Where is the realistic Barbie?

Say the word “Barbie” and you instantly think of a thin doll, straight long blonde hair, long slender legs  and pink-tinted clothing. Small detail, if Barbie was a real woman she could not possibly function normally. Her waist does not provide enough space for her organs, she would not even be able to walk. Yet this is the ideal of beauty that girls witness from birth, which has negative effects for their personal embodying of the outer appearance, known as the body image.

Social Media

The image that women have about their bodies is strongly influenced by social media. Which imposes on us an ideal image of the woman. Women compare their bodies with that of slender models on social media. But those images (whether or not altered by photo shop) are not a correct representation of the average woman. The current, prevailing ideal for a women’s body consists of a slim body yet curvaceous with large breasts, shiny and healthy hair, straight white teeth and a natural glow of the skin. The same image of women is reflected in gender stereotypes in advertising. In which the woman is depicted as a lust object for man. But many women do not recognize themselves in this image, which has negative effects.

Negative effects

You can divide the female population that is exposed to this ideal image into two groups. First, there is the group that creates a certain distance between themselves and the prevailing ideals of appearance and thinness. And second,women who have interpreted these ideals as a personal belief system and see them as their goal. Low self-esteem and depression are therefore not excluded if this goal is not achieved.

Progressive toys

It is time that the image of the woman is represented realistically. Mattel, the creator of the Barbie doll is already making an effort. In 2016 Barbie was joined by Tall Barbie, Curvy Barbie and Petite Barbie. The dolls represent a realistic image of the woman in society. Yet Curvy Barbie is slimmer than the average woman. And a normal life for Tall and Petite Barbie is not included when scaled up to real size. However, the dolls are a good start towards a realistic representation of women in social media and advertising. And were therefore well received by the general public. But there is still a long way to go.

Progress for women in Saudi Arabia?

24 June 2018, an important day in the history of Saudi Arabia, leastwise according to various women’s rights activists. On that day, the Kingdom would no longer be the only country on the planet to prevent women from driving. The unexpected decision has been praised by human rights activists across the globe. But it is time to look at the bigger picture.

After years of struggling against gender discrimination, women can finally take place in the driver’s seat. But do not count your chickens before they hatch. Most people who stood up for women’s rights received substantial prison sentences. Their ideas and plans to create progress on the importance of women’s rights are still not being heard by the regime. On the contrary, every woman in SaudiArabia is still under the custody of a man. That guardian has the power to make important decisions in a woman’s  life. They can now also easily get a job or participate in social activities such as attending concerts or theatres, at least if they get permission. �

But despite this, Mohammed Bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia who is responsible for lifting the ban, receives alot of praise from all corners of the world. If even Donald Trump starts to congratulate him, we must begin to wonder what the hidden agenda of this action is.

The fact that women are allowed to drive fits perfectly within a larger plan to stimulate the national economy of Saudi-Arabia. Female drivers should be encouraged to participate in economic activities. It is all part of ‘Vision 2030’, a long-term vision for the Saudi economy. But the Crown Prince Bin Salman also benefits from the action. It is comparable to personal propaganda, he uses women’s right to gain support. Firstly from the citizens of Saudi Arabia, but also from the outside world.

In other words, the action is part of an economic movement and is a PR stunt by the crown prince. This can be confirmed by the fact that no women’s rights activists were involved during the transition.

Maria van Antwerpen, a strong wo(men)

If we go through the media regularly, we are not able to past it. Gender diversity as a theme is hot, just think of Bo Van Spilbeeck or the movie ‘Girl.’ by Lukas Dhont. Even though it is ‘hot’ at the moment, transgenderism is certainly not an invention of the 21st century. Throughout history, there have been several cases of women who already behaved like men. Jean D’arc or Hannah Snell easily come to mind.

One of the examples is Maria Van Antwerpen, born in 1719 in Breda. In 1746 she loses her job as a maid and left her hometown. Under the name Jan van Antwerpen she starts a new life as a tailor. Later she also presents herself as a 16-year-old soldier, while Maria is actually 28 years old.

Williamson, Daniel, 1783-1843; Hannah Snell (1723-1792)

The year is 1748 and Jan van Antwerpen marries Johanna Kramers, they move in together. Sexual contact is something Jan tries to avoid. According to sources, his wife did not realize that her husband was actually a woman. In 1751 Jan is recognized as Maria with the consequence that he is banned from the city. Eventually she ends up with Cornelia Swartenberg, who is familiar with Maria’s past as a man. Cornelia convinces Maria to go through life as a tailor / soldier, named Machiel van Antwerpen. However, later on she was again recognized as a woman and another prosecution followed. In that process Maria declares that inside her body she feels like a man but biologically she is a woman. Thanks to this statement, we can assume that Maria van Antwerpen was transgender. But the difference between travesty and transgenderism can cause some confusion.

Dressing up in a different gender is called travesty, but transgenderism goes a step further. The person then completely submerges in the opposite gender. This is because of real transgenderism, in wich a person in question cannot identify with his or her own biological gender. This in contrast to the 17th and 18th century, when taking over another gender was a step towards a better life, especially for the female sex. For example, a woman who’s traveling alone is more vulnerable to danger than a man. Women often pretended to be a male because of the better life it gave them. There are multiple stories about women who went through life as a groomsman, shoemaker or butcher. In short, all professions in which men had acquired a dominant position.

It is important to see that gender identity is not an invention of the 21st century. Throughout history there were many people who doubted their gender. The only difference, nowadays people see it less as a taboo.