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My Awkward Relationship With Barbie, Pink, And Being Genderless

by Ossiana M. Tepfenhart 11 months ago in Childhood · updated 11 months ago
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How much of it is my hatred of my childhood, and how much of it is me being a rebel? **TRIGGER WARNING**

My Awkward Relationship With Barbie, Pink, And Being Genderless
Photo by Elena Mishlanova on Unsplash

Ever since I was a little girl, I was told that Barbie was the enemy. Barbie, to people I was around, was everything I should not be. Pink. Housewife. Stupid. And though they never said it out loud, there was a certain stigma that came with the flashy all-American femininity that Barbie signified.

You see, I came from a household that was about school. And fantasy novels. And medieval weaponry. And Xena. I was meant to be smart, tough, and creative. I never liked Barbie, and that only got worse when I was in school. Why?

Because my bullies liked Barbie.

The Significance Of Barbie

By Sandra Gabriel on Unsplash

As I grew, Barbie began to be everything that I was not. Barbie was socially accepted, popular, pretty, and privileged. She was not the outcast, the school slut, the socially awkward, or the person who just never knew how to get people to understand her.

By the time that I was in high school, I used the word "Barbie" as an insult. If I called you Barbie, it was a sign that I didn't just hate you. I loathed you. I actually had a hobby of breaking Barbie dolls apart, just because they reminded me of everything I hated.

Little did I realize that the hatred I poured into that brand was the hatred I truly felt for the way people treat me. And to a lesser point, the way I hated my own experience of being female.

My School Life Was Hell (Trigger Warning)

If there was one thing that I began to truly despise by the time I hit college, it was the way people behaved around me. I prefer goth clothes and edgy clothes. I am eccentric. But you know what? I'm a decent person and deserved to not be bullied.

We don't always get what we deserve. Throughout high school and college...

  • I was a freak. People would actually tell me, "It's not Halloween, Ossiana. Why do you have to be so weird?"
  • When I let out cries for help, they were promptly ignored by everyone. Staff, classmates, even my teachers. It's why I'm no contact with anyone from my school years.
  • I endured people telling me that "people would like you more if you just dressed differently" and that "people who dress like that amount to nothing."
  • I struggled with sexual abuse, rape, and gender identity. Everyone told me what I was, but never let me choose. I eventually began to dissociate into my own reality because my real life was just too horrible.
  • People avoided me and refused to talk to me unless I slept with them. Then, they'd pretend to be nice for all of five minutes then make fun of me because I was lonely. (I'll never forgive them for this. It led to a psychotic break and eventually pushed me into the hands of traffickers. This is sexual abuse, by the way. Let's call it what it is.)
  • People gave me nothing to work with, not even a basic job. Then told me that my life was "so much better" despite having no one around me who believed in me and getting screamed in my face on a daily basis.
  • People put photos of pigs on my flash drive when I told them I was a model. They were put in the same folder as my modeling photos.
  • I struggled with anorexia, drug addiction, and self-mutilation. No one cared unless it f*cked up a shoot.

Saying that I hate my college and high school is putting it politely. And all the while I kept trying to struggle to at least make people laugh or enjoy time with me, I saw them.

Prissy In Pink

By Thamara Maura on Unsplash

They were Barbies. The sorority girls. All dressed in pink, often with the same shade of blonde hair. They had fancy cars. They had rings on their fingers. Guys were PROUD to be with them.

They always were respected. They always had the spotlight. Their parents liked how they turned out and no one called them a freak. They were pink, personified. And they made a point of showing me how much better they were than me.

While I dropped out because I feared I'd kill myself in front of my classmates if I didn't, they got to graduate. And I'm sure that the girls from college got to get married, with family and friends around, and that they are wealthier and more financially stable than me.

Needless to say, there was a long period of my life where anything that looked like Barbie would make me feel a strange rage. It'd boil up in me in ways that would be hard for many to understand.

People who even looked like them raised my hackles. I often fought the urge to scream, "I HATE YOU, WHY DON'T YOU EVER LIKE ME?"

Ossiana, The Anti-Barbie

For the better part of my 20s, I made a point of dressing as masculinely as possible when I wasn't shooting a photoset. I had run off to different cities and became notorious for my rage and my addictions. I looked and acted tough, loud, and brash.

The years of abuse I suffered in school left me with a lot of issues, many of which I still have today. Eventually, I just closed myself off to anyone who even remotely looked like the people I used to go to school with.

My last job was the last time I'd even bother trying to talk to them. I didn't even like wearing pink back then. Since then, things have changed.

Ossiana, The Real Barbie

You might be wondering how I made a full 180 when it came to my Barbie stance. As someone who hated them so much, I understand why it would be baffling.

Honestly, it was because I saw the Barbie documentary. When I found out that Barbie was initially a sex doll that was stigmatized by parents, things started to make sense. Barbie was not the conformist, horrible people I grew up around.

I was more of a Barbie than they ever were or will be.

I spent most of my life being known for sex, boobs, and my looks. No one really cared about my personality or what I went through. A large portion of my life, I was a model because I wanted to prove everyone wrong and show them that I was beautiful.

Sounds familiar? Yup. Sounds like Barbie to me too.

I always tried to be a good person or to be kind. I didn't always succeed, but I tried. And nowadays, I see a lot more people dressing like me than ever before. Much like Barbie, I went from X-rated and edgy to something more commonly embraced and accepted.

Behind the vacuous eyes of Barbie is a doctor, a lawyer, an astronaut...She can be anything. She can have it all and she can still be fashionable as ever. She was so much more substantial as a person than people put her out to be. And you know what? She's also super nice, too.

In my lifetime, I've been a writer, a model, a software engineering intern, a marketer...I suppose in that sense, I was a lot like Barbie. To a point, it's likely that a lot of other girls out there, just like me, are more Barbie than they want to admit.

I Learned To Love Barbie

Realizing that Barbie was a bigger rebel than people thought she was, I quickly began to love Barbie. What few hangups I had about self-care and looks went out the window.

I have pink fake eyelashes today. I have pink nails. I go to the salon at least twice a week. Oh, and shopping? I openly admit I love it. I even have Barbie shirts and accessories.

And honestly? Learning to love my inner Barbie has made it so much easier for me to love myself. Every pink eyelash and pink dip-dyed hair is my way of rebelling against what people tried to muzzle in the past. (I am Barbie, hear me roar!)

But Am I Still Genderless?

Here's the weird thing. I still consider myself genderless. I don't feel comfortable having a uterus and I don't like having breasts. If I could, I'd still choose to look like a Barbie without boobs.

The difference is, I no longer look at the color pink as an enemy. I'm not that fragile in my masculinity. Or femininity. I just am glittery and bright by nature, genitalia be damned.

I guess you could say...I was just made that way.

By XINYI SONG on Unsplash


About the author

Ossiana M. Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of NJ. You can message her via Twitter on @bluntandwitty or via Instagram on @ossiana.makes.content. She's always looking for freelance work and collabs!

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  • Badruborg3 months ago

    Even though I like having boobs and not mind a uterus...I know exactly what you mean. I am really sorry about the shitty and horrible people you had to deal with. Karma is pit sniffing their blood out as they speak. I really feel for you but I also think your success is that you are kind and compassionate and insightful to GET Barbie is not wholly hyperfeminine. There was that skit in Saturday Night Live with Childish Gambino where as one commenter stated, evoked Barbie as many kids played out with her. Emotional and existential.angst. it was funny but it showed that Barbie had intelligence and insight to many things. Like I loved the Barbie movies for that too. ❤🖤

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