My name is Lisa Fernandez. I work full-time and I am a single mother to a delightful three and a half year old daughter by the name of Isabella. This week, I executed a social experiment that had been many weeks in the making. Literally. With the help of WA Fashion Designer Jonte, I re-created perfect replicas of three Barbie outfits to fit my exact size and for one afternoon I dressed exactly like my daughter’s Barbie Doll.
I understand that a woman choosing to become Barbie may seem a little wacko. Hey I don’t mind if you say it, ridiculous even. You might look at the photos of me, a 5”2 blonde chick squeezed into garments only a small plastic figurine with a 1” waist could wear with any dignity and then roll your eyes thinking ‘what’s her point’ or ‘here we go, another raving feminist’. You may even assume I did this purely as an attention seeking venture but let me assure you this is far from the truth. The motivation for my social experiment has a very simple explanation. Two very simple explanations actually. Number one: My kid asked me to do it and Number two: I thought it would be bloody hilarious to dress up like Barbie.
So it all started here. During a one way conversation with my three and a half year old daughter about her beloved Barbie, right in the middle of me trying to cook dinner AND check out if the plumber who ripped me off last week had been busted on Today Tonight.
“Mummy” she said, “Look at how beautiful Barbie is. You should dress JUST like her mummy. And mummy, you’d look beautiful too. Just like Barbie”. Now I’m a single mother and as a consequence of my social isolation, dialogue between Bella and I has always been very adult and honest. So my initial reaction as I stood in front of my Barbie loving offspring was to laugh in her sweet little face and say, “Honey, Barbie looks so incredibly trashy even the garbage man wouldn’t pick her up and secondly, decent Mummy’s wouldn’t dress like Barbie unless they were in a hostage situation and forced to do so. Now here’s a dictionary kiddo, best look up “skank” and we’ll discuss it later. But not wanting to crush the hope in a 3 year olds eyes, all that came out of my mouth was, “Sure Bella. Mummy can dress like Barbie. I’m sure I’ll look beautiful too.” And that is why an intelligent, grown woman spent an afternoon walking around Perth dressed up like an actual Barbie doll.
“The Barbie Experience” is how I’m referring to my 5 hours spent in a daze of candy pink make-up and barely there clothing which shimmered and slithered far too much for a freezing Perth afternoon. Being Barbie wasn’t fun or, to my surprise, even remotely entertaining. Being Barbie was downright humiliating and degrading. I’m not the type of chick who whinges about carrying a few extra kilo’s. I am what I am and I’m pretty happy with my body after pushing out a kid and living on 5 hours of sleep a day for over 10 years. But holy hell people! Wearing Barbie’s shiny short skirts and too tight tops made me feel dirty and cheap. I felt exposed as I walked the streets and I lost all confidence to look people in the eye because I felt so ashamed of the trashy clothing I was wearing. I cringed at the thought of bumping into anyone I knew and the disgusted looks on people’s faces as I teetered past them in hot pants and electric pink stilettos reflected how I was feeling about myself. I felt disgusting.
The Barbie Experience set out to be a lighthearted social experiment but like my transformation into Barbie, it morphed into something ugly and very tragic.
I’ve got to be honest and admit that I was pretty ambivalent about Bella thinking Barbie is beautiful. I was unconcerned by the trashiness of this plastic little doll and her long term effects on my 3 year old. But after the humiliation of being Barbie I involuntarily formed an opinion. And Barbie ‘aint no role model for my kid. Will I throw the blonde strumpets out? Probably not. But I’m on the hunt for a nice nanna who might sew me up some of my own Barbie outfits. Like Computer Geek Barbie. Or Veterinary Barbie or even Journalist Barbie. Any other suggestions are more than welcome.