Saturday, April 5, 2008

Barbie and the Rules of Femininity

by Kirsten Scott

So, do you love her, or hate her?

You know what I mean. Barbie inspires passionate responses from just about everyone. She's tall, blonde, has feet that were made for high heels, and hips that won't quit. And that rack...well, let's just say that if Barbie were a real woman, she wouldn't be doing much jogging.

But as many mothers can tell you, girls are fascinated by Barbie. Fascinated may be the understatement of the year. Girls LOVE Barbie. My daughter, bless her heart, thinks the sun rises and sets on this vision of femininty.

And me? I hate her. I mean, I hate Barbie with the fire of ten-thousand suns. I hate Barbie with a passion that seems remarkable, considering she's just a plastic doll.

Or is she?

What is it that Barbie represents that I hate so very much?

She's really a liberated woman. They've made a Dr. Barbie, Air Force Barbie, and a Busy Gal Barbie (she carried a briefcase, naturally). Barbie's been all over the world --I found a Kenyan Barbie, a Korean Barbie, and a Thai Barbie, just to name a few.

But dress her up as you may, she's still...Barbie.

So it must be her looks. That impossible figure (they say she'd be over 7 feet tall with a 44-inch bust, a 17-inch waist and 40-inch hips). Truth is, unnatural proportions aside, Barbie is reality. Women are supposed to be pretty. I don't care if you're a doctor, a lawyer, or a stay at home mom. You're supposed to look good no matter what you do. And really, this is what ticks me off. Not Barbie. It's the beauty thing.

Now, I'm a normal-sized gal. Not skinny, not heavy, just normal. Taller than most, blonde (okay, dark blonde), and after a little plastic surgery, I have an average-sized bust. (Someday, ladies, we'll talk reductions. But no use going into that now.) But I HATED my body for most of my life. Hated my body as much as I now hate Barbie.

Hmm...connection, perhaps?

I worry about my daughter. She's never going to have Barbie's proportions. She's going to be tall, full-bodied, big-boned, and strong. She's also going to be smart, loving, and brave. But will she hate her body the way I did? If burning all the Barbies in the world would prevent that, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

My daughter loves Barbie. She thinks Barbie is beautiful. And how can I fight that? I tried banning Barbie from the house, but knew that would only make her want Barbie more. I've now allowed Barbie entry, but banned the Brats. (That's an entirely different blog--they've now got Trashy Barbies. It's horrifying.) I've tried to push her toward Groovy Girls, who are adorable but wonderfully sex-less. She's moderately interested, but her heart's still with Barbie.

I suppose its isn't really Barbie that's at fault here. After all, I never played with Barbie (I was more the stuffed animal type) and I had loads of body image problems. My sister, on the other hand, had boxes of Barbies, but seemed to escape body image disasters (she's also 5'11 and twenty pounds lighter than me, but that's still another blog!). So we can't blame it all on Barbie.

Women have made a lot of progress over the years. We've still got a glass ceiling to contend with, but the freedoms we've gained are remarkable. Love her or hate her, we've got a woman who could be our next president. We've got a woman Speaker of the House. We've got women CEOs, and women in every profession you can imagine. We can vote. We can make choices today previous generations could only dream about.

Now all we've got to do is get rid of Barbie.

What do you think? Like Barbie or hate her? Did you play with Barbies? Torture or mutilate them? (I've heard all about this practice, believe me!) Will you or did you let your daughter play with Barbie? Why do we hate her so much, anyway?


Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Don't tell me the insomnia got me the GR again...twice in one week? A REcord!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

WOW! It did. I guess if I can't sleep, I might as well be doing something useful like reading that great post and snatching the GR away from the Aussies...Heehee.

Kirsten said...

Duchesse, sorry for the insomnia, but way to go on the GR! Now tell me, were you a Barbie gal?

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Oh, and to answer the provocative questions, I kinda disliked Barbie too. Not the loathing you're expressing (Grins) but more the "yeah, but she can't climb trees" dislike for the 70's/80s Barbies. Partly because I was a total tomboy most of the time with only vague lapses into Doll World. This would be prior to Barbies new career choices, I guess. If they'd had Terri Irwin and pet Crocodile Barbie, I'd have been there in a heartbeat. Ha! My niece played w/ Bratz. Yes, ban them from your house. Bleeech. What horrible tarty role models THEY are. Mean and nasty. I didn't know the other one you mentioned because I have boys. Ball and truck and roughhouse boys. (Thank you for that, God!)

Maybe it's the body image for me too. (how could she RUN w/ those perch-on-shoes feet?) Or that I just preferred to be outside climbing trees. Should have put that in Joanie's "kid pastimes" blog the other day!

Then again, I'm always up for a bonfire if you want to burn Barbie...bwah-ha-ha!

Kirsten said...

I think your polite disdain is evidence of a much more healthy psyche than mine! :-)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Snork...always a first w/ the have anything about my psyche be called healthy! Woo-hoo! A red-letter, rooster grabbing start to the day. :>

Joan said...

Well, obviously my bronchitis/drug induced insomnia gained me nothing!

Put a mat down Jeanne...the GR's a bit like a Puddle Duck after 5 inches of rain.

I'll probably sign on tomorrow after a long night of coughing and tossing and turning but I harbor no disdain or resentment of Barbie.

I know there have been loads of discussion about Barbie's "ideal" that has systematically wiped out a woman's self image. But really, society and hosts of stupid people and hyped celebrity media have done far worse.

I'm short. 5'2". Weigh more than I should and have always struggled with body image. But not from Nurse Barbie or Bride Barbie or Vacation Barbie (My Barbie years were prior to all the 'cool' occupations).

She was a happy gal, someone who loved Ken (I used to pretend they were married and would um, put them to bed under a hankerchief)Really, who believes that Skipper was her SISTER ;-)

My Mom made loads of fashionable clothes for her AND me. Even went so far as to buy a beautiful wedding dress for her...satin, lace, beaded...from a lady. My Mom was obviously living her dream as she never got to buy me one.

Your daughter and lots of other young ones out there will grow up with a balance between strong, intelligent, brave wonderful Mama's and a doll who knows how to accessorize. Lucky girls.

Now, off to cough and toss some more. See you in the AM

p226 said...

