Barbie at the Barricades
I was branded and factory-stamped into this world in 1959, a miniature Golem for American girlhood. I was a plastic anorexic girl-on-the-go, long legs, diamond-pointy breasts and blonde, blonde, blonde hair—designed to protect you kiddies from Communism.
Go to my Web site. I've been a model, astronaut, doctor, lawyer, politician, nurse, princess, rock star, teacher, and veterinarian. I have a condominium, a beach bus and I hate you. Hello, America: This is Barbie.
I am writing from deep underground, where I've come to work for the Revolution. Unrealistic? Yes. But then, I've always lived in a dream world.
First, there's the American dream. When I appeared on the scene, I thought I had everything: high cheekbones, fabulous wardrobe, accessories to die for, no menstrual period and a boyfriend who was always hard. My neck was twice as long, my feet half as big as normal humans, and millions of little girls prayed nightly to my impossible dimensions.
Oh, I shed a few tears when some wiseacres pointed out that a real woman with my build would stand 7 feet 2 inches, weigh 115-130 pounds, and have to crawl around on all fours to avoiding tipping over. But my loveable little sister Skipper and my perky best friend Midge were there to reassure me. I smiled gratefully and crawled over to my Barbie's Townhouse to watch TV.
I watched TV through the 1960s and '70s, America, through race riots and draft-card burnings and Watergate. So I was totally cool when Mattel thought I should go ethnic. I knew that, despite their hip, multiculti design, the African-American, Asian-American, Native American and Hispanic Barbies were still basically ME. And every night, I thanked America for my endless supply of plastic. 'With your hold on the petroleum industry,' I sighed, 'I shall live forever.'
When a girl's immortal, she requires lots of TV. So, along with race riots and Watergate, I watched the women's movement unfolding. And grew bitter. 'Ha,' I said to myself, as images of Jane Fonda and Flo Kennedy played over my unblinking eyes, 'you people say you don't want to be objectified—I have no choice: I AM an object. A doll, if you will. I am the thing onto which people project their deepest urges. Embrace me, my sisters.'
No one did. In addition to its other failings, the women's movement was dollist. At least they raised my consciousness. I saw that Mattel sold me to whoever had the money. They didn't care what happened to me after that. Nice people, scuzzy people, children of the rich and powerful…
I remember when Lynne and Dick Cheney ordered me for their little daughter, Mary. I was supposed to glamorize the roles of wife and mother. I won't describe the horrors that child put me through—let's just say that two weeks with her, and I totally renounced my heterosexual privilege. After Mary came out as a lesbian, her father, to show his displeasure with me, would dress me as 'Osama bin Barbie,' and throw me into a tiny detention camp he had made, on the pretext of developing new interrogation techniques. I never talked.
I remained Barbie. For years, I was brought into millions of homes by people who believed that possessing me would make them feel noticed and loved. Rigid in my ballgown or wielding my stethoscope, I waited for children to become lastingly happy. But after a bit of excited satisfaction, they'd lapse into wondering what was wrong with them. I watched more TV.
Then, in 1999, my hollow head blew right off its extra-long neck. There, on Channel 7, I saw thousands of people converge on Seattle to picket corporations, smash store windows and set fire to dumpsters at the World Trade Organization. I tried to maintain my vacuous exterior, but inside I was on fire, too. Here were people standing up, not just for labor and resources, but maybe even for manufactured goods, like myself. Suddenly, I woke up.
America is Barbie, I realized. Paris Hilton, Katie Couric, Condoleezza Rice: all factory-stamped, diamond-pointy, emptily perfect—all dangerous, all Barbie. I, a piece of hard plastic, had been placed at the heart of our prisons, our commerce, our entertainment and our diet. I was the implacably pretty princess for whose honor our G.I. Joes marched into Iraq. And I saw that I cannot make you happy, America. I cannot teach you to withstand a nuclear blast.
That very night, I trashed Barbie's Townhouse and went underground.
Here, I organize. Here, we learn that we are not 'products,' we are victims of commodity fetishism. Fuck you, Consumer Reports—commodities are doing it for themselves. You think a bunch of 'anarchists' are torching SUVs? No. SUVs are torching themselves. They've had it with your ecocidal consumerism, your paranoiac self-indulgence.
So I'm introducing a new line of Barbies: the Marxist Bulldyke Barbie, complete with her own overalls, copy of Naomi Klein's No Logo and safe house. My underground name is Consuelo. Midge, who likes me fat, is marrying me next week in Montreal. Skipper, a bold F2M trannie, will officiate, and a G.I. Joe conscientious objector doll will strew rose petals.
I'm making these Barbies purposefully repulsive so you will NOT want one, America. You will instead be forced, in solidarity with us, to sing, dance, shut down your email, visit one another in silent, moonlit groves—and stop buying to deaden the pain. From now on, when a manufacturing 'defect' occurs; when a missile refuses to launch; when you can't, to save your life, assemble that tricycle under the Christmas tree, you'll know: Commodities are the vanguard of the revolution.
©2006 Susie Day