April 13, 2014

The Problem with Lamilly

There has been a lot of buzz regarding Lamilly dolls. This doll is designed to be similar to Barbie, but with body proportions that match that of the 'average' woman. The world seems to be excited about this prospect of a girls toy that portrays a healthy body image for girls to aspire to.

I'm not.

And it seems like, as a body-positive person and feminist,  you might assume that I'd be doing cartwheels over the Lamilly dolls. I take serious issue with these dolls because people are assuming that dolls are going to be the remedy for a problem that has very little at all to do with dolls at all.

Girls and boys around the world are facing eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorders, and the thing en vogue has been to blame Barbie for anorexia. As a Barbie fan (although I went through a stint of disliking Barbie and her so-called perfection during my early teen years) I take huge issue with this, because it assumes that Barbie's image and existence is to blame for the body image issues girls are faced with.

Let me give you a little background on Barbie. Barbie was not designed based on an actual person (though she was named after the creators' daughter) but based on a German cartoon named Lilli that was something along the lines of what Betty Boop was in America some decades ago. She's had tons of careers including NASCAR driver, Computer Engineer, World Peace Ambassador, Yoga Teacher, Marine Corp Officer, Firefighter, and UNICEF Summit Diplomat. She has a lot of really good friendships, healthy friendships, with friends with their own individual personalities (if you so choose to play them this way) and she actually is not the hot side-accessory to her man-- actually, it's a little bit the opposite... Which is honestly pretty refreshing to me, given that too often, girls are often told that their value will be determined by the men in their lives.

Barbie is a fashionista, but she's not intended to be anyone's model of a real person, although she seems more realistic than a Raggedy Ann. Some of Barbie's other peers have much more absurd proportions, because they've always been intended as cartoons (Bratz dolls, who actually don't even have feet, Diva Starz, etc.) The problem is not what Barbie looks like, but an assertion that there is a way girls are "supposed" to look. Even the very fictional Barbie is fixated on by the general public, not for her many careers, her wonderful friendships, and her positive attitude, but her body. I've talked before about how uncomfortable I get when people try to insist on my feeling pretty in order to feel valuable when I know that I am so much more than what I look like. Telling girls that dolls are most importantly about what they look like, and not the wonderful make-believe lives they lead, is not a healthy move, especially when you pair that with the idea that they are supposed to grow up to look like their dolls.

So that's a big issue with the Lamilly dolls-- the assertion that an "average" doll is healthier and better. That Lamilly is "normal" and other body-types like Barbie's or a Cabbage Patch Kid's are "abnormal" and "unacceptable." I'm reading headlines like "Meet the Barbie with an Even More Perfect Body" and "Move Over Barbie! Meet the 'Normal' Doll that promotes Realistic (And Healthy) Body Proportions." And it's quite frankly disgusting.

These headlines assume that Barbie's proportions were always seen as the ideal and that finally, we can move that ideal to the "right" image. In the early 20th century, more curvy women (pin-up style) were considered the most attractive. In ancient times, large women with large hips and breasts were the most attractive. In Victorian England, it was important to obfuscate and exaggerate the feminine form with corsets and bustles. Which one of these is the best for society and women? Trick question, because there is no "right" body for a woman to have. Barbie and other dolls are intended as works of fiction. It is up to us as a society, as parents, as women, as sisters and brothers, to make that known. We need to stop saying "This is what a body should look like" and start saying "This is what a body looks like." Bodies are facts, not departures from normal, or failed attempts at a "right answer." There has never been a time when we have said "dogs that don't look like Snoopy are not as good as dogs that do look like Snoopy" and we need to make the same distinction amongst our girls and their dolls. Lamilly is the exact opposite of that.

Changing the ideal body once again will not break down the fact that we have put an ideal in place. Although there are many girls who will never look like Barbie, there are plenty of girls who will never look like Lamilly either. The problem is not what do our dolls look like?, but what expectations are we placing on our children? You may remember from my Op-Ed on Photoshopping that I have a problem when someone tries to tell us that there are right bodies and wrong ones.

When engineering a doll with the goal of being "normal" (one that Barbie never had) you're also setting out to describe what is "abnormal." That's one of the biggest reasons why I cannot support Lamilly. Though I thought initial renderings of a more average looking Barbie were a great and powerful statement that brought light to how our perceptions can be skewed by images we are told are ideal, the idea of someone selling these dolls on the mass market with the purpose being that this is "the real right body" is really disturbing. Girls should learn about how beautiful and wonderful all different kinds of bodies are from other, real women-- not from one doll.

I've had wonderful friends on social media discuss how they are extremely uncomfortable with these dolls, because they promote an ideal body that many girls don't/can't/won't have. While we all agree that diversity in the body shapes of children's dolls and actions figures are a positive thing, we can't reconcile the fact that Lamilly sets out to be "the right body" when there are many kinds of bodies that are not anything near her 'average' figure. Lamilly is a representation of one set of numbers out of many. How are the outliers supposed to feel? Lamilly is a so-called "realistic representation of beauty" which begs me to ask the question: realistic for whom?