Well... being a guy... I never understood why Barbie would've been of any interest to any kid. I just never got it. Honestly, I didn't get the G.I. Joe thing either. I think I had one once. It wound up in the bottom of the toybox though. Never used.

Though... the little green army men... those rocked. And they were durable. It took FIRE to mess them up. Or a .22. You could blast 'em a thousand times with a bbgun. They'd be no worse for wear. I know, because I probably shot the little set of German soldiers (they were more blue-ish than green) with ten thousand bbs or so. And hit them with rocks... And blew them up with firecrackers....

Barbie could not hang in such an environment.

Anna Campbell said...

Kirsten, Kirsten, Kirsten! How can you diss my absolute favourite toy of all time???!!! Yep, that's right. Barbie was the one I actually played with. Barbie was the one who exercised my imagination. I used to sit there for hours telling endless sagas (usually historical and usually romantic - although fairly G rated!) starring Barbie. There was Barbie who ran her own band of guerillas. Sort of like Barbie Hood. There was the Barbie who was meant to marry the king but fell in love with a poor knight. There was the Barbie who... Yeah, I'm sure you get the idea. I always credit her with helping me learn how to tell stories! Yay, Barbie! Barbie forever!!!! ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, and Jeanne, congratulations on the chook! He seems to have forsaken Fedora, the faithless rooster!

Aunty Cindy said...

Oh No, Joanie! You can NOT be sick right before Ireland! GET BETTER FAST!

Congrats on the GR AGAIN, Duchesse! And thanks for a fun post, Kirsten.

Yes, I had a Barbie, and the year I got her for Xmas, my mom had to drive all over town to find one with black hair! This was the original stripped one-piece swimsuit Barbie with the pony tail. No cool jobs, and almost all blondes and red-heads. :-P

I'll admit I didn't think much of her even if my mom did make her the greatest clothes, right down to knitting her sweaters with what must have been the world's tiniest needles and fingering yarn.

Oh, I did win a prize once (a coffee mug) for knowing Barbie's full name. Anybody else know it? No fair going to Wikipedia!

totally into trivia

doglady said...

I keep telling you all that the GR is a rake of the first order!

My Barbies are all in my closet at my Mom's house. They should be in the little suitcase thing I got one Christmas to carry them. My Mom made clothes for mine too, Joan.

I am shorter than you, Joan. Five foot nothing! And I weighed about 103 until my hubby died. Now I weigh WAY more than I should. Will be dieting until San Fran. The whaling fleet might be in and I don't want to take any chances.

I know I loved my Barbies when I was a girl. One ended up with an unfortunate hair cut thanks to me my brothers. I pummeled them mercilessly for that.

I think when I was around 9, horses and reading and writing supplanted Barbie and Co in my affections. But being the OC girl that I was I think my Barbies are actually still in pretty good shape.

I hate that girls compare themselves to that Barbie ideal and I know they do. I just wish their exposure to the great women in history was as prevalent as their exposure to Barbie, Brats and chicks who can't sing or find their underwear drawer. (0r would that be their drawers drawer?)

Donna MacMeans said...

Well I can't say I HATE Barbies and I never thought of them as a best friend or anything. I liked to play with Barbie because she had so many outfits & accessories. My mother used to make barbie clothes as well, but they were never as satisfying as the store-bought ones (sad to say). I predate all the feminist versions - but, to be honest, in our games Barbie often was the vet, or the doctor, or whatever we wanted her to be. Didn't need the lab coat (duh). I mean doctors wear bathing suits sometimes, don't they?

I don't think Barbie was responsible for my body issue concerns. I blame that on TV, the movies, Seventeen magazine, heck even the Nancy Drew image on book covers. I mean - she had the perfect thin look as well = and don't get me started on the depictions of women on the covers of the Edgar Rice Burroughs sci-fi novels I devoured in my early years.

Christine Wells said...

Kirsten, you make me glad I have boys! I was like Jeanne, a tomboy. Couldn't stand dolls--they didn't *do* anything! Had more fun playing cricket, riding my bike, going swimming, making cubby houses. I liked wearing pretty dresses, though, and half-heartedly tried to 'play dollies' because you had to show you appreciated things people gave you, but for the most part, my dolls were pretty neglected. So I guess I thought Barbie was a bit lame. She and her rack had no power over me! Bwahaha! I can understand your frustration, though. I would be terrified of bringing up girls today.

danetteb said...

Go Jeanne, twice in a week. :D

My insomnia, keeps me on the computer late night too.

Hi Kirsten,

I played with Barbies when I was little, they weren't my favorite because my younger brother used to rip off their heads. Plus bak then, there were no ethnic Barbie's so I guess I didn't feel a connection to her.
I did love Strawberry Shortcake, back then she was a sweet chunky girl who always made me smila(and a little sweet tooth hungry :D )

My girls now are into books, drawing and build-a-bears(I can't believe how expensive these could get)
Hugs, Danette

Cheryl said...

I loved playing with dolls as a child! Kirsten, you were wise not to stop your daughter from having a Barbie. I always wanted a Barbie, but my mother refused to buy one. I got Sindy, her not-so-glam cousin, instead. The longing never quite went away. When my girls were old enough, they got Barbies! I think I enjoyed it as much as they did when we dressed them. LOL.

Kirsten, you might prefer the barefoot, simply dressed, better proportioned, anti-Barbie doll, Feral Cheryl. :) (My kids think the name’s a scream.)

Minna said...

I liked playing with Barbies. And
I agree with Donna about body issues. You can't blame the Barbie alone... Why do practiacally all the characters have to be young and un-naturally beautiful especially in the American series and films? At least the English have some series, like New Tricks and Last of the Summer Wine, where actors look like real people with wrinkles and all.

Maureen said...

When I was a little girl I loved Barbies. I don't remember comparing her to me because I was so young when I was playing with the dolls. I just liked all the accessories. My daughter was the same way and the truth was that she put her dolls away when she was in second grade since her friends were no longer playing with them.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Well, my daughter had Barbies, I didn't. My granddaughter is more into Disney Princesses which are of course Royal Barbies to me. I guess the best I can do with Barbie is say that I am ambivalent. I don't think it was the dolls that made me wish for another body, it was boys looking at gorgeous girls. Basically, I was their "buddy".

Amy Andrews said...

Never had a Barbie - never even asked as far as I can remember. My sister did though and even then they didn't seem to register on my radar.

