Eyes without a face – Lagerfeld’s new Barbie

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Photo from Karl.com

In the ultimate expression of narcissism + materialism + sexism, Karl Lagerfeld has teamed up with American toy brand Mattel Inc. to create an ultra fashionable incarnation of the most famous doll in the world, Barbie – in his own image. Due for release on the 29th September during Paris Fashion Week, the doll will be limited edition and sold at $200 each in select outlets including Net A Porter, more normally a bastion for the selling of fashion apparel to clothe living, sentient women. However the match is superficially a good one for what is Barbie if not an entity that buys, has and sells things, including whole lifestyles and attitudes to a (mainly) female audience apparently eager to lap it up?

WWD have released a promotional image of Barbie looking up to Herr Lagerfeld who is blissfully unaware of the fact that Barbie would be unable to hold up her own head let alone gaze adoringly at him, should her body shape and measurements be scaled up into actual, um, real human woman size. Her neck would be totally unable to support the weight of her head. In an earlier study, Finland’s University Central Hospital in Helsinksi even found Barbie lacking the appropriate percentage of body fat required for menstruation and if Barbie were a real woman, her measurements would be 36-18-38. Maybe Herr Lagerfeld could design a nice line of Chanel pearl and camellia encrusted neck braces and surgical appliances for this anatomically challenged doll?

In Barbie, Lagerfeld has found his perfect fashion female- voiceless, unable to hold any bothersome opinions, devoid of messy bodily functions (especially having to eat, something Lagerfeld has in the past expressed his own distaste for) and never ever at risk of gaining an extra pound of weight on her improbable frame. To add insult to injury, this latest incarnation of Barbie cannot even express herself through her clothing. She is dressed as doppelganger of the sartorially predictable Karl who applies none of his admittedly stellar creativity to his own Chrome Heart encrusted, leather gloved perma tanned self.

“Fashion is about dreams and illusion” he said back in 2009 in an interview with Focus magazine. It is also about selling those dreams and illusions to the emerging lucrative markets in China and Taiwan, Japan, Middle East and Russia, playing off of their love of the kitsch and playful. This is marketing kitsch and archness to adults but sadly losing some of their original, achievable appeal at the same time, for make no mistake, these dolls are not to be played with and nor are they everyday acquistions. They possess even less of the hopes and dreams and displaced aspirations of the millions of little children who once played with them.

In being marketed as intended for fashions pedestal, Barbie has lost all of the qualities that her creator Ruth Handler, co-owner of Mattel, stated she saw in her when the doll debuted at the American Toy Fair in New York City in 1959.

“Barbie has always represented that a woman has choices. Even in her early years, Barbie did not have to settle for only being Ken’s girlfriend or an inveterate shopper. She had the clothes, for example, to launch a career as a nurse, a stewardess, a nightclub singer. I designed Barbie with a blank face so that the child could project her own dreams of the future onto Barbie,” Handler said in her book, “Dream Doll.” “I never wanted to play up the glamorous life of Barbie. I wanted the owner to create a personality for the doll.” “ she said.

Sadly, Lagerfelds Barbie has now been totally stripped of those sartorial choices, no longer even in possession of her own admittedly blank, face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Most Serious and Unaddressed Worldwide Challenge is the Deprivation and Abuse of Women and Girls” – Jimmy Carter

We review ‘A Call to Action – Women, religion, Violence and Power’ by Jimmy Carter

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President Carter marches to the beat of third wave feminism and  intersectionality in this call to action. He believes that prostitution, the disparity in pay between the sexes, international human (and female) trafficking, oppression in the name of faith and female genital mutilation (FGM) are problems which affect us all, not just women and he does not differentiate between western, first world issues and those of the developing world either. All this, from what appears on paper to be the unlikeliest of sources- a peanut farming, Southern Baptist Nonegarian white man; a man of ninety who has visited over 145 countries as both politician and co- founder of the Carter Centre, set up with his wife Rosalyn to highlight and combat global poverty, inequality and ill-health.

In 2002, Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” These travels inform his world view that when educational, political, social, economic and cultural structures are owned by men, then women can become trapped, along with their children, in cycles of poverty, war and violence. “There is a pretty good correlation between the overall economic well being of a country and how they treat their women with the right to education, for instance, or the right to jobs,” he stated.

In a A Call to Action, President Carter sets out 23 recommendations “that can help blaze the road to progress” and encourages people to visit The Carter Center web site and work alongside him and his wife to this end.

Yet Carter does not fall into the trap of defining Africa solely by images of disease, corruption and poverty, nor does he hold up the west (and the USA in particular) as shining beacons of How To Do Things. Rwanda has a parliament composed of nearly 2/3 women but in the West, the average is about 23%. We will let that comparison stand without further comment. The USA comes under severe criticism for the way in which the seriousness of rape and sexual assault are diminished by its military and educational establishments who are deemed to be lackadaisical in their efforts to tackle the rising tide of aggressive and overt misogyny that feeds and ‘permits’ such behaviours. The economic motives behind this, of not wanting to damage the reputation of their institutions in these times of aggressive educational marketing, are castigated and in his action plan Carter goes on to state that any right to obstruct the prosecution of an alleged rapist should be removed from commanding officers. Further highlighted is the US commitment to capital punishment and the Hawk like foreign policy which in his eyes, sets a moral example to everybody in the West. The example? That violence is the way to resolve problems.

Those of us who saw the way that AIDS rampaged through continents will also remember the inhumane way in which the christian right influenced foreign and domestic policy: they damaged initiatives aimed at tackling the HIV and AIDS crisis, hindering attempts to promote barrier contraception as a preventative measure and using a warped misinterpretation of the teachings of God to justify this. Countries such as Uganda were starting to make progress in reducing the rate of new infections until far-right American leaders influenced Nancy and Ronald Reagan to take a stand against condoms. These influential ‘Men of God’ (for they were usually men) obstructed further attempts to fund research- research that could have benefited people worldwide. These men who proselytised the love of God, bear direct responsibility for the deaths of many innocents, including children.

Carter is true to his strong faith but he is able to discriminate between it and a church that promulgates a hard-to-span gulf between the teachings of Christ and the interpretation thereof. His own resignation from the Southern Baptist Church as a result of its stricter reinterpretation of scripture which resulted in an edict that ‘wives should always be submissive and subjugated to their husbands’, denying them the right to seek out a chaplaincy, was the act of a courageous and unhypocritical man. Seen in the light of a childhood in the Bible Belt where life was permanently interpreted through that filter of faith, his decision is all the more admirable. He connects the rise in global violence and wilful, self-serving misinterpretation of religious scripture to justify the subjugation of women, to deeper issues of poverty and economic disparity. Where women serve and work at the highest levels, we see a corresponding rise in economic prosperity and social harmony.

It is not surprising that Carter has been seen by some of his countrymen and women as sanctimonious and reflective of the small town Southern Sunday School teacher and Pastor he was for many years. But there is nothing small town about President Jimmy Carter. His influence, thankfully, is global and his vision ahead of its time.