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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Happy Hanukkah, and also: Judging Bodies; Judging Judges

First candle of Hanukkah is tonight and I found this lovely reminder that I've been blogging on Prawfs for 11 years. 

I received this caricature today from friends from Israel. Above the original Barbie it says "First Candle (of Hanukkah)"; atop the modified Barbie it says "Eighth Candle". My friends sent this to me knowing that my new book You Don't Own Me is a story about how Mattel's courtroom drama has shaped, and was shaped by, the marketing of Barbie, the behind-the-scenes corporate quest to control, contain, and preserve her image, and in turn, the ways in which the world's most iconic plaything has had an impact on all of us, girls, boys, men and woman - on our ideas about body image and womanhood, childhood and parenting.

Since I need to go light some candles, I'll be brief and focus on wishing everyone a happy, yummy season. There is a lot more to say but I'm only going to post here a paragraph from Chapter 9, called Taming Barbie: Starring Judge Alex Kozinski as Speechzilla. In light of very recent news about the judge, this chapter may be of particular interest. Again, much more to say. I was a Supreme Court clerk after I graduated from Tel-Aviv University School of Law and I'd like to post later about judicial ethics and clerkships. Indeed the phrase "you don't own me" and the secrecy imposed on clerks all receive additional meaning in this unfolding story. Dan Solove interviews me about the book and about NDAs and the recent #metoo movement here. But for now, from You Don't Own Me, in a scene where I sit down with Judge Kozinski to talk with him about Mattel v. MGA Entertainment and his rulings in other Mattel cases.

When I told the judge that I grew up with a feminist mother who taught me that Barbie sends girls the wrong message about body image, Kozinski looked puzzled. “What’s wrong with her body image?” he asked. I explained that her proportions represent unattainable female perfection and weight. Kozinski answered jokingly, “The only thing wrong that I saw when I held Barbie is when I lift her skirt there is nothing underneath.” After his decision came out on appeal, a legal magazine drew a caricature of Kozinski holding the dolls and whispering to the other judges, “Let’s keep them.”

Judge Kozinski is one of the heroes of the case - defending our public domain, the right to compete, to remix, to speak. The chapter looks at these admirable stances but goes deeper to asking about how these worldviews are shaped and how they might interact with other (problematic) values and personal background. More later. I hope you do eat lots of latkes, sufganiot (jelly donuts), and whatever treats are in your holiday tradition - and remember - as I write in You Don't Own Me - that Finish researchers have shown that if Barbie were a real woman, she would tip and fall flat on her face.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling

Posted by Orly Lobel on December 12, 2017 at 07:02 PM | Permalink

Comments

Thanks for your interesting posts Orly , and happy holiday …. However , you had to bother , and explain to the judge , that such proportions represent unattainable female perfection and weight , yet , one should notice also , that some females , reach it indeed . When you observe for example , Bar Reffaeli ( the utmost famous Israeli / International model ) one may wonder , whether , it is not , at least , very close to perfection ( and she is not alone in this world in this regard ) . His comment however ( judge Kozinski , sexual and ugly ) should have bothered you more ….It seems , that no counter comment , was generated by you at the time . Didn't you feel it I wonder ?? Let alone as feminist ?
Thanks again , and happy one …..

Posted by: El roam | Dec 12, 2017 8:09:29 PM

I know it’s funny that category but it’s also been showing number 1 in the logical categories - intellectual property, business history, retail industry ...

Posted by: Orly Lobel | Dec 12, 2017 7:30:44 PM

BTW I have to laugh at Amazon's publicity machine run amok. From the book's web page.

"#1 New Release in Antique & Collectible Dolls"

Posted by: James | Dec 12, 2017 7:21:06 PM

BTW I have to laugh at Amazon's publicity machine run amok. From the book's web page.

"#1 New Release in Antique & Collectible Dolls"

Posted by: James | Dec 12, 2017 7:21:05 PM

"When I told the judge that I grew up with a feminist mother who taught me that Barbie sends girls the wrong message about body image,"

I was raised by the same kind of mother but I've come to see that dear old mom was wrong. The problem is that once one moves beyond the medical condition known as anorexia there is no objective way to define what the body image of a female (or male) should be like. History indicates wide variation across space, time, and culture. Barbie just is. It just the way that Americans have perceived female beauty. Changing to some other idealized and fetished body type is playing body type musical chairs--there might be a different mix of cultural winners and losers but there still will be winners and losers. So I see the angst as hamster wheel spinning--everything is moving but nothing is changing.

BTW I may actually buy the book. It sounds interesting.

Posted by: James | Dec 12, 2017 7:18:36 PM

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