' Toy Theory: Black Barbie And The Deep Play Of Difference?

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Within the field of Social Psychology, the most agreed upon age at which children form and begin to follow cultural stereotypes is age five (Psychology Today). Mattel Inc., the company that owns Barbie, starts marketing their dolls to children ages three and up. As more than a doll, as a role model and a representation of the ideal woman, Barbie’s form, perceived values, and lack of authenticity create a complicated paradox between celebrating diversity, perpetuating colonialism, and sexualizing the “primitive”. Barbie’s form and non-white females in United States capitalist society are both treated as silent, unimportant, demeaningly sexualized objects in the eyes of the patriarchy. Bell Hooks, in her 1992 essay “Eating the Other: Desire …show more content…
In her essay, “Toy Theory: Black Barbie and The Deep Play of Difference” (1996), Ann Ducille takes apart the complicated facets of barbie in terms of existence and in terms of race- as a black woman herself, she speaks of the troubling nature of having and not having diverse dolls. Barbie has been sexualized since it’s origin- modeled after “Bild Lilli”, a german doll sold to men almost as a sex toy (261). This bizarre transformation from a form of male pleasure to a little girl’s play was not achieved smoothly. Barbie is often sold with sexual lingerie portrayed as “secrets”, despite the peculiar sexual repression of her completely nonexistent genitals. Without race even in the mix, no wonder girl’s so often rip apart, hurt, and destroy their barbie’s- the doll was never truly made for them, it was made to teach them about the female reduction and sexualization they will face within their lives. If Barbie was marketed to boys under five, boys that had not yet formed full societal stereotypes, perhaps they would treat the dolls relatively similar to how they do their other dolls. But if you gave a Barbie to an adult man and asked him to “play” with it, it would probably seem perverse to do so. However, “playing” with this plastic representation of womanhood, fixed in her identity, is symbolically …show more content…
Representation offers “the promise of recognition and reconciliation” (347) but these fabricated and unfounded stereotypes of the Other and what contact with the Other promises could not be farther from recognition. Hooks writes, “The acknowledged Other must assume recognizable forms. Hence, it is not African American culture formed in resistance to contemporary situations that surfaces, but nostalgic evocation of a “glorious” past” (347), a past that only a white person would ignorantly deem glorious. This assumption that with dominating the Other comes imperialist stereotypes and experiences, like different sexual attitudes, darkness or dirtiness, secrecy and savagery, implies how perversely fantastical this idea is. The white man wants to believe that this desire is him straying from racism and making change, but it is no different than wanting to take a doll, dress it up in whatever costume he wants, and consequently assigning it a past and culture that he knows nothing about and has no desire to

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