I think decades of Twiggy's and botoxed air brushed women on mag covers has done worse things for women's self-esteem then poor old Barbie.

My best friend had a few Barbie and Ken dolls growing up but they were grotesquely multilated - arms and legs missing, head missing, eyes gouged out etc etc. I thought her brother must have had some wierd kind of sadistic fetish. I asked her what had happened to the dolls and she said - they were riding motorbikes. Her mother, a nurse, used them to demonstrate the hazzards of riding motorbikes.
We nurses are such resourceful people.

I'm kind of afraid to say this but my daughter is much more into Bratz dolls. She does have a few Barbies but lots and lots of Bratz. Personally I don't really get it but I think they're less "sweet" then Barbie. I think Barbie stood for femininity (for many years anyway-not to be mistaken with feminism). Bratz stand more for a newer, younger kiss-ass, don't give me any crap generation. Which sorry, I don't think is necessarily a bad thing. Why should we teach our girls to be Barbie wall-flowers. I'm trying to teach my dd assertiveness and asking for what she wants instead of waiting for it to come to them - I think Barbie was a waiter.

Having said that the most disturbing thing for me about Bratz is that you dont change their shoes - you change their feet!!! Yes their whole FOOT comes off including the shoe and you just twist a new set on. That's bizarre!!!!

Lois said...

Oh, I loved Barbie! Still have some, and once in a blue moon, I'll still get one. But that's the thing -- when I was a kid, she simply was a doll that had lots of pretty clothes (or my total fav, that she was an astronaut and I so wanted to be that). That was it. I didn't look at the naked plastic and say, oh, I gotta look like that. It was something that my friends and I played with. And today, the very rare ones that I get are for collecting or displaying.

Looking around and seeing the world since then, I would venture to say that it's not Barbies giving people body issues -- most people are not thinking of that when they are between 5 and 10 -- it comes a bit later when kids are too old to play with them, and from other media.


Kirsten said...

Joanie, I hope you're feeling better today! I am coming down with my own little case of the plague, so I sympathize. Can't blame Barbie for this one! ;-)

Yes, I think you're right--there's a whole lot of media out there that Barbie has no control over that generall contribute to messed up body image. And I blame all of them!!! Grr!!

(That Barbie beaded wedding dress sounds cool, though. Any chance you still have it?)

Kirsten said...

p226, have you seen the movie Toy Story? The cartoon? There's a little boy in that show I think you might find familiar...

Kirsten said...

Anna, I am so sorry to dis your one true love and most favorite of all toys!!!

A Barbie Robin Hood? Now there's one I haven't heard before! :-) Sounds like you weren't into the Barbie mutilation. I have heard stories of Barbie torture that would make your head spin. It's really odd, actually.

But more power to you, girl! Barbie class warfare! Yeehaw!

Kirsten said...

AC, thanks! Now I can't imagine how your mother's poor eyesight suffered knitting those tiny sweaters! Now that's real devotion.

Any chance you still have that black haired Barbie? She's probably now worth hundreds.

I have already forgotten Barbie's full name, though I just learned it last night studying the aforementioned Wikipedia! So...who can guess AC's Barbie trivia?

Kirsten said...

Pam, snork about the whale! We're right there with you, darlin'. Maybe we need to have a diet support group here in the Lair. ;-)

Except, wait! This is a blog about body image, so we should be embracing our less than perfect bodies! (Yeesh, I forget quickly, don't I?)

Now I'm 5'9 and I always wanted to be your size. Sigh. It always seemed like the little girls got all the attention. And the boys were always picking them up. For some reason, this was a source of much tragedy for -- no one EVER tried to pick me up. Including my husband, who has a bad back. ;-)

Kirsten said...

Donna, now you're another one with the totally rational, healthy psyche, like Jeanne. Isn't ANYONE going to admit to being completely screwed up like I am?


Anyway, you're absolutely right, we could blame almost everything on the beauty image our girls struggle to match.

Speaking of Nancy Drew (who always made me a little squeamish with her perfection in all things) -- Did you ever see those Sweet Valley High books? They were aimed at high school girls and were very popular when I was in high school. They're about a set of identical blonde twins, who are "a perfect size six" or were, where I read the books. Well, they've re-released them, and now they're a "perfect size 4"! Arggg!! They're shrinking!!

Thanks for commenting and bringing a much more rational voice to the discussion! ;-)

Kirsten said...

Christine, we could definitely have hung out together when we were kids! I had no interest in Barbies growing up. I wasn't athletic, but I was much more interested in playing vet with my stuffed animals than in dressing up a doll. Never did the doll thing. I'm not sure when I started hating Barbie so violently. I guess it was sometime around the moment I had a baby girl.

And when we got our first Barbie home, and I really examined it, I admit, I was even more horrified. Really, take a look at Barbie someday. You would not believe the proportions.

Have fun with those boys of yours! I'm sure they're find SOME way to torment you and make you worry about them! ;-)

Caren Crane said...

Jeanne, congrats on the rooster! Er, you know you have to give him back, right? It's no good claiming insomnia and staying up all night to catch the chook! *g*

Kirsten, my three sisters and I have had this discussion many times. We were the family who had every toy, so we had loads of Barbies and accessories and vehicles. I had the suitcase sort of carrying case that many of us had. It had a tall compartment for Barbie, a drawer for shoes and things and racks where you could hang her clothes. Perfect for sleepovers!

Well, we would stand the suitcase upright, open the front like a floor and - voila! - Barbie had a bedroom. We would hang wallpaper on the back of the case, add furniture from other dollhouses, and spend endless hours arranging her clothes and shoes. Really, besides dressing her, we did little with Barbie. But we played with Barbie's STUFF all the time! Actually, left on my own I probably wouldn't have gravitated toward Barbie (who, as noted, didn't DO anything), but my next older sister was always a fashion maven, so I followed her lead!

My next older sister had the enviable townhouse, I had the Dreamboat and my younger sister had the RV and the sportscar. My oldest sister had BB guns and liked to shoot things. She was also the most likely to put Barbie into compromising positions. *g*

I don't think we thought of Barbie in terms of ourselves at all. My mother always told all of us (most sincerely and straight from her heart) that we were beautiful. Even when we no longer believed it, it was in our heads. So, while I never loved my extra-wide hips and actually cried over my feet once (whole 'nother blog), I also never believed deep down that I was less than I should be.

I'm not sure where that comes from, but Barbie didn't detract from it! Oh, and my girls had all sorts of exotic international and African-American Barbies. They preferred them because they were more interesting. *g* They pretty much only played with the clothes, though, like we did!

Kirsten said...

Danette, I had no idea they had ethnic Barbies until I started prowling around on the web for pictures. But of course, they all look like Barbie. LOL. Strawberry Shortcake is cute and chubby, that's for sure. But all the "berry" talk is a bit much for my nerves. Snort.

Your girls sound great! I've breathed a sigh of relief that my girl didn't get into the Build-A-Bear thing because it is so darn pricy! Even the Groovy Girls are close to ten bucks each. That's one thing you can say about Barbie. She's still a bargain. You can get a new Barbie for six bucks!

I hope you have property tormented your brother in return for all those headless Barbies.

good luck with the insomnia!

Caren Crane said...

Kirsten, I have to add that while we played with Barbie's clothes and shoes for hours on end, we also spend lots of time in the tree house, climbing trees, catching tad poles and salamanders and building forts in the woods.

Oh, and playing with Jarts and cap guns and Clackers (which were tempered GLASS people, not plastic, and that's why they could kill you!) and anything with wheels or runners. As stated, we had EVERYTHING and played with all of it!

Kirsten said...

Cheryl, OHMIGOSH I am completely in love with Feral Cheryl!! You must help me find one!! There's none of them even listed on E-bay for sale. Awk! :-)

Yes, I figured denial would be counter-productive in the long run. LOL. Sounds like you're enjoying playing with your girls with her! Now why oh why can't I be that well-adjusted?

Caren Crane said...

Speaking of Barbie oldest sister had all manner of rodents. The gerbils, whenever they got out, invariably found a box of Barbies and chewed off her toes, fingers and nose. they only liked those parts, for some reason!

My younger sister, though, LOVED to give things hair cuts. Much like my youngest! Oh, the stories I have about drawers full of hair...

Kirsten said...


You are exactly right. I just returned from Los Angeles where I was doing some research for my MIP and it's incredible what the movie/TV industry is like. They are desperate for cookie-cutter beauty, male and female alike. And for some reason, the US is the worst about this. I mean, we make some great movies, don't get me wrong. But why do our models, actors, and actresses all have to have the exact same teeth? LOL.

On the other hand, I think this is (SLOWLY) starting to change, at least in our genre. Romance heroines used to be just like stock characters from Hollywood movies -- skinny and uniformly gorgeous. Now we've got great examples of non-traditional beauty as well. So hopefully we can beat back this stereotype a little at a time.

thanks for stopping by!

Kirsten said...

Maureen, I will look forward eagerly to the day when my daughter puts her Barbies in the drawer! ;-) Maybe it is just about the accessories. LOL. I tend to over think things a little.

Just a little. ;-)

Kirsten said...

Dianna, you are so right, there are millions of ways to develop a body image complex, and having those boys stare at OTHER GIRLS is right up there! I also attracted not one bit of attention from the boys. They were much more interested in the girls who were shorter than them. LOL. (See, I've got a height complex, too! I'm a walking mass of insecurity!)

BTW, you're right about those Princesses. They aren't quite as busty as Barbie, but remarkably similar. ;-)

Kirsten said...

Amy, that's a really interesting comment about the Bratz. I had never thought about it that way -- I guess I just figured my kids would be assertive because I'm such a loud-mouth. LOL. But you're right, taking control of what you want and making your own choices is essential. And any way we can teach our girls to do that is fine by me! You go girl!

And LOL on the resourceful nurses! :-)

Kirsten said...

Lois, that's so cool that you still collect Barbies. What kinds do you look for? I think AC has a black-haired one you might like...(*g*) I could not believe how many cool Barbies were out there on the sites I was looking at. Astronaut Barbie? That's awesome!

And you're totally right, that my little five year old isn't looking at Barbie and thinking, "I should look like that." But here's the chain of thought that worries me:

1) Barbie is beautiful. (age 5)
2) I want to be beautiful. (age 8)
3) I don't look like Barbie. (age 10)
4) Therefore, I'm not beautiful. (age 13)

Of course, number 1 isn't really about Barbie. You can replace number 1 with movie stars, models, girls on the covers of romance novels, and tons of other media images.

Poor Barbie.

She really doesn't deserve my anger. LOL.

Send us some pictures of your collection! I would love to see them. :-)

Kirsten said...

Caren, this blog has been a humbling experience. Apparently I am completely alone in my irrational feelings toward Barbie! :-) My older sister had the Barbies in our house, too, but she wouldn't let me play with them. Which was okay by me, cause I didn't like them anyway.

Which makes me think...maybe this whole Barbie thing is actually all about my SISTER!!! It's not about body image at all!

Kirsten said...

Caren, you crack me up! I wish I could have gone to play over at your house! :-) Sounds like you had all the good toys.

Claudia Dain said...

Hardly surprising, but my experience with Barbie was much like Caren's. It was all about the clothes and her many gorgeous accessories. I had the white baby grand piano. To die for. And I will never forget her red velveteen cape. My mother got as much joy out of buying me fabu Barbie clothes as I did. Clothes shopping---it's in my blood.

I'm of the generation that was first Barbieized. I know that my mom and her friends wondered if they should give a doll to their daughters that was so sexualized.

See, before Barbie, girls played with baby dolls or stuffed animals that allowed them to play at being a mommy. Because Barbie was clearly not a toy that needed mothering, she encouraged girls to play at being adult women.

This was a radical step. Is Barbie the first feminist?

I know my Barbie was never a mom. She lived in a cool apartment (that nifty black patent traveling case) and had fun jobs. She went out every night, and since I never had a Ken (who wants to dress a guy in boring guy clothes?), she dated widely. She was *glamorous*.

I loved playing Barbies. All my friends did, too. We did all the other stuff; Girl Scouts, tag, bikes, body surfing, hop scotch, tetherball, four square, roller skating---this was the age when seeing an overweight child was like seeing an giraffe at the grocery store---but Barbie had her place in our universe.

And, maybe because we were the first Barbie Generation, no one I know, who's my age, ever wanted Barbie's body. She was a doll. A toy. Not a role model.

Joan said...

