Do any of you remember a campaign run by the Body Shop in 1998 featuring the “Ruby” doll? In case you don’t, here she is:
She was swiftly shut down by Mattel, the owners of Barbie, who felt she was making them look bad. (Or just obscenely thin).
You could argue that producing another plastic doll wasn’t the best way to challenge stereotypes of women in the media. The very concept of reducing femininity (or even masculinity) to an inanimate ideal is flawed and unhelpful. But it got a lot of people’s attention and, in Anita Roddick’s words, “[exposed] the cruel irony of the myth that a company must make a woman feel inferior in order to win her loyalty.”
I stumbled across her voluptuous form only a year or so ago while googling on behalf of my theatre company, The Ruby Dolls. I enjoy the coincidence of our names.
And I’ve thought about her again this past month, while The Ruby Dolls have spent August performing at the Edinburgh Fringe. We’ve had a fair amount of press attention, most of it really positive. And during our very first interview, we were grilled on our feminist credentials.
How could we claim to be intelligent women telling important stories with a name that made us sound like “a strip-tease act” (asked Fest Magazine)? Why had we chosen such a pejorative name, seemingly contradicting our more sophisticated ideals?