When I was younger, my sister and I had two issues that impeded our Barbie play days: 1. A lack of Ken dolls, since we never wanted to spend our allowance on a boy doll. 2. A lack of grandma dolls, since aged Barbies were simply not sold. We were able to solve our problems by cutting our worn-out Barbie's hair as short as possible, and that Barbie would then be used interchangeably as a male and a grandma. At the time, this seemed effective. However, when I matured and reflected on that memory, I realized the significance in that action. Just like Whoopi Goldberg's child character who wanted long-blonde hair, as a child I touched on an implicit truth in our culture: aging women are often desexualized, so much so that I thought an older woman could be used interchangeably as a man. Thus, I had a very personal reason for wanting to use the Altered Barbie project to explore the "ugliness" of age.
Initially, I was interested in exploring age, particularly the struggle of trying to hold on to youth and the difficulty in losing one's beauty and sexuality. Aging is often something that I worry about, especially as a see my mother's attempts to "age gracefully." Even more, the concept has a wider appeal, as aging is something everyone must face. Still, I wanted the project to be more streamlined. That is when the idea to explore the cultural concept of the cougar came up. The more I thought about it, the better the lens it seemed to explore the issue of age. Thus, I went into this project with an intellectual trajectory focusing on the perception of aging in a youth driven culture, but I found that as I explored, additional concepts arised, such as a duali...
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Kant, Immanuel. Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime. Berkeley: U of California, 1960.
Lawton, Zoe, and Paul Callister. Older women-younger men relationships the social phenomenon of 'cougars' : a research note. Wellington [N.Z.: Institute of Policy Studies, 2010.
Montemurro, Beth, and Jenna Marie Siefken. "Cougars on the Prowl? New Perceptions of Older Women's Sexuality." Journal of Aging Studies 28 (2014): 35-43.
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