Barbie and GI Joe

Blast from the Past: Liberate Barbie and GI Joe

Happy April Fools’ Day! This past year has brought us some great feminist pranks, including Pink Loves Consent and a neighborly protest of the always terrible Westboro Baptist Church. However, feminist humor certainly isn’t anything new. One of our Twitter followers (I see you, @SujathaBaliga) alerted us to a great feminist prank covered in the New York Times in 1993:

For the last several months, a group of performance artists based in the East Village of Manhattan has been buying Talking Dukes and “Teen Talk” Barbies, which cost $40 to $50 each, painstakingly swapping their voice boxes and then, with the aid of cohorts, replacing dolls on the shelves of toy stores in at least two states.

The group, which asserts it has surgically altered 300 dolls, says its aim is to startle the public into thinking about the Stone Age-world view that the dolls reflect.

The result is a mutant colony of Barbies-on-steroids who roar things like “Attack!” “Vengeance is mine!” and “Eat lead, Cobra!” The emasculated G. I. Joe’s, meanwhile, twitter, “Will we ever have enough clothes?” and “Let’s plan our dream wedding!”

…A [Barbie Liberation Organization] spokesman, responding to a message left on the group’s answering machine and identifying himself as “G. I. Joe,” said: “Obviously, our goal is to get media attention. We are trying to make a statement about the way toys can encourage negative behavior in children, particularly given rising acts of violence and sexism.”

Barbie and GI Joe

What are your favorite feminist pranks?

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a national legal education campaign against campus gender-based violence. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. Through Know Your IX, she has organized with students across the country to build campuses free from discrimination and violence, developed federal policy on Title IX enforcement, and has testified at the Senate. At Yale Law, Alexandra focuses on antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Alexandra is committed to developing and strengthening responses to gender-based violence outside the criminal justice system through writing, organizing, and the law. Keep an eye out for The Feminist Utopia Project, co-edited by Alexandra and forthcoming from the Feminist Press (2015).

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

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