Ruby the Reject Barbie
Time for some feminism. Can someone explain why a little girl was apparently ‘traumatised’ on seeing Ruby, a Body Shop doll based on real proportions not Barbie ones? This one complaint made Barbie manufacturer Mattell send the Body Shop a ‘cease & desist’ order…
In September of 2007, the Body Shop filled its windows and shelves with posters, magnets, and post cards of a girl named Ruby, as in “rubenesque.” Ruby was the anti-Barbie doll. Europe and Australia embraced her voluptuous figure a year earlier, and some Americans showed approval, too. “It’s real, truthful, and honest,” said 28-year old Aly. “The reality is, we don’t all look like Barbie.”
And then, a man walked in.
According to him, the daughter whose hand he’d been holding in the mall was “traumatized” by Ruby’s pear-shaped figure. Barbie manufacturer Mattel sent The Body Shop a cease and desist order. Practically overnight, Ruby disappeared.
Really? Has his daughter been to a mall recently? Pencil-thin models wearing nothing but underwear and a button-up sitting on the barely-covered junk of Caucasian male underwear models didn’t bother her, but a hairless, expressionless doll the size of her forearm and who looked more like her mother than did anything else in the store traumatized her?
Is anyone else calling bullshit on this?
The Ideal Shape of a Woman
Let’s back up. Take a look at these numbers comparing the sizes of the average woman versus Barbie and store mannequins, and try not to get pissed that Ruby was kidnapped from The Body Shop.
36 – 37″
29 – 31″
40 – 42″
So, reinforcing unhealthy sizes for women that would, in fact, cause the cessation of menstruation and scientifically qualify as unhealthy and even deadly is okay, but selling a chunky version of Barbie is traumatizing? Judith Williamson, in her book Consuming Passions, says that this is why: the desirable shape for a woman is a man.
The fashion images that we inevitably compare ourselves with (to be found lacking!) are of figures that resemble not so much women, as boys. . . . Lean, tall, flat-tummied boys-leggy, tight-bummed, curve-less. . . . hairless, a total denial of adult women’s sexual qualities.
Here’s some more food for thought: when my Politics of Sex professor handed out copies of a model named Tula in a bikini to all the men in my class, he asked them if they found “her” attractive. Every male said yes. And then, they learned that Tula was Barry Cossey, a transgender model. Tula, a former male, is a blueprint for the ideal female in today’s media.
Tula doesn’t have a womb, which inevitably make women have “tummies.” Tula’s hips aren’t made for bearing children; that’s why they’re not wide and are well-muscled. Tula’s body fat is inherently situated in different places than in women’s bodies; that’s why she looks hot by the media’s standard.
Fat is Sexual in Women
Assuming that manufacturers create children’s dolls so that kids can pretend that said dolls are real people, and assuming that storeowners arrange clothes on a store mannequin to simulate how those clothes might look on a real person, there’s something really, really wrong here.
It explains why the American Journal of Public Health found in a study of 42,000 men and women that 37% of women were more likely to be depressed if overweight. This is because fat is sexual in women-everything is sexual for women because it’s a white, heterosexual man’s world and women are their objects of desire-rather, acquisition. (Remember that I’m speaking in hyperbole. Still, I’d be a liar if I didn’t say it never ceases to amaze/infuriate me to find the little and not-so-little prejudices inherent in our society.)
So, despite the unlewd nature of Ruby’s nudity (and the overt suggestiveness of nudity on everyday magazine covers and storefront posters), she was ripped off the shelves and erased from history. But not if we can help it. Remember Ruby (there are still short snippets of articles and pictures of her on the ever-expanding interwebs), and don’t let any man, woman, intersex, giraffe, or fire-breathing monster tell you what you have to look like.