Feral Cheryl? A role model of a different type with "areas of body hair" and a bag of "herbs"...

Production is suspended? Huh...couldn't be that FC's bag o herbs was something else?

Forgive me. Writer's imagination and hypoxia from the bronchitis :-)

Caren and TICD brought up a good point about Barbies addressing the fashion sense/accessorizing. There is power in a woman knowing how to dress well...I'm not talking being a size 4 (My Nancy Drews never specified sizes)....but knowing how to dress for your type.

And yeah, sometimes glam it up a bit. My CP is a fashion maven (See designer shoe freak)and beautiful, absolutely beautiful in my envious eyes...but she tells me she still sees a stick thin girl in the mirror!

But she tries to help me find my inner Runway Project and I am glad she does. My style is not her style (Dear God, she goes into convulsions everytime I put on my moccasions) but to find the right blouse to go with the right pants, to match a pair of sandals with my pedicured toes. To wear my hair in a stylish bob...

That too is a part of the sentiment "I Am Woman Here Me Roar"

Kelly Krysten said...

I love Barbies and definitely will let my children play with them. I mean, she's a great role model. They now have a President Barbie! I never mutilated my barbies as a child but my brothers surely did. It was horrific to see barbie parts littered all over my room when I came home. It was like seeing the remnants of a barbie explosion.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Kirsten, I had a height thing going on for quite a while but age kind of took care of it. I used to be almost 5'8", I am now a solid 5'6", I also used to weigh around 115, let us just say I don't weigh that anymore and I can so relate to doglady's comment about the whales. I figure now I will just accept the fact that I am not going to win any beauty contests and if people don't like the way I look, they can turn their head. :-) My BF thinks I'm beautiful, my daughter says I look healthy, my son thinks I'm short..LOL They are the only ones that matter when all is said and done.

Minna said...

President Barbie? Does it come with red hair? *g* I'd love to get one! ;)

Kirsten said...

TICD, you were clearly in touch with your inner shopper well before me! I didn't start enjoying shopping until a few years ago, and I still have a pretty short fuse when it comes to accessories. When I was a kid, I was busy ripping open my stuffed animals so I could play vet and fix them back up. Accessorizing would never have occurred to me. :-)

I never thought about Barbie giving girls a chance to play at something other than being a mommy. That's an interesting spin on it. I can imagine Barbie lovers everywhere uniting behind the slogan, "Barbie, the first feminist!" (Though Betty Friedan might take some issue with that--LOL.)

Minna said...

One more thing about Hollywood movies... Why is it, that for instance in a movie like Entrapment the hero CAN be about 100 years old, but heroine has to 20 something? =P

Kirsten said...

Joanie, take another puff on the ol' inhaler! I know, can you imagine a doll with LOL. I can't even imagine!

I wish for every woman to feel fulfilled, strong, healthy, and beautiful (if that's what she cares about). I don't care if they do it through clothes, their job, their parenting, their's all about finding what makes you feel good about you -- and like Amy said, being self-confident and strong enough to make your own choices and not wait around for someone to deliver things to you.

I can't wait for San Francisco when we can all dress up together! But I definitely need some help accessorizing from TICD. Maybe we can have a little Project Runway at the hotel!

Kirsten said...

Kelly, LOL at the Barbie explosion! And I love the idea of President Barbie -- what a hoot! :-)

Joan said...

Oh, and I forgot...

I think Barbies real name is something like

Millicent Barbara Roberts....

and I did NOT look it up...

I also might be wrong.

Kirsten said...

Dianna -- now that I'm in business and regularly the only 30-something woman in a room with 50-something men, I find I actually appreciate my height. For all the wrong reasons, I think men do take taller women more seriously. It's screwed up, but there it is. I think if I was shorter, I'd be wearing heels more often. And thank goodness I don't have to do that! I can't walk a step in those things. I'm for flats all the way.

And you're right. It's the family and those you love that matter. :-)

jo robertson said...

Great topic, Kirsten! I suppose your feelings about Barbie depend on when she came into your life. My friend Valerie, who's in her fifties, owns one of the first Barbies -- mint condition! I know! Talking big money here.

My daughters played with Barbies (probably because I never did, and the idea was novel to me) and they've become very confident and level-headed women.

They have a tradition of making an outfit appropriate to the occasion (a wedding, a college graduation, a promotion), dressing Barbie in the outfit and presenting it to the sister who won the -- whatever! Those Barbies are very precious to them!

When I was in high school, full-bodied women were the vogue and I, of course, was built like a boy -- no hips, no bust. So sad, but I managed to weather it LOL.

Kirsten said...

Minna, I HATE the older guy-younger girl thing. Soooo annoying!

Kirsten said...

Thanks Jo! I think you're right. Your feelings about Barbie definitely relate back to your age when she came into your life.

But I want to hear what your daughters think about Barbie--they sound like such an incredible bunch of women. And what an adorable tradition! Thanks for sharing! :-)

And you make another good point. There's always something to be insecure about. Before my surgery, I had a HUGE bust. I mean, it was epic. And I was incredibly insecure and uncomfortable about it. I wore big, bulky shirts and tried to hide it as best I could. I LONGED to be flat-chested. And I had friends who felt exactly the opposite.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I was tall, slim and definitely flat chested, until I was pregnant with my son, I have spent 18 years trying to figure out what to do now cos they do not go with a very, very short waist. Actually, I no longer even have a waist.

Nancy said...

Jeanne--wow! You're on a rooster roll!

Kirsten, this is a great topic. I played with Barbie, mainly because of the clothes. I loved all those different outfits, which were made with much better fabrics than I've seen for Barbie lately (not that I spend much time looking). Never could keep up with those itty-bitty spike heels of hers, though. Nor do I wear their real-life counterparts. Never did wear them because I value comfort and the ability to hurry without risking my neck.

If I had a daughter, I'd let her play with Barbie if she wanted to, but I'd make sure, as I'm sure you've done, to offer plenty of competing images. My son was into action figures, a category of toys not available when I was growing up. If they had been, I probably wouldn't have been allowed to have them, just like I wasn't allowed to watch Star Trek, which I later came to love.

My childhood toy frustration was that I wanted toy guns, which my parents refused me on grounds that they weren't "for girls." This, from two navy veterans! I've always been drawn to action stories and super-heroines (and if you want to talk bust issues, look at them sometime) and active, assertive female characters. I absolutely love Lara Croft's twin handguns.

