Study says Barbie is stunting girls’ career aspirations

Say what you will about the size of her waist, but Barbie is one of the most professionally accomplished toys in existence. Since her debut in 1959, Mattel’s ubiquitous doll has tried her hand at more than 130 careers, from ballerina to astronaut to zoologist.

But is Barbie’s resume inspiring the next generation of real girls to attempt similarly diverse careers? It doesn’t look like it. A new study published in the journal Sex Roles that suggests playing with Barbies can actually stunt little girls’ career aspirations.

It looks like feminists were right all along: Barbie is bad for girls, regardless of the uniform she’s wearing.

The study, conducted by the psychology lab at Oregon State University, gave girls ages 4 to 7 one of three dolls to play with: Barbie dressed as a fashion model (which was, in fact, her original incarnation), Barbie dressed as a doctor, or Mrs. Potato Head. Those who played with either of the Barbies later viewed themselves as having fewer career options than boys do, and espoused a preference for more “pink collar” jobs like teacher or flight attendant. Those who played with Mrs. Potato Head, on the other hand, were able to envision themselves in more varied — and less gendernormative — roles, like firefighter or pilot.

When drawing attention to these types of studies, the goal is not in any way to disparage traditionally feminine roles, which have long been undervalued and under-payed by a society that continues to place a premium on masculinity. Rather, this is about recognizing the limiting effect that playing with heavily gendered toys can have on children’s ultimate ambitions. Of course little girls can — and absolutely should — dream of becoming teachers, librarians and nurses. But they also should know that they are not beholden to these careers by virtue of their gender any more than the boys are.

So where does that leave us? The study concludes that it may actually be the image of Barbie herself that hems in career imagination; Barbie is one of the only toys marketed to little girls that has a mature female body, and was modeled after the German post-war, erotic doll Bild Lilli. Being confronted with her impossibly tiny waist, big boobs and long legs conveys “a sexualized adult world to young girls” that can unintentionally limit their imagination about their future professions.

Mrs. Potato Head obviously isn’t an accurate representation of the average female body type either (because, well… she’s a potato), but apparently even a root vegetable with detachable facial features sends a better message to little girls than do Barbie’s unrealistic curves.

It’s important to note this trend isn’t new. Barbie’s figure has been a source of controversy for years. One recent study showed that girls who play with skinny dolls may eat less afterwards, and Sports Illustrated turned the kids’ toy into a very adult sex object for its 50th anniversarySwimsuit Edition in February.

This really is a shame — as the former owner of at least 13 different Barbies, I can attest to the fact that playing with them can be a lot of fun. Companies are starting to discover the market for empowering toys, with dolls like the more realistically-proportioned Lammily potentially hitting shelves soon. But as long as Barbie maintains her sexualized silhouette, Mattel’s efforts to pass her off as a role model may always fall flat.

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What Is Passover?

The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan. It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. And, by following the rituals of Passover, we have the ability to relive and experience the true freedom that our ancestors gained.

The Story in a Nutshell

After many decades of slavery to the Egyptian pharaohs, during which time the Israelites were subjected to backbreaking labor and unbearable horrors, G‑d saw the people’s distress and sent Moses to Pharaoh with a message: “Send forth My people, so that they may serve Me.” But despite numerous warnings, Pharaoh refused to heed G‑d’s command. G‑d then sent upon Egypt ten devastating plagues, afflicting them and destroying everything from their livestock to their crops.

At the stroke of midnight of 15 Nissan in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), G‑d visited the last of the ten plagues on the Egyptians, killing all their firstborn. While doing so, G‑d spared the Children of Israel, “passing over” their homes—hence the name of the holiday. Pharaoh’s resistance was broken, and he virtually chased his former slaves out of the land. The Israelites left in such a hurry, in fact, that the bread they baked as provisions for the way did not have time to rise. Six hundred thousand adult males, plus many more women and children, left Egypt on that day, and began the trek to Mount Sinai and their birth as G‑d’s chosen people.

Click here for the full Passover story.

Passