Monday, March 10, 2014

Quit Picking on Barbie!

Here they go again, those self-righteous do gooders who are so sure that Barbie is damaging American girls by giving them unhealthy images of themselves.  A recent article in the Seattle Times described how two parent groups are up in arms because the Girl Scouts have drafted Barbie in some of their curriculum materials for little girls. "Holding Barbie, the quintessential fashion doll, up as a role model for Girl Scouts simultaneously sexualizes young girls, idealizes an impossible body type, and undermines the Girl Scouts' vital mission to build 'girls of courage, confidence and character,'" said Susan Linn, director of the Boston-based commercial-free childhood organization."  

Oh come on! My relationship with Barbie spans 50 years and I can say without a doubt that playing with Barbies did not hurt my self esteem or self image.  I also allowed my daughter to play with Barbies although she had little interest in them and as I recall mostly enjoyed throwing them out her upstairs bedroom window.

 When my daughter was 3 or 4,  I started raiding her dolls for body parts for my artwork. Because I was a working mom and I didn't have much time in the studio, when I needed an arm I just made a plaster mold of one of Barbie's arms.  In the image above, my friend Sita Das is wearing a necklace I made of little arms cast in gold and silver.  The title of the necklace is Prayer Circle and it was inspired by the events of 9.1.1. This configuration is an archetypal image in dance and visual art forms in cultures throughout the world and throughout time.  Since I'm an American and I comment on American culture, Barbie arms seemed very apropos here.  It's a gorgeous necklace and I get compliments every time I wear it.

 Here's a photograph of one of my favorite necklaces, entitled Diamonds and Lust.  In this situation I again used the Barbie arms mold and electro formed the gold-plated arms holding silver dimes shown above. This necklace addressed the cost of Seattle's baseball stadium, Safeco Field. In the center of the necklace is a box in the shape of a baseball diamond and it is stuffed with money. There are large mabe pearls set on beads made out of silver quarters to look like baseballs. On the backside of the necklace the beads are pierced to spell out PLAY BALL. This was intended as commentary on the ludicrous amounts of money that the team owners of the Mariners saw fit to spend on the stadium and the taxpayer money that subsidized the construction. The necklace lives in a museum in Amsterdam.

This 3rd necklace is entitled, Casting Pearls Before Swine, Barbie volunteered her arms again for this illustration of a frustrating situation I experienced while curating an exhibition.  The necklace is made of copper with little pearls set in the hands of the arms, mother-of-pearl buttons on one side of the beads, and the letters that spell out the word SWINE cut into silver quarters on the other side of the beads. This necklace graced the cover of American Craft magazine in 1999.

Mattel's Barbie has been a popular toy for 55 years. I am a former Girl Scout and I like Barbie.  I'm proud of the Girl Scouts for sticking up for their relationship with Barbie. Don't we have more pressing issues to worry about?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Smart Cookies

This month, the Girl Scouts are celebrating their 102nd anniversary. Julliette Gordon Low, their founder, held the first Girl Scout meeting in March 1912 with 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia. She was inspired after meeting the man who originated the Boy Scouts, Robert Baden Powell.

Juliette Gordon Low with two Girl Scouts

 I started in scouting when I was in the 2nd grade at WW Robertson Elementary School in Yakima, Washington. Another girl's mom was the leader, but the group met in the basement of our house.  I got to wear a special brown dress with a little beanie and I still have my Brownie pin from those early years.  At age 9, we Brownies "flew up" and became Intermediate Girl Scouts which meant a green uniform, a little patch in the shape of a pair of golden wings and a different pin.  I still have them all.

Two Girl Scout pins and a Brownie pin

 What was the point of all this?  Besides keeping us out of trouble, Girl Scouting has always been about building self-esteem, learning skills and building community.  My mom was always working or in school so I think she thought of it as free child care and a good influence.  My very first camping trip was organized by my Girl Scout leader. She and her husband took us camping when I was in the 5th grade somewhere up in the Natchez area and I remember we learned to make hobo stew in a tin can with aluminum foil on top.  To me this was a whole new world as my father came from the East Coast and thought that anybody who would choose to sleep in a tent was out of their mind. After my parents split up, the Girl Scouts became an important way for me to meet new friends when we moved to my grandparent's farm near Quilcene, Washington.  I sent my own daughter to Girl Scout camp from the age of 9 through her sophomore year in high school.  She learned all her boating skills there, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, sail boarding and made lots of good friends.
First Lady Hilary Clinton with Girl Scouts

On Sunday, February 23, 2014 I read an article in the Seattle Times that I just had to share with you.  It turns out that an enterprising young Girl Scout in San Francisco sold 117 boxes of cookies after locating herself outside of a medical marijuana dispensary.  When other Girl Scouts and their moms heard about it they decided to follow suit and have been recording greatly improved cookie sales.  One dispensary in Arizona has even used the cookies as a sales incentive; buy at least a half an ounce of pot and have your pick of a free box of Thin Mints or any other variety of cookie the Girl Scouts are offering.
A Girl Scout working on her Gold Award project.

 I didn't stay in scouting long enough to earn merit badges but I loved the little icons and what they stood for. The imagery on the badges is constantly evolving along with the different skills that girls learn now.  Could somebody please tell me what in the world this icon represents?
The badge is called On My Way
Support the Girl Scouts. Buy a box of cookies on your way home from the drug store.