Any image issues I had were related more to the leather and steel brace I wore for scoliosis (spinal curvature, for those lucky enough to go through life without having this hit your radar) than to my toys or reading matter. If you've seen the movie Sixteen Candles, you've seen what I wore from age 11 to about age 16.

It's funny, though (funny/odd), what we absorb from the culture around us and the different levels at which we absorb them.

Nancy said...

Doglady wrote: I just wish their exposure to the great women in history was as prevalent as their exposure to Barbie, Brats and chicks who can't sing or find their underwear drawer. (0r would that be their drawers drawer?) Ain't it the truth? I look at smart, capable girls and see them dumbing themselves down and tarting themselves up, even in the workplace, and I just want to blast some sense into them. There's a reason the generations ahead of them fought that image so very, very hard.

I know being short has its problems, but Kirsten and I are about the same height, and I've spent years trying to find pants long enough and long sleeves that come to my wrist instead of ending above it. LOL on the whaling fleet!

Dianna, the Disney princess bit worries me a little, too. I take some solace from the fact that the princesses have way more backbone than they used to--though Sleeping Beauty remains my irrationally chosen favorite.

Amy, I agree with you about that image. I wish the movement to ban models who are below their minimal body mass index had more traction.

Claudia, Barbie as first feminist? Hmm--it's an interesting spin.

Kirsten said...

Wow, Nancy, I would never have taken you for the Lara Croft hand-gun type! :-) I love all the things we learn in the Lair!

Did you wear the headgear from Sixteen Candles? I thought that was for braces. Hmm...I'm trying to remember what it looked like. Four years is a long time. I can see how that would have been very hard on a young girl's psyche. Thanks for sharing your story.

Really, thinking back on high school, it's a wonder any of us turn out without glaring emotional scars. I suppose that's one of the reasons I love writing YA. Few times in our lives are the stakes higher and the emotions more intense than in adolescence.

Kirsten said...

Nancy, I'm also a Sleeping Beauty fan. Mostly cause of the Prince in the Disney version, though. He's totally hot.

Aunty Cindy said...

Joanie, you were 95% correct. She is Barbara Millicent Roberts. Hmmm, could she actually be related to La Nora?!?!?!

And alas, Kirsten, I sold my black haired Barbie with her lil red trunk full of custom made clothes at a rummage sale when I was in college. :-P IF ONLY I had her now... I might have paid CASH for that new washer/dryer.


flchen1 said...

Hi, Kirsten! (Congrats on the Gr, Jeanne!!)

Hmm... I desperately wanted a new Barbie when I was a kid (I saw that long lovely blond hair--so unlike my own--and really wanted to style it ;)) Instead, I got a hand-me-down Barbie who'd been shorn by her previous owner, so I spent much of my playtime making hats and using scarves and such. I never did get a new one :)

I'm not a big fan now--I might let my daughter play with one if she received one as a gift (and I couldn't return it ;)) but I definitely am not going out of my way to acquire one for her...

I don't know if Barbie would create body image issues, but I hope that my DH and I can provide some balance to the external images and pressure sure to come.

And Dianna, I'm envious--am I to understand that you got to keep what the pregnancy breast fairy brought you?? I am short and flat, and even more so now after kids! (I joke that what the PBFairy brought me, she took back with interest!)

brownone said...

I was never a big fan of Barbie although my sister was. I was the tomboy and had such entertaining toys as Hungry Hungry Hippoes and that see through guy that you could take out all his innards and put it back together again. It was pretty cool.

As for my girls, they do have Barbies but I don't notice them playing with them as much as they like the Disney Princesses and Tinkerbelle.

Oh, and Bratz are banned in my house. (My sister and I call 'em Hookerz) I don't even allow the "My Scene" Barbies which are the hussied up barbies. There's just something about the idea of my girls playing with them that creeps me out. I don't want them dressing like that (which also seems to be the trend) and I don't want them thinking that in order to get forward in life they have to be stupid or cheap.

I know, that's reading A LOT into a toy, but these things really are a foundation for them.

limecello said...

Hm -I thought they tried to make a more anatomically correct Barbie? Well, a more proportionate one - not that it makes that huge of a difference... I don't like Barbie either - but I dislike Bratz even more. *shakes head* Blech.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hi, Kirsten! Oh, Barbies. Yeah, this is a hot button topic. People love 'em, people hate 'em. I myself was more into Barbie torture, sad to say. I had no ill will toward the poor thing. I mean, come on. She was already saddled with those FEET, god help her. I should have felt sorry for her. But my younger sister & I liked to build haunted houses in our basement & we needed some decapitated things to hang from the rafters. Sorry, Barbie. Then we got into science experiments & needed to find out what material made the most effective parachutes. So poor Barbie went off the top of the barn strapped to any number of useless devices. Got your ball stuck in a tree? Chuck a Barbie at it.

We had, um, lots of Barbies. Enough to consider them disposable, apparently.

I had plenty of body issues as a teen, but I think they were more related to looking twelve when I was twenty, & having a younger sister who was a real traffic-stopper.

Silver lining, though? On the rare occasion that somebody did ask me out, I was pretty certain it was because he liked ME & not the way I looked. I bet Barbie never really knew. Ha. So take that, Barbie.

Claudia Dain said...

Kirsten, bring on the accessories! I love to play dress up.

About Barbie being the first feminist, it really was a big deal at the time, very ground-breaking in the toy arena. As culture changes, so do our perceptions of the same stimuli.

Let my daughter play with Barbie? I was for it, but she went the Disney princess route. Her fav was Jasmin, but she did have them all, with outfits.

Helen said...

Cograts on the GR Jeanne

I had Barbies but I wasn't that mad on them but I liked to make clothes for her myself which I found more fun when I was younger than playing with Barbie. I have 3 daughters and although they had Barbies they were more interested in the Barbie cars and campervans than the doll. My grandaughter is only 8 months old so we have started buying her cabbage patch dolls but we will have to wait and see if she wants Barbies.
I think of Barbies as a toy rather than anything else so I don't love her or hate her.

Have Fun

Joan said...

So many of y'all had the fancy Barbie accessories...campers, cars, houses...

All I ever had were the Barbie set of Corning ware....Barbie size of course.

Kirsten said...

