What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

I don’t have a lot to say these days, but I’m still reading a lot. These are the things that got me reading and thinking this week.  Without further ado:

Barbie’s Got a New Body (Time)

An interesting look at not only the latest iteration of Barbie, but also of the history of the doll (which I loved playing with when I was growing up).  At any rate, Mattel is releasing different body types as well as dolls with more diverse types of hair and skin tones, and it’s an interesting look at the “gamble” the company is taking by doing so:

But the initiative could also backfire—if it’s not too late altogether. Adding three new body types now is sure to irritate someone: just picking out the terms petite, tall and curvy, and translating them into dozens of languages without causing offense, took months. And like me, girls will strip curvy Barbie and try to put original Barbie’s clothes on her or swap the skirts of petite and tall. Not everything will Velcro shut. Fits will be thrown, exasperated moms will call Mattel. The company is setting up a separate help line just to deal with Project Dawn complaints.

There’s also some interesting tidbits about the history of the doll:

Still, Barbie’s sales took off, but by 1963 women were protesting the same body men had ridiculed. That year, a teen Barbie was sold with a diet book that recommended simply, “Don’t eat.” When a Barbie with pre-programmed phrases uttered, “Math class is tough,” a group called the Barbie Liberation Organization said the doll taught girls that it was more important to be pretty than smart. They switched out Barbie’s voice box with that of GI Joe so that the blonde cried, “Vengeance is mine,” while the macho warrior enthused, “Let’s plan our dream wedding.”

Where is the Diversity in Publishing? (Lee & Low)

Lee & Low did a baseline study on diversity in publishing last year, and the results are in.  The results are not surprising, and definitely alarming:

While all racial/ethnic minorities are underrepresented when compared to the general US population, the numbers show that some groups, such as Black/African Americans, are more severely underrepresented. This mirrors trends among children’s book authors. In 2014, just 2 percent of the books tracked by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center were by black authors. Latinos were similarly underrepresented in both places.

There’s a lot of stuff to parse here, and this is helpful to consider:

Does the lack of diverse books closely correlate to the lack of diverse staff? The percentages, while not exact, are proportional to how the majority of books look nowadays—predominately white. Cultural fit would seem to be relevant here. Or at least in publishing’s case, what is at work is the tendency—conscious or unconscious—for executives, editors, marketers, sales people, and reviewers to work with, develop, and recommend books by and about people who are like them.

Powerlifter (The Morning News)

This is obviously more of a niche piece, but if you’re interested in the world of fitness and weight lifting and women, this is an excellent, thought-provoking piece about the experience of women gaining strength in a traditionally male-dominated world.

Toned yet tiny fitness models likeJen Selter and Kayla Itsines are considered athletic and beautiful, while larger—and stronger—professional athletes like Serena Williams and Karyn Marshall, a prominent figure in female lifting in the US, are mocked for looking masculine.

Part history lesson, part personal musings about weightlifting, this is an excellent piece that tackles eating disorders, exercise addiction, body acceptance, and more:

But, like most things if you look closely, it turns out it wasn’t quite a choice so much as an internalized cultural restriction. I felt I didn’t belong because I was supposed to feel like I didn’t belong. You’ll be unattractive if you lift. Weights are for boys. Muscles aren’t sexy on girls. And so on.

It’s totally worth a read.

What are you reading and thinking about this week?

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