Barbie girl in a not so Barbie world
April 11, 2014 4:06 AM   Subscribe

"And the amazing part is, it works, her thing. It does. In a place that expects a woman to prepare for marriage and motherhood "from the moment she is given her first baby doll as an infant," as Hutsol has put it, Valeria has gotten a degree of power, a degree of control, and a major say in her own destiny. It could be that the world and I have misjudged the Human Barbie in a fundamental way. Her steady drift from reality and into the twenty-first dimension is not about submissiveness, fame, or snagging a husband. It could be about finding a way out, however random, bizarre, and costly the route appears from the outside. It could be about gaining some measure of freedom." -- Russian GQ editor in chief Michael Idov visits human Barbie doll Valeria Lukyanova (previously).

GQ also aks the question, can what Valeria Lukyanova has made herself into be called feminist, considering the background culture in Ukraine?
posted by MartinWisse (27 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ethnicities are mixing now, so there's degeneration, and it didn't used to be like that. Remember how many beautiful women there were in the 1950s and 1960s, without any surgery? And now, thanks to degeneration, we have this.

I am hoping that this is a translation issue, but... ugh.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:21 AM on April 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


I was in the bar last night and the bartender serving me drinks was inked up with an evil clown with a big red nose on one arm and a Big Mac (?) on the other arm. He had enough metal in him that he could never pass through airport security and earlobes that would make Dumbo envious, but if it wasn't for the Big Mac - which is a really strange thing to want to put on your forearm - I wouldn't have noticed his body modifications in the least. People do weird shit to their bodies for whatever reason and it's none of my damned business. It's not my thing, I don't get it, but I don't have to.

Why should this woman's choices be the subject of analysis?
posted by three blind mice at 4:33 AM on April 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Why should this woman's choices be the subject of analysis?

Because she is putting herself and her image forward? There is a big difference commenting on someone who has modified their body for their own private purposes and someone who is actively marketing their image to GQ (and, I assume, other outlets).
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:20 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


To be a little more engaged (at the risk of completely dominating the beginning of the thread), I found the second link pretty interesting -- it give a little bit of a sense of the environment that young Ukrainian women grow up in. Food for thought, and I'd be interested in coverage that was not coming out of an arch-feminist enclave like GQ.

FEMEN sounds kind of interesting. You don't see many feminist organizations agitating both against sex tourism and for freedom for their national church....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:35 AM on April 11, 2014


Why should this woman's choices be the subject of analysis?

Because they're arguably at the extreme end of body modification, but more importantly are also right in the middle of a whole of cluster of issues regarding women and their bodies, images of same, etc and the way she went about becoming Barbie and how she exploits her look make this as much a political as a personal issue.

Of course much of the coverage surrounding her does have a freakshow undercurrent to it, but not this particular article which is much more sympathetic and thoughful than you'd expect from GQ.

Also the idea that while she herselfs denies being a feminist and while the whole Barbie look is largely anti-feminist, this in the context of Ukraine and Ukrainian attitudes towards women could become a feminist statement, is interesting in its own right.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:54 AM on April 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


So she combines Mattel and Klaus?
posted by pseudocode at 5:57 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


She seems like a sort of children's cartoon show version of an alien. She promotes herself with all this New Age kook-ery and yet she seems to work so hard at looking like a plastic doll. I suppose the two don't conflict in her mind, but if one is truly connected with the 21st dimension or whatever, then why spend so much effort to look like a toy in the boring 4? She's overtly against feminism and yet she's not engaging in the marriage market that is described in both articles. Of course, in such cultures where young women are social currency for men, once you're a wife at home with the babies, you stop getting the pretty jewels and the fancy trips but your husband continues to court 21-year-olds in nightclubs, so I can see why having a "family lifestyle" would be distasteful to her.

I guess she's looking to embody a certain male fantasy for as long as possible with the attendant attention this brings her. I wonder if all the New Age BS is because she knows it's easier to make up stuff than to try cultivating another talent that might bring her the fame she craves? Like, if the choice is between learning to act and just making up garbage about the 21st dimension, the second option is easier and still gets her screen time? I'm not sure. That aspect of it baffles me.