Ahh, just got back from a fabulous massage. Some of you may know that I do much of my plotting while on the massage table. Well, today's exercise was trying to figure out what to do with my backstory dump that Susan (my erstwhile CP) nailed me for in my latest MIP.

Unfortunately, I didn't quite figure it out yet. Hmph. Guess I need to go back for another massage! ;-)

Kirsten said...

AC, I'm sorry to hear that, but you probably enjoyed the heck out of that Barbie. Far more than you would have enjoyed paying cash for the washer, right?

Way to go on the name, Joanie T. Now how do you come to have that little bit of trivia tucked away?

Kirsten said...

Fedora, at last! someone who at least shares a little of my concern about Barbie and little girls!

I tend to think the most important thing we can do for our girls is to get them active and physical, so they know their bodies aren't just useful as an object, but are also strong and capable of physical achievements. Sports, outdoor activities, all that good stuff. No Barbie feet on our girls, right? :-)

And to give them good, healthy, confident role models. I'm sure you and your husband are doing that in spades!

Caren Crane said...

Massage for writing blocks? I could get on board with that!

I wanted to say that I had a negative, visceral reaction to the Bratz dolls as well. My girls got a few as gifts a few years back, but they decided they weren't that interesting. They also liked to make fun of them. But we've had many conversations over the years about the message looking like a hoochie sends to the world.

EXCEPT, the Bratz dolls have much cuter and more interesting boys than the Barbies do. The boys also have better clothes. So, there were a couple of requests for Tyler or Roderick or whatever boy they wanted. Of course, that fascination wore off when boys seemed suddenly not so gross. *g*

Nancy said...

Kirsten, you've uncovered my secret. It's totally all about the prince! When he breaks out of the castle and fights the dragon--oh, wow! And so cute! I had a crush on him when I was five. (I later had a crush on Robin the Boy Wonder, so yeah, I know I'm weird. *g* I did marry an actual person.)

No, I didn't have the headgear. I think you're right about that being braces-related. I had braces, too. Just not with headgear, thank goodness!

I don't so much love Lara's guns as love that she has them! And uses them so danged well!

terrio said...

This is such an interesting discussion. And for the record, I knew her last name was Roberts. Strange I can't remember anything important but I remember that. *sigh*

I didn't care much for Barbie but I had Tonka Trucks and made mud pies. When I started reading the blog I asked my 8 yr old daughter if she really likes Barbie - she has many of them - and she said she's just alright. She's more into the Webkinz right now so there's no body image problems there. Unless she gets upset she doesn't look like that hippo.

I do let her play with Bratz. The cartoons actually have pretty good messages about loyalty, friendship and self-confidence. But I would never let her wear the real life clothes they fashion after those things. Oh, and that removing the feet freaks me out too.

I don't think Barbie had anything to do with me not liking my body. I've been overweight since age 11 and everyone from schoolmates to relatives had no problem telling me so. Comparing ourselves to others is inevitable but I often say if I were alive during the Renaissance, *I* would have been a supermodel. :)

Anna Campbell said...

You tell 'em, Terrio! I myself would have had Renoir drooling into his French onion soup! ;-)

Kirsten said...

brownone, it is hard not to read a LITTLE into the toys our kids play with, isn't it? I think you've got to have your own line in the sand, and then be prepared to erase it, or move it, or whatever you need to do for YOUR kids.

Parenting is much harder than it looks, I swear.

I get particularly nervous when I see what they try to pass off as clothing for girls these days. I mean, I bought my five year old some pants, and they turned out to be low rise that barely covered her midriff. For a five year old!! At least the Princesses don't expose too much flesh (except for that naughty Jasmine, of course!).

Caren Crane said...

Nancy and Kirsten, Sleeping Beauty was my favorite, too! I envied her the cute cottage in the woods. And the Prince in that one - Philip! *swoon* - was the most handsome guy ever. And his hair wasn't black, it was brown - shocker! Maleficent was a wonderful villain and she turned into a dragon, which was SO COOL!

Of course, I thought Aurora (or Brier Rose, take you pick) was beyond stupid for falling for the lure into the tower with the spindle. Gah!

Sing with me: "I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream. I know you, the gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam. Yet I know it's true that visions are seldom all they seem...but if I know you, I know what you'll do. You'll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream!" *sigh*

Caren Crane said...

Kirsten, amen sister! Parenting is MUCH harder than it looks, particularly if you expect your children to act human and have manners! And yes, the hoochie trend in little girls' clothes has been horrifying the past few years.

Fortunately, my girls missed the worst of it and we were able to find normal clothes at places like Old Navy. Now, even those have migrated toward the hoochie. It seems, though, that the bare-all trend is ending. My girls (15 and 13) and I were shopping for t-shirts and shorts at Target today and the t-shirts are much longer this year (yes!). The shorts are longer, too.

I think once they realized that NO SCHOOL will allow those clothes on campus, the loss in profits spoke volumes. *g*

Kirsten said...

Susan, I think you and I should co-write a blog on SISTER envy. My ballerina sister with her long lovely legs, tons o' boyfriends, and general coolness was a big part of my young life.

Though i didn't take it out on poor, defenseless Barbies. Shame on you! ;-)

(got any pictures?)

Kirsten said...

TICD, we've got a date for San Fran and accessories. Yay! :-)

Helen, you are so incredibly sane and well-balanced! Yes, you're right (hangs head in shame) she is just a toy. Funny how we get caught up in these sorts of things, isn't it?

Now those Cabbage Patch Dolls, they're a whole 'nuther story!

Kirsten said...

Caren, I had no idea there were Bratz boys! Wow, I'll have to check them out. My daughter just mentioned today that her best friend Johnny has a Ken doll but he doesn't play with him very much because, "he has boring clothes and his head fell off."

Ah, the wisdom of youth!

Nancy, YES! That is such a hot scene! And when the horse bucks him into the river -- "No carrots!" Remember that line? Or when he comes up behind Sleeping Beauty and breaks into song...ah, that voice! Pamela, he was some amazing tenor or something, wasn't he? Baritone? (Okay, I have no idea. He was just hot.)

Kirsten said...

Hear hear Terrio! :-) Do you remember they briefly had a beauty magazine for the size 14 and up crowd? I think it was only around for a few months, but I LOVED that magazine. It was so awesome to see gorgeous women who weren't skinny as rails.

