I just did a quick peek at the Mattel company website and did not see this potential offering of their latest Barbie, but discussions on social media platforms are already abuzz. Naturally Moi has an article asking whether this doll (which they’ve labeled as being a new Barbie) is an accurate representation of African-American women.
Meet your newest
Ratchet Hip-Hop Black Barbie?!
Knock-off designer bags. Check.
Exposed cleavage. Check.
All they need to do is add a few pieces like pajama bottoms, a head scarf, purple drank and Hood Rat Barbie is complete.
Does this offend you?
But wait, doesn’t this doll
Barbie look like a combination of images of blackish women being misrepresented on shows like The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Love & Hip-Hop and er…Beyonce? Mattel The manufacturer ALMOST got it right.
They just need to make this doll’s
Barbie’s skintone 4 shades lighter (cocoa de leche Barbie?), put some giant earrings on her and it’s a go! I bet this doll will fly off the shelves. Plenty of people will see nothing wrong with this representation. Don’t be so quick to dismiss this as a class issue or difference of opinion.
I don’t see people celebrating the many professional-looking Black Barbie’s available. At the end of the day lip-service gives way to what people financially support and flock to. I’m waiting for a Black Pop Star Barbie that jiggles and bounces like
Beyonce an Elmo toy to make it past committee approval. You know someone has suggested or requested it. They’re just keeping it real stupid.
The group Aqua released their Barbie Girl song more than a decade ago and I think people paid more attention to the breathy vocals, dance production and silly video whose lyrics were surprisingly deep. This song criticizes the sexual nature of the dolls, displays the fetishization of women as objects, the extremes of beauty idolatry and exposes the male predatory aspects of how they engage with modern women. It was a stealth way of getting a serious message across for those paying attention.
I’m a Barbie girl
In a Barbie world
Life in plastic! It’s fantastic.
You can brush my hair
Undress me everywhere
Imagination, life is your creation
Make me walk, make me talk
Do whatever you please
I can act like a star
I can beg on my knees
There are women who want to be living, breathing Barbies and get all of the necessary plastic surgery to make themselves over. I’m not going to criticize it because the truth of our human motivation is often ugly. There is a premium spot in society for women who can be put on that narrow beauty pedestal, though it’s fleeting. So, if this idealized and rare manifestation of beauty is as desirable for white women, who are ironically protected by white male patriarchy by being labeled the beauty standard in the first place, how much more will non-white women want to be included?
Yup, this is a “real” woman, model Valeria Lukyonova whose combination of makeup and plastic surgery has her looking eerily just like a doll.
This conversation will not veer off into a diatribe against white racism as the root for the celebration of “European” beauty standards. Nor will this be misdirected at categorically blaming white males for oppressing women. Women are often more misogynistic and competitive with each other individually than males are in trying to subjugate the collective. Add in the racial construct and unexamined color racism amongst blacks against black women and we’ve got the definition of black-on-black misogyny that permeates, which influences black women to further cannibalize themselves.
In other words, black women already have to deal with external obstacles from society at large. They have no safe haven within and amongst other black people because black males (who while benefiting from patriarchy want relief from their self-hate take it out on black women) devalue them. We’ve discussed all the ways black males simultaneously use black women for their resources, recruit other black women to act as Overseer, rip off and repackage their creations [Think Like A Man & Good Hair are two recent examples], offer sex without commitment destroying the family structure necessary for a thriving community, commit increasingly violent acts against them, abandon them and their offspring all the while negating their beauty and uplifting racially ambiguous blackish women as the epitome of “blackness” to get ahead in society while berating them for their very existence. Then they actively try to block any discussion about what they’ve done, misdirect accountability and block the exit doors for those who want out. And they deny it all with claims about making ‘jokes’ and isolated incidences, waving the “black love” flag to shut down conversation.
In order to have a truthful and thorough conversation, we must discuss the 360 degree elements of what influences, who benefits and how people react to circumstances that have not yet been fully acknowledged, let alone redressed. This has far-reaching impact into the choices and opportunities available to black women and their mobility in a country with dwindling resources. And while white males may rule in society, the specific derogatory image battering black women right now is not their sole doing. It’s black males driving it with black women’s approval. Black women who continually seek validation from conquered black males who hate themselves, can’t give black women what they need or offer any protection. If we lived in a culture that offered positive messages of African American beauty and acknowledged women, this wouldn’t be such a problem.
White males already have access to “European” standards and European-looking women. The only ones chasing after that are black males seeking to elevate their self-esteem and standing in society by giving whatever hard-fought gains have been made in the past 45 years back to white males, through white women.