She does seem to have so completely internalized a patriarchal point of view. Even her racism is based on how "race-mixing" disappoints the male gaze. (I laughed at that part, considering that the most stunning people I've ever known were very ethnically diverse.)
posted by Kitty Stardust at 6:18 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why should this woman's choices be the subject of analysis?

Why should anyone's choices be the subject of analysis? Why should you bother remarking on it? Why should anyone say anything at all? Offer a defense of the woman if you will, or say simply that you, personally, don't care either way, but this way of couching a defense in the form of rhetorical agnosticism is just laziness.

Meanwhile, what's a human Barbie doll without a Ken? (Though, to be sure, only a look in his pants will say if he's really a Ken.)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:22 AM on April 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Because they're arguably at the extreme end of body modification,

According to the article, she's had breast implants, which doesn't really count as the extreme end of body modification. The writer clearly doubts that she was telling the truth about not having had other plastic surgery. There's this weird tension where we can't criticise her for performing some notion of extreme femininity, so we have to criticise her for having had plastic surgery she may not have had.

There's a lot going on here that I couldn't unpack when I read the article this morning. How we/the media react to this woman is way more interesting than the fact of her presentation (never mind the nutty beliefs), if that makes any sense.
posted by hoyland at 6:29 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why should this woman's choices be the subject of analysis?

As an individual, sure, but there's a lot here about how she's literally putting a face onto a social and cultural expectation for women. I think it's worth discussing, what with the trends of body modification in places like the US and South Korea, ones less aimed at achieving internal expression and more towards an idealized (and often objectified) image taken from the world around them. To me, that's the difference between your tattooed and pierced bartender and Lukyanova, and why one could be deserving of analysis to a greater extent than the other.

Now, I thought the article did a great disservice by spending three pages on Lukyanova and half a page on Yana and FEMEN. There was a really good potential for a discussion of femininity and feminism in Ukraine, the ideals that both Lukyanova and Yana reject, and the intersection of glamour and the selling of sex in Odessa. Hell, the "degeneration" of Ukrainian ethnicity and culture was almost a throwaway line, even though that's a flashpoint with a huge potential for worldwide consequences. Perhaps GQ--or at least this editor--may not have been the best choice to write it up, but there's a lot worth discussing there.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:36 AM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Vice video "Space Barbie".
posted by Kitty Stardust at 6:40 AM on April 11, 2014


It feels weird reading an article about feminism while all the links to other stories feature thumbnails of topless celebrities.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:41 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I am hoping that this is a translation issue, but... ugh.

It's not, she's got a record of rather white-nationalist style statements like that. See also the Russian Powerlifter Barbie Yulia Viktorovna Vins who was floated around the internet as "beauty and brawn and blah blah whatever", but if you notice her pendant is a symbol associated with a lot of ultra-nationalist white supremacists, and then digging around her social media pulls up old comments like 'Hitler did everything right!' (deleted in the last year). In short, Russia is a land of contrasts.
posted by FatherDagon at 6:45 AM on April 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


This is some next-level cosplay right here.
posted by teh_boy at 6:47 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


And re: the the question of "is she a feminist," it seems obvious to me that a woman can make choices which, given the options available to her, might be emancipatory, but still not "feminist," as that concept has been defined in the 20th/21st centuries. Lukyanova is basically treading the same ground as the 19th century Grandes Horizontales. And like those women, it's possible to admire their will to escape their grim circumstances without needing to call them "feminists."
posted by octobersurprise at 6:59 AM on April 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


She's a white supremacist and a oxygenarian. The only reason people are writing articles about her is because she looks freakish.
posted by demiurge at 7:05 AM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I bet she is exactly what men dream about.

Yes, when I've had too much cough syrup and I've got a fever and the voices start calling to me.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:23 AM on April 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


90% of her uncanniness is makeup. Tone that down just a little and she looks like the porn star ideal.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:47 AM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's fairly irrelevant whether or not you could characterize her actions as "feminist." She is a member of a highly oppressed class (at least, in her part of the world) and almost any action someone takes in those circumstances is more about survival than about political statements.

