Episode 54: From Barbie to Ice Skates: Gendered Objects with Erica Rand

Welcome back How Do You Like it So Far? crew!  This week, Henry and Colin are joined by Erica Rand, professor of Art and Visual Culture and of Gender and Sexuality Studies at Bates College.  She is author of: Barbie’s Queer Accessories, a study of the doll’s history and manufacture in relation to corporate and consumer meaning-making, The Ellis Island Snow Globe, a queer, anti-racist alternative tour of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, Red Nails Black Skates, a collection of short essays grounded in participant-observation research in adult figure skating and the upcoming The Small Book of Hip Checks on Queer Gender, Race and Writing.  Rand’s work spans the breadth of sexuality and material culture in today’s world.  In this episode, Rand talks about the Creatable World dolls from Mattel, a child-shaped doll that comes with short hair and a wig, and clothes that suggest male or female, or neither.  She discusses their characteristics and complaints that the company is exploiting gender for capitalistic purposes. Rand posits that gender is turned into a commodity and dolls make that distinction more apparent.  Colin, Henry and Rand dive deep into a variety of gender fluid characters in books and their reflections on their importance. Rand has taken her work in many directions, including into the world of figure skating! Listen in as Rand reveals her decision to start figure skating in her 40’s and examines the gender of skates and skating tights. 

Here are some of the references from this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

Creatable World Dolls by Mattel – Child shaped doll

Complaints over the doll:
Mattel mining gender for capitalist purposes

The latest wave of diversity in Barbie

MaryAnn Saunders – University of British Columbia 

DJ Corchin’s Do You Speak Fish? 

Toys are helpful in discussing the gender spectrum

Gender turned into a commodity → Dolls make that more apparent

History of Dollsteach young girls how to accept roles in femininity 

Rand’s book at Walmart

Mary Gray’s Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America

MaineCare – state sponsored health care

Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase Series – Has gender fluid character, Alex Fierro

Lisa Bunker’s Zenobia July – a book about a trans middle school girl who lives in Portland, Maine

Jezebel’s The Sad, Strange Story of Ken Doll’s Crotch

Aramark services prisons

Figure Skating – Gender of skates and skating tights

Stick It – Gymnastics Movie

Debi Thomas – First African-American person to medal in Olympics

Serena Williams criticized for not being sufficiently female

Pose and Paris in Burning – Examples of New York Ball Culture

Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie – Documentary about Barbie on Hulu 

Judge Barbie 

Frida Kahlo Barbie

NY Times article – After All These Years, Barbie Is Still Reinventing Herself

Organization of toy storesproducts divided along gender lines

Legos for Girls

Barbie Liberation Organization

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