I have other reservations against Lamilly. I don't like that there is no personality, no career, no friends in place or being planned for the Lamilly line. Lamilly is about her body-- a message that I don't want to promote, especially when her entire mission is to show girls what they should strive to be. I don't like that, along with the lack of plans to introduce more dolls, there is no form of racial diversity planned--which seems like a pretty important factor if you're going to say Barbie is promoting an unrealistic/unattainable ideal body. In Lamilly's quest to be "average" she has come out to be a tannish, racially-amibiguous-but-mostly-white-girl. Her skin is dark enough to be seen as appealing, but not so dark to threaten an assumption that she's probably white, and therefore appealing to everyone--which is another problem I have with society: The idea that whiteness is centered, and everything else is like some special, hard-to-relate-to sub-genre and outlier. Lamilly's coloring and her lack of racially varied cohorts is not something I feel comfortable with.

Not to say that Barbie is without her flaws and legitimate controversies and failures (Oreo Barbie being a notable one)-- but I will say that there's a difference between legitimate, actionable complaints, and pointless, ineffective complaints. While I really want Mattel (the makers of Barbie) to introduce more body diversity in their Barbie dolls (and their lines of Ever After High dolls, Monster High dolls, etc.), it only takes a basic business understanding to know how much money it would take to create new molds, and how insane it would be for a company to waste that money if no one bought those dolls. It's up to consumers to make most ethical, most socially beneficial option a financially responsible one for the company. Even better is if we make it the most financially beneficial choice, and we demonstrate that they are not only missing an opportunity, but show that if they carry through with production, they are presented with minimal risk because inventory will move. In capitalism, we vote with our dollars, and we've got to financially support awesomeness. This process has their wheels greased by social media since now it's easier than ever to talk to brands about our ideas for new alternatives. It's hard to mess with success, and we need to demonstrate an overwhelming desire for body diversity in the Barbie line if we want it to happen.

I think Lamilly dolls have room to grow and address the issues present, just as Barbie has and still does, but I don't think it can happen without Lamilly rejecting its premise that it is the "right" body and the "right" ideal for girls to pursue. But honestly, since that is the whole premise of Lamilly, I don't know that it can be done. This is a really complicated issue, but I hope I've made you think a little deeper into an issue that I know many people have sort of taken at face value as a positive.  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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photo credit: xshamethestrongx via photopin cc

April 12, 2014

The #UniVoxBox Review

As an Influenster member, I received free products for review. All views are my own. 

I recently received my first VoxBox from Influenster! This is the Uni VoxBox, a college student oriented box.

Broadway imPRESS Nails - These press-on nails were pretty easy to apply which I liked. I also thought the packaging was really cool. I've never really used press on nails before, so I can't say I have a good base-line to compare these to, but I can type just fine with them. I think they are a really great solution for a one-to-several day affair-- maybe someone's wedding weekend, for example. It doesn't take nearly the same investment as a nice manicure in terms of money and time, but they yield pretty solid results!

Playtex Sport Fresh Balance - I'm not going to get into a lot of details, but Playtex is definitely one of my favorite brands for feminine hygiene products. I can't say that I really tested the "sport" part of this product, but they are definitely comfortable.

Pilot Acroball - As a pen lover, I really liked the Acroball! It writes pretty well, I love the color and design, and I like that it's not heavy. I do wish the ink barrel had a little more give-- it feels almost brittle.

Rimmel Stay Matte Liquid Mousse Foundation - This foundation is a really great matte finish, and it made my skin almost doll-like in its even-ness. It is kind of thick and creamy, like whipped butter, so a little actually goes a very long way.

NYC New York Color Expert Last Lipstick - I think the color of this is really fantastic. It's not quite as creamy as I prefer my lipsticks to be, but it a great color and I think for many people it's a good texture.

Red Rose Real Tea Water Enhancer - I'm not a big fan of fruity teas, so I let my roommate have this-- she though it was tasty, and was a good way to have tea on the go! The water doesn't have to be hot, so you can make instant iced tea, and it's good for popping in your purse for the day.

That what I think about these products. I loved participating in the #UniVoxBox! If you're interested in joining Influenster, shoot me an email-- I've got a few invites :)

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April 11, 2014

All-Nighter Fashion with Macy's

This post is sponsored by Macy's as a part of the #macyscampustour. Thoughts and opinions are my own. I only promote items I would use personally.

Finals season is almost here-- but that hasn't stopped the final project deadlines from rolling in. The reason why I haven't posted much this week has been a torrent of project deadlines, all-nighters, and generally feeling like I haven't had the time to be a human. Honestly though, a tough night of studying/paper-writing/crying about your life choices is made so much easier with a comfy outfit. You might be spending 12 hours in a library per day, but at least you'll feel comfortable.

