Something in the Water

Over at Sully's place and at Feministe, there are links to a shop at which you can buy jewelry made out of dismembered Barbie and Ken parts:

Like I said in reference to the Jingle Jugs yesterday, what bothers me about this kind of thing is the connection, even if unintentional, with the real-life precedent of trophy-keeping.

The picture Sully chose to post reminds me specifically of a book I read as a teenager (the title of which I cannot recall, nor anything else about the book, including its author), which opens with the narrator talking about holding a woman's hand inside his jacket pocket—linked fingers, the intimacy of skin against skin inside fabric on a chilly day.

And then the picture pulls back, as it were, to reveal that the hand has been detached from the body of a woman he has just raped and murdered, and he's holding her hand for comfort as he walks out of the woods where he's dumped her.

So I have kind of mixed feelings about this, as pulling apart the pieces of one's plastic dolls (Barbie or otherwise) is an unremarkable pastime of many girls' childhoods, often motivated by nothing more nefarious than that which prompts pulling apart a Matchbox car—just a simple curiosity at how it's stuck together or sheer boredom with a played-out toy. But then, ya know, there's the other stuff, in which grown-ups do terrible things. There's a not necessarily easily-discernible line about when this kind of thing moves from innocent to icky, becomes symbolic of something ugly. Like, a little girl with a doll head collection? Very Wednesday Addams. A grown man with a doll head collection? Move away slowly. That's a whole different ballgame.

And while I'm sure there's an argument to be made that this jewelry is nothing more than an homage to that girlhood tradition of doll dismemberment, it strikes me as ignoring the flipside of that coin in which some boys tear apart dolls to upset and hurt and threaten the girls to whom they belong. It's a classic girl-bullying tactic of boy bullies, little mini-misogynists terrorizing the playground with doll destruction and the de-pantsing of shy girls and the sissy boys who play with them. That's where the expression of violent misogyny and homophobia starts.

Even if this jewelry is just meant to be a silly, harmless thing, it nonetheless references something that isn't silly or harmless at all. So the question becomes: How important is it? How important is it to all of us to be able to buy and consider and sell jewelry made from torn-apart dolls right now? And how capable do we feel of fixing all the bad things it inadvertently references and unintentionally reinforces as long as it exists? Does it make our job harder? Is it worth it, if it does? Just how important is it for this stuff to be in our world?

[H/T to Oddjob for the Sully link.]

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