Monday, April 11, 2011

The False Mirror: On Diversity, Bizarre Barbies, and Body Image Activism

Photo by Ilene Segalove, ‘The Dissatisfactions Of Ilene Segalove’

There’s a character on television’s The Vampire Diaries who is called “Vampire Barbie.” Which I think is kind of ironic. Because on the one hand, vampires aren’t supposed to see themselves in mirrors – and yet, that’s what the cultural icon of Barbie is all about. A certain kind of unattainable, bizarrely proportioned, able-bodied, white, blonde-haired, and blue-eyed beauty ideal – an ideal that reflects back to girls and women what we are not rather than what we are.

This idea of “the false mirror” is one I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Because I think it’s a sociocultural secret weapon for a lot of different oppressions – sexism, racism, able-ism, homophobia. Each of us are shown an image of a “normal” that is antithetical to who we are, and in the process, rendered unable to see our own true reflections in the world around us. The most insidious thing about this onslaught is that it isolates us, limits us from making alliances with others, and prevents us from seeing its systemic roots. “This is about me” we think in our miserable solipsism, rather than thinking “this is about capitalism, imperialism, and body oppression and I’d better hurry up and raise hell about it.”

This post is an excerpt from my first post as a new contributor at Click here to read the rest of the post! 


  1. So true, and we are raising our youngest girls with this image that they can never live up to, therefore confirming an already ever present feeling that they will never be good enough.

  2. Brilliantly expressed, Sayantani! Thanks!

  3. Thanks for the support everyone - and for Elizabeth and "journey to..." for the visit!

  4. I refused to buy Barbies for my daughter but someone bought her one so she did eventually own a single Barbie doll. I refuse to buy them for other little girls for obvious reasons. Still, I caught myself excited by some new line they have with simple black dresses and multicultural doll choices. The doll body is still ridiculous but it was nice to see a rainbow of skin tones in the dolls (finally!) and to see the pushing a basic black dress. Unfortunately, you then could spend $100s on accessories.

    Nice idea but it imploded in on itself.