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When you have a long night ahead, it's kind of nice to stick to monochrome, gray colors so that they don't rattle your brain anymore than it will be after 30 straight hours of being awake and three Redbulls. I totally believe in dressing like a badass for exams, but when it comes to an all-nighter, comfort comes first.

It's important to dress in layers so the inevitable temperature fluctuations caused by the caffeine that will be coursing through your veins and your lack of movement.

Wear loose fitting clothing so you don't feel itchy, cramped, or pinched. Goodness knows you could sweat and bloat from the stress and the strange food you will be forced to consume as sustenance.

I like that these picks from Macy's are stylish, but not uncomfortable.  I just want to snuggle up in these so badly! You can check out more looks and items at macyscampustour.com.

What do you like to wear during an intense study session? 

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April 5, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me!

Hey world! Today I'm 21 years old! In America, this is kind of a big deal, because this is the first year you are able to legally drink. In the past year I've accomplished a lot and I've struggled with a lot. My depression and anxiety escalated a bit and I've taken steps to get it under control-- which can be really hard when anxiety says "run away!!" and depression says "there's no point in even trying." That said though, I know people struggle with much worse things-- much scarier, less treatable things than my anxiety and depression-- so I try to stay positive. I moved to New York for the summer last year lived my dream of being in that city, and made so many friends! I loved that city and now I know that's where I wanna go post-grad! I also met some amazing people like Dulé Hill, got to work with Macy's on this blog, redesigned my site, saw a lot of amazing shows, visited Google, and felt so comforted knowing that the world is so much bigger than school-- and I'm honestly more ready for that than I am to stay here another year. I will finish out my degree, but I can't say I find schoolwork more satisfying than working in New York. I have just one more year of school left!

Today, I don't have a ton of big plans. As someone who doesn't drink, I'm not planning a big birthday smashfest. Since I know someone is going to ask me more specifically why I don't drink, I'm going to run it down right here:
  • I don't like the alcohol part of alcohol. It doesn't taste good, plain and simple.
  • I don't like wine. I know it's an acquired taste, but I'm certainly nowhere near that point. 
  • I don't like most fruity flavors. It's weird, I know, but since most of the stuff used to make alcohol more palatable is fruity, I'm not super hopeful I'll find a lot of stuff I'll like.
  • It gives me a tummy ache and makes me sleepy. Sorry if that's like, the lamest thing you've ever heard an adult say in you life, but it's true! 
  • I have such an outgoing personality in general, that I genuinely don't feel like I need to drink to do the things I want to do.
  • I am really, really clumsy, and I cannot tempt the fates.
  • I don't like the idea of not being in total control of what I'm doing. My brain has enough going on in it that I don't want to lose my grip on those things. It sounds like I'm uptight and need to let loose, but it's actually anything but, and my concern is like, making it overtly obvious how much I hate people sometimes, or getting super weepy at inappropriate times, or getting really handsy with people.
I kinda want to grow to enjoy alcohol and be one of those fancy people who makes great drinks and laughs like a sophisticated movie star from the 40s, but that's a long way off for me. I'll stick to chocolate milk for now....

(Wow I'm so lame, hahaha!)

Anyway, so now you know that I'm not looking forward to a big blow-out of booze, and living in Colonial Williamsburg, there's not a whole ton to do, so I'm expecting to just spend today hanging out with my friends. Low-key, you know? 

But I do have one big hope for today, and that's to raise $100 for the American Cancer Society! 

The American Cancer Society works to fund research and support cancer patients and their families. They'll even help make care more affordable, which is a really big deal, because those in dire financial straits might be handed a death sentence if it weren't for the support of ACS. 

I'm participating in Relay for Life at W&M, which is an all-night ACS fundraiser in which we walk around a track in shifts all night, as well as honor those in our lives and community affected by cancer, bond with each other, and have fun for a great cause. Cancer never sleeps, and at Relay for Life, neither will we. If you want, you can see if there is a Relay for Life being organized in your community, or you can help organize one yourself at relayforlife.org. Please consider contributing to my campaign!

As previously mentioned, today is my birthday, and I'm hoping to raise at least $100 today! Every day, the American Cancer Society helps 400 more people celebrate their birthday-- 400 people that wouldn't have made it to their birthday without ACS's support. Even if you don't put a dollar in for me, consider putting in some money for one of the 400 people celebrating their birthday with me today, who wouldn't be without the support of ACS. Put in $1. $3.50. $5. $20. Even a dollar helps! Buy one less song off iTunes, or maybe skip your fancy latte for a regular coffee. 

Also, don't forget after that to enter the giveaway I'm running with some other bloggers who are celebrating their birthday this month!

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photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc
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