It's hardly unusual for oppressed people to hate on different oppressed people, either. Or for women seeking to "win" at beauty to have extreme plastic surgery.

The drama in this story is "will this work"? Will her extreme body modification/self-sacrifice (she has to be starving at all times) be attention-grabbing enough to catapult her out of her miserable prospects where she is into a more successful life of some kind? Hard to say. Beauty is fleeting and when it's all you've got, there is always a new crop of pretty girls waiting in the wings. Media attention is fickle, too. If she doesn't make it soon, she'll just be an obscure curiosity forever and eventually forgotten.

Patriarchy is a rigged game. Even when women "win" at it, they lose.
posted by emjaybee at 7:51 AM on April 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


Her features are the features we men playfully ascribe to ideal women; it's how we draw them in manga and comics and video games. Except we don't expect them to comply with this oppressive fantasy so fully.
LOL, "playfully." And "ideal."

Who wants to tell Mr. Idov that a staggering number of his fellow men do indeed expect women to comply with that "oppressive fantasy," so fully that many of us who fail to meet its standards are, uh, actually oppressed for it? Oh, and if we meet its standards too fully, we're oppressed for that, too? Cripes.
posted by divined by radio at 8:02 AM on April 11, 2014 [14 favorites]


I'm not sure why the writer thought her jabs at families is feminist. Nothing particularly feminist about putting down your fellow women.

(But this gets into a huge quagmire about FEMEN and all their past shit vs intersectional feminism vs femmephobia vs sex worker rights vs how feminism plays out worldwide vsvsvsvsvsvs argh)
posted by divabat at 9:30 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


the porn star ideal

The problem with the term "porn star ideal" is that it isn't really a successful ideal or prototype, not even for porn stars. Most straight men fantasize about actual women, not plastic dolls. Witness the popularity of women like Marilyn Monroe or Sophia Loren or Raquel Welch or Jennifer Anniston, while, they are certainly not typical, their features are also not outside of normal ranges for a human female yet thay are consistently at the top of "hottest" lists such as the one above rather than over-the-top surgically altered beyond normal range women. This woman and the hypothetical "porn ideal" are not within the norm, and therefore would be relegated to an outlying niche or fetish category, not a place one would look for an "ideal" or standard. The author of this seems to have missed that as well and only focused on the concept that if men seem to crave large breasts and small waists and big hips etc. that extreme enhancement of these aspects must mean more craving, despite findings to the contrary.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:30 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


The problem with the term "porn star ideal" is that it isn't really a successful ideal or prototype, not even for porn stars. Most straight men fantasize about actual women, not plastic dolls.
Yeeeeahh, maybe. I think that's a pretty sweeping statement you're making about all straight men, and regardless of the degree to which it is true, there is strong evidence that a significant proportion of the population as a whole believes the opposite to be true -- "how to XXX like a porn star" books and videos, surgeries like breast enhancement and labioplasties, the lingerie industry, the porn industry itself -- these are billions of dollars that are saying loudly that a lot of men "want" porn star fantasies.


And I'm not sure what Marilyn Monroe, etc., are doing in your argument. They weren't surgically enhanced (though Raquel Welch was rumored to have had her two lowest ribs removed to narrow her waist), but they WERE airbrushed, posed, lit, made up, etc, so that they really did NOT resemble the "actual women" to which you refer. Even Jennifer Aniston's old roommate told an interviewer that Jennifer Aniston would stuff her bra with chicken cutlets.
posted by jfwlucy at 9:50 AM on April 11, 2014


Take that, Marina Abramović!
posted by jcrcarter at 9:54 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


The level of white supremacist/eugenic rhetoric in Russia/Ukraine is really wigging me out. See also Jeff Sharlet's recent piece on anti-gay activism in Russia. (Also in GQ. Who knew GQ was where we'd be seeing reports on this kind of thinking?)
posted by gusandrews at 10:29 AM on April 11, 2014


Not much is more dangerous than a racist lunatic.
posted by moonphases at 6:37 PM on April 11, 2014


This is what she looks like without makeup (or at least with less makeup). Apparently the contact lenses help her with the big eye look the author mentions in the article.
posted by Dr. Zira at 1:35 PM on April 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


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