

#NNPA BlackPress2 years ago

#FIYAH! LIVESTREAM — U.S. Surgeon General: ‘The Debate is Over — We All Should Be Wearing Face Coverings to Prevent Spread of COVID-19’

Trending