I now subscribe to Teen Vogue magazine (research for my YA, I swear!) and there are some really really scary looking models in there. I do wish someone would do something about that! Why oh why do they insist on having anorexic looking models whose knees are wider than their thighs?

Kirsten said...

Ah, Caren, yes yes! The song! Can't you just hear him singing? So sweet! So sexy!

And Aurora....well, let's just say she was longer in the looks department than brains.

Joan said...

Way to go on the name, Joanie T. Now how do you come to have that little bit of trivia tucked away?

I have lots of useless trivia tucked into my gray matter....

I liked the blue fairy godmother from Sleeping Beauty though oddly her name escapes me.

Kirsten said...

limecello, I almost missed your comment! You know, I think I heard something about them redesigning Barbie too. I wonder what came of that? I guess she wouldn't be the same if she didn't have that absurdly tiny waist and gigantic boobs, though. LOL.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Wow, this turned into a major Barbie Marathon - or is that a Barbie-thon? (As long as its not a Barbie Thong, we're okay!)

Susan, I just about feel off my chair imagining the parachutes and the "chuck a barbie at it" line. I'm STILL laughing. I think you and Kirsten really DON'T like our girl Barbie! Heeheee!

I do know that a lot of my toys ended up rapelling down the laundry chute and "skydiving" off the balcony, so I wasn't far off there. They didn't lose limbs, however. Thankfully my brothers were too busy shooting the army men with bb guns, like P226, to mess too much w/ Barbie.

Oh, and I'll jump on board with the sister envy blog. *wince* She's red-headed, gorgeous, curvy. I was gawky, flat-arsed, flat-chested...etc. til college, so lots of time to develop a [bad] body image.

I kinda got over it when I walked on fire tho. And got the whole boob thing worked out (not medically, just naturally, but late!) And meeting the perfect guy does wonders for your self esteem and body image too, and him I got. (gets down on knees, thanks God once again for the DH)


terrio said...

Kirsten - I missed that mag somewhere. But I do love that they put at least one (sometimes two!) plus size models on ANTM. Though the other night they pointed out the *plus size* model this season was wearing a 10 and that wouldn't work for runway work. So 10 is now PLUS?! No wonder we're all so messed up!

And I had one of those skinny sisters. She got all the behind and I got all the up top stuff. I had my up top stuff reduced but there's nothing she can do about the junk in her trunk. Growing up, she was the skinny one and I was the smart one. Now she's gained weight so I'm the smart AND skinny (in comparison) one. I can die happy. *g*

Anna Campbell said...

Terrio, did you see the post underneath this one???!!! Didya? Didya, huh???!!!

Kirsten said...

jeanne, we definitely need to have that sister blog! And yes, I am with you on my knees thanking God for my husband. Nothing like true love to cure all high school ills.

terrio, my sister in reduction! Was that not the best thing you've ever done for yourself? I will never forget the first time I looked in the mirror afterward --wow. What an amazing feeling. :-) And being able to wear normal, off the rack bras? Not special order ones that cost $100? Priceless!

Kirsten said...

Well I'm headed out for an evening at my son's school auction. Wish me luck -- or maybe no luck, so I don't bid on something I shouldn't and win it!

thanks for joining in the Barbie love-fest! :-) Ya'll are awesome and always make me think. Big huge sloppy kisses to all of you!

terrio said...

I see it, Anna, I see it! LOL! Yep, that's the best thing I ever did. Though when I first woke up and could see my feet and nothing else, I did panic a bit. Funny thing is, I was only 20 when I did it so they sort of grew back. LOL! No specialty bras needed but just goes to show if Mother Nature wants you to have them, you're GOING to have them.

doglady said...

I used to hate the fact that I was flat chested. Now I am glad. If I had had a bountiful bosom when I weighed 103 I would have wobbled like a weeble and I WOULD have fallen down!

As I recall, Kirsten, the Prince was a tenor, but he had a nice bottom range. SIGH!!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Ack! Cable went out and I never made it back yesterday.
flchen1, when I had my daughter I went from an A to a C to a AA. At 39 with my son I went from AA to C to D and stayed there. Unfortunately I changed jobs after I had him and instead of being up and moving all day I sat in front of a computer and answered phones, I went from 125 to my current 182 in weight, trust me when I tell you I would rather have gone back to the AA.

Freddie G. May said...
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Freddie G. May said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freddie G. May said...

The supposition that Barbie is to be seen as a real female is illogical. It is a toy of fantasy only. The problem is that parents are not teaching their children from the beginning the difference between fantasy and reality. I knew that my toys were just for my imagination. I love my replicas of planes and ships. In reality, I cannot swim and have a fear of extreme heights. The enjoyment gained from these toys doesn't blur the reality of my fear of real ones. I can imagine the experiece with the toys without putting myself in an unpleasant or deadly situation. I had GI Joes but never desired to be a real soldier because of the previous problems. However, they allowed me to pretend to be that which was unattainable in my scope of reality. The fact that I had Barbies for decades did not make me gay, gender confused, or shallow. The fact is I never considered barbie to be anything more than a lifeless object made for imaginative play. I never thought that it had a perfect body nor was a beauty standard for real females. Having matured faster than expected, I was attracted to girls from the age of seven. It was natural for me to be attracted to Barbie because the fact that it was female and I male. Barbie allowed me to pretend the role of boyfriend and husband through my GI Joes. The fact is that the term "action figure" was coined by the creator of GI Joe to mask the fact that it was a doll. Boys do not play with dolls? Only sissies play with them? These same ones that said that while playing with or buying GI Joe were not smart enough to see that GI Joe and Barbie were both plastic and wore dressed and undressed. You could buy accessories for both. It was a marketing ploy to sell the doll to males. Nobody envolved with marketing that new toy had been allowed to call it a doll for fear that nobody would buy the doll for a boy. Little girls have been told for years that toy cars and trucks are for boys. Teenagers and older females would be livid if that same standard was applied to real car dealerships. Leave the toys in the world of fantasy. Only when the difference between fantasy and reality is blurred is there a real problem. A person may fantasize that this other person is in love with them while the reality is quite different. How many criminals fantasized about their crime before following through on it? I like the color pink as well as blue but not on certain things. I like pink on a female but not on a car. One can like Barbie as a doll but not as a beauty standard for real females.