When I was 10 years old, the most coveted holiday gift was a Just Like Me™ American Girl Doll, a personalized option from the famous historical-doll brand.
I use “personalized” loosely. The face molds on all American Girl Dolls were basically identically generic. I had a hard time finding one with features that even sort of passed for my Ashkenazi Jewish face. Picture the trouble black or Hispanic girls had selecting a customizable doll that even slightly resembled them.
It's my personal belief that these childhood events are part of what has led to the current epidemic of female Barbie-fication. As the saying goes, “If Mohammed won’t come to the mountain...”
MORE: Become a Body Image Activist in Five Simple Steps
But the Barbie-girl trend has gone beyond innocuous hair-dyeing and colored contacts to look like a human version of a doll (see: MTV, pornography, 21st-century culture in general) to a full-scale, rather grotesque morph of human being into the doll in its original plastic form.
The purest example of a human Barbie, so far, is probably Valeria Lukyanova. The 21-year-old woman from Odessa, Ukraine, utilized multiple surgeries and Photoshop to transform herself into Mattel’s original fantasy woman, complete with pinched nose and oversized eyes.
“Real-life anime girl” Anastasiya Shpagina is pursing a more contemporary type of doll ideal. A 19-year-old from the Ukraine (Slavic women seem weirdly over-represented here), Shpagina counts among her peers two young women who go by the names Dakota Rose and Venus Angelic.
Anastasiya Shpagina, possibly looking in the mirror.
Anastasiya Shpagina hasn’t gone the plastic surgery route—yet.
Instead, she spends hours applying immaculate makeup to transform herself into the prototypical Japanese animation heroine. A YouTube tutorial, “Flower Fairy,” has amassed four million views, though it’s hard to tell what percentage of that figure is watching for novelty rather than instruction.
I recently overheard a woman at a hair salon ask for a dye job and show the stylist a photograph of a computer-drawn avatar.
This anime obsession is trickier to pin down than the Barbie transformation, which one can safely assume has in part to do with the classic patriarchal vision of beauty: blonde hair, blue eyes, large breasts, nipped waist.
The desire of Anastasiya Shpagina and her peers to resemble anime women, who bear almost zero resemblance to a human female, has nothing to do with men at all—excepting, perhaps, those impressionable males who watched Lars and The Real Girl like it was Casablanca. Even (most of ) the guys who haunt anime conventions and Comic Con—one should hope—want girls who resemble actual human beings.
Self-destructive forces appear to be at work here: At 5'2'', Anastasiya Shpagina weighs 85 pounds—her stated ideal weight for best emulating a female anime character. Her online profile page reads “I am not like a doll, a doll is like me.”
One wishes that Anastasiya Shpagina would put her incredible makeup skills to a healthier use—she could undoubtedly fashion a career out of her artistry that doesn't involve using a fake female ideal as the goal. (Such is the case of another talented makeup artist, Promise Phan, who has morphed herself into everyone from Kate Middleton to Johnny Depp to Drake to the Mona Lisa).
The less harmful manifestations of this transformation mentality are everywhere. I recently overheard a woman at a hair salon ask for a dye job and show the stylist a photograph of a computer-drawn avatar.
And, of course, popular TV shows feature infantilized women: The New Girl’s Zooey Deschanel wears dresses that—in smaller sizes—undoubtedly haunt the Nordstrom little girls’ department. Deschanel’s primary conflict in one episode is being unable to say “Penis and testicles” without squirming. (Her preferred term: “Pee-pee and bubbles.”)
It’s unfortunate that in 2012 there never seems to be a time to put the doll collection away and stick to the YouTube tutorials about how to get Michelle Obama arms.
How far is too far in the self-objectification of women? Leave a judgment in COMMENTS.
Related Stories on TakePart:
• Walk of Shame Ad: Sexist Message or Stereotype-Buster?
• Fanboys Will Be Sexist Pigs: The Free-Fire Verbal Abuse of Online Gamers
• Anna Breslaw’s 600-Word Sprint: Is Wonder Woman Necessary?
Anna Breslaw is a regular contributor to Jezebel, New York magazine’s Vulture and Glamour, and her writing has been featured elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn. Email Anna | Anna’s Tumblr