Capturing the black male gaze and seeking the needle in a haystack exceptionalism influences many black women to run towards the plastic surgery, the skin lightening treatments, the yellow hair and the desperate behavior. Unfortunately, the quality of the men they seek is woefully inadequate and they’ll never get the validation they require. And yes, women do need their beauty validated along with every other aspect of themselves to be a complete person. It’s not unique for any women with the focus and means to beautify herself, thus some of these actions are not necessarily harmful in and of themselves. It’s the unacknowledged underlying hatred for black women who look black that is the issue. Many of these women have attractive features that are admired by men who are not black and would fare better to go where they will be appreciated. Non-black males don’t need to step on the backs of black women to get ahead in society and already dominate in some way or come from more intact communities, so they may have an appreciation for all women. They don’t need to exalt one group of women at the expense of another.
Here’s an old interview with Lil’ Kim from 2000
before her copy-cat Nikki Minaj came on the scene to call black women stupid hoes that typifies the experiences of many little black girls who then go on to further compound the issue.
This steely, rapid-fire delivery helped Lil’ Kim sell more than a million copies of her first solo album, the 1996 “Hardcore”; combined with the graphic lyrics, blond hair, blue contacts, breast implants and that MTV Awards outfit with the single pasty, it’s landed her on the pages of every fashion, gossip and music magazine. But the Lil’ Kim you meet offstage speaks in a soft, tiny, unrecognizable voice–still the voice of Kimberly Jones, the little black girl with doe eyes and kinky hair, the deeply hurt little girl from Brooklyn. Even before her parents divorced, when she was 8, she suffered her father’s disapproval. “It was like I could do nothing right,” she says. “Everything about me was wrong–my hair, my clothes, just me.” After the divorce, she tried to stay with her mother, but money was tight and her father won custody. “I always knew my child would be somebody,” Kim’s mother, Ruby Jones, recalls. “She’d always be the one in her class who looked the most like nobody else. Her father never understood, and that hurt her.”
“I have low self-esteem and I always have,” she says. “Guys always cheated on me with women who were European-looking. You know, the long-hair type. Really beautiful women that left me thinking, ‘How I can I compete with that?’ Being a regular black girl wasn’t good enough.” And the implants? “That surgery was the most pain I’ve ever been in in my life,” says Kim. “But people made such a big deal about it. White women get them every day. It was to make me look the way I wanted to look. It’s my body.”
I don’t even think recording artists are this honest today, but this interview is 13 years old. Everything is so grossly packaged now.
Mattel even produced a limited-edition less talented Lil’ Kim rip-off artist Nikki Minaj Barbie doll. As I recall, Lil’ Kim has mostly been involved with lower-class black males and even went to prison to protect a few. Wouldn’t this be the same type of guys who exalt Bouncy Beyonce (who refers to herself as French Creole and Native American) and her ever brighter skin (or Halle Berry – who is half-white) as the epitome of “black” beauty? Recent photos of the rapper needed to be credited as her because she looks unrecognizable when compared to her previous appearance. Admittedly, I have never been too fond of the hip-hop hijacking of African American culture in this country, but even I’ve noticed how the derivative artists that have gained prominence since are less talented and more cartoonish than ever. The skin is whiter. The hair is multi-colored. The foolishness is so much more in your face. This is another example of fake empowerment being packaged to black women. Act a fool on tv and be rewarded. Don’t be mad at Mattel for holding up a mirror to black people’s idiocy.
Like black Barbie
The life of the party
I light up the TV
Arrested for D-WI’s
Sent me to the slammer
Did time without glamour
Time stood still
I’d make believe
I’m a celebrity
All the boys
Wanna get with me
I am too sexy
I’m black barbie
Up all night having fun
I love to party
Just like the white one
I believe in make believe
I believe in making me
I love to party
Up all night having fun
Just like the white one
**Update As several people have pointed out, the offensive doll in question isn’t a Barbie. Big whoop. I did a little digging. This is one incarnation of the Adele Makeda line was first created by designer Jason Wu with manufacturer Integrity Toys in 2001. Michelle Obama has worn several outfits from his clothing collections over the years. The doll’s heritage is African, not African-American.
While there’s a cute little backstory and about a dozen mostly non-offensive dolls produced, this particular doll looks a lot like the aforementioned AA “look” du jour and is offensive to all black women, but especially African-American women. Maybe if they start selling these dolls dressed in traditional African garb and playing out African-specific stereotypes with a bone through her nose, carrying a spear someone will claim it’s “fake controversy over a doll”.
These dolls retail upwards of $125 and more as they’re traded. My post asked the question of how to respond to the doll’s producer, whomever it is, when so many refuse to take the matter seriously. No one is off the hook for disseminating negative imagery of black women, but the buck begins and ends with you. What you value and what you allow. The only controversy is why blacks continue to ignore these trends as they’ve become deeply entrenched seeds of destruction.