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    Emily Prager’s “Our Barbies, Ourselves”: A Retrospective Review

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    Emily Prager’s written work titled “Our Barbies, Ourselves” tries to compare Barbies figure to a “weapon” of feminism. Barbie is a doll that was created by Jack Ryan and emerged during the rise of the feminist movement, Barbie was regarded as an ideal American woman by many generations. The Barbie doll was never intended to be critiqued by adults it was created solely to be a child’s toy but, according to Pager as a child, she believed that Barbie and Ken were more than dolls going as far as to compare their physical appearance to that of a real person. Using Rhetorical devices such as Ethos and logos, Prager manages to convey her definite perspective on her depiction of Barbie and her own belief that women are independent free from the constraints of men’s thoughts falling in line with the feminist outlook. Pranger challenges her readers to take a deeper look into Barbie, not just a popular children’s toy.

    Throughout Pranger’s written piece she uses many different rhetorical devices to attempt to persuade her readers but out of all of them, her most effective from the beginning was her appeal to ethos. Pranger having grown up as a child in the era of a feminist movement has the first-hand experience with the viewpoints of feminist. Additionally having owned a Barbie doll Pranger can give insight into her curiosity of the Barbie doll as a child. In the fifth paragraph, Pranger uses ethos and pathos for example, “There is something indescribably masculine about Barbie dare I say it, phallic.” (Prager, pg. 354) Via Barbies over-proportioned breast in relation to Ken’s missing genitalia. This was an example of the feminist movement, promoting freedom and women’s unrestrained roles in society. This was opposed to the 1950’s notion that it is a man’s duty to go out and work to support his family and the women’s duty is to stay home to cook and clean. This resonates with many women because they do indeed want to be independent and not only desired as a tool to be used by man.

    Prager uses pathos throughout her written work when it comes to the creation of Barbie stating ”If Barbie was designed by a man, suddenly a lot of things made sense to me, things I’d wondered about for years. I used to look at Barbie and wonder, What’s wrong with this picture? What kind of woman designed this doll?”(Prager, pg.354) Prager believes Barbie is just an epitome of the perfect woman in a man’s eyes. Pranger gives examples later in the paragraph of how women believe their looks are is what determines their lovability. Prager tries to create emotion in her readers to evoke sympathy so they can relate. There is a continuous problem with women comparing themselves to impossible standards. However, this should not be because of a Barbie even if a man created Barbie it’s only intended purpose was to be a child’s toy. Additionally, because of the emergence of Barbie during a feminist movement, Prager believes that Barbie is some type of weapon against the feminist.

    Pranger also uses Logos as a rhetorical device when she gives an example of how the doll makers had presented their dolls in the past. She talks about Madame Alexander was the queen of doll makers in the fifties and how they were represented.”They represented the kind of girls who look perfect in jodhpurs, whose hair was never out of place, who grew up to be Jackie Kennedy—before she married Onassis.”(Prager, pg. 355). By doing this Prager appeals to logic giving insight into the drastic change from traditional doll makers when compared to Barbie and her appearance. Furthermore, a strong quote that is very important from the text is “God, it certainly has cheered me up to think that Barbie was designed by Jack Ryan…” (Prager, pg. 355). The reason this quote is so important is because by engaging in repetition and sarcasm it brings to light the importance of gender creation of Barbie. By doing this Prager suggest if a woman had created the Barbie doll she would have been criticized much harder.

    Prager is very effective in supporting her stance when it comes to her depiction of Barbie and how she can be perceived. She used ethos, logos, and pathos very well to weave together an article that did give insight into the different ways Barbie can be viewed. Prager strongest moments were at the end when she brought light to the difference that would have come if the creator of the Barbie doll was of the opposite gender. This was a moment that I believe persuade the readers to understand the significance of Jack Ryan being the creator of Barbie. Barbie to many is idolized as an epitome of the perfect woman that I do not agree with Prager because the purpose of the doll was intended for no such thing.

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    Emily Prager’s “Our Barbies, Ourselves”: A Retrospective Review. (2022, Dec 01). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/emily-pragers-our-barbies-ourselves-a-retrospective-review/

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