Engaging a cross-disciplinary approach, this comparative analysis shows how two disparate icons, Barbie and Modulor, are similar. The former is an often criticized symbol of girl culture, beauty, and consumerism. The latter is a drawing of a man that summarizes the dimensional system of Le Corbusier, one of the world's most influential architects, and that subsequently became a symbol of modern architecture. Divided into three parts—idealized bodies, their spaces, and how typical users are excluded—this nuanced interpretation explores the intersections of architecture, feminism, embodiment, and ableism. I show how these two bodies—Barbie and Modulor—inspire homes that emphasize the vertical: the buildings exclude typical users. For instance, Barbie's friend Becky, who is in a wheelchair, does not fit into Barbie's skinny world and Modulor's needs are dissimilar to those of mothers and children. Putting these artifacts into conversation reinvigorates the subjects and provides a contextual framework in which to consider Barbie's house as architecture.
Black Barbie and the Fabrication of Nicki Minaj
Jennifer Dawn Whitney
This article explores the public persona of hip hop artist Nicki Minaj, and her appropriation of the iconic Barbie doll. Minaj's image has drawn criticism from pundits and peers alike, but, nonetheless, it has inspired a creative fan following. With reference to feminist theory and recent trends in poststructuralist thought, this article suggests the ways in which Minaj and her fans pluralize how we think about Barbie, race and idealized femininity in the West.
Mary A. McMurray
Museum Exhibit Review Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City
Doll play is critical in the formation of young black girls’ gender, race, and class identities. In this article, I use textual analysis that emphasizes how physical changes in dolls correspond to contextual shifts in society over the last seven decades, and qualitative research with ten Afro-Caribbean girls and young women in Toronto to reveal the racial and cultural meanings of dolls in young people’s everyday lives and how doll play is complicated by racist and classist representations of dolls. By exploring what doll play meant to them, I show how it helps black girls understand racial and gendered norms. Through doll play, girls reveal an understanding of their racialized identities and marginalization as they demonstrate unacknowledged skills in their ability to navigate barriers that reinforce racial inequalities and social hierarchies in girls’ material culture in a multicultural Toronto.
Dagmar Barnouw, Germany 1945: Views of War and Violence (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996)
Barbie Zelizer, Remembering to Forget: Holocaust Memory through the Camera’s Eye (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998)
Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh
In this themed issue of GHS, “Interrogating the Meaning of Dolls: New Directions in Doll Studies,” guest edited by noted doll researcher Miriam Forman-Brunell, we are introduced to a new generation of doll researchers who continue to explore the connections between girls and dolls. Similar to girls’ other types of play such as domestic play with miniature kitchens and with dollhouses, their playing with dolls is far from being an uncontested area of study within feminist scholarship. In the eighteenth century Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Maria and Richard Edgeworth elaborated the function of the fashion doll as a way of preparing girls for their future life. Dolls became more of a problematic topic in the twentieth century when much of the discussion centered around Barbie. In an article we wrote on Barbie some years ago (Reid-Walsh and Mitchell 2000), for example, we played with the expression “just a doll” (175) arguing that, on the one hand, Barbie’s low cultural status as a doll called into question the vast amount of controversy generated by one piece of molded plastic, and, on the other, trivialized girls’ play objects.
New Directions in Doll Studies
The articles in this issue demonstrate that dolls are ubiquitous cultural forms central to girlhood and young womanhood. Yet understanding the historical and contemporary significance of dolls is a relatively recent development. Th e age-old trivialization of girls and devaluation of youth cultures led to the customary disregard of dolls as legitimate sources of documentary evidence even among scholars. It was not until the late nineteenth century that changing notions of childhood first gave rise to research on children, and a new appreciation of the meanings of play. In 1896, G. Stanley Hall, the founder of the child-study movement, a professor of psychology, and president of Clark University, co-authored with A.C. Ellis the pioneering, “A Study of Dolls,” in which he argued that doll play taught girls key lessons in femininity and maternity. Although Hall argued that “the educational value of toys was enormous” (160), dolls once again lapsed into scholarly obscurity. It was during the late 1930s that Mamie Phipps Clark, then a Master’s student in psychology, used dolls to study the self-esteem of African American children. Th e subsequent doll studies she conducted with her husband, Kenneth Clark, played a role in the 1954 landmark desegregation decision, yet failed to perpetuate doll research. It was on the (high) heels of Barbie who debuted a few years after Brown v. Board of Education, that dolls became the focus of a lively (and still on-going) discourse among parents and pundits but not among academics about their social meanings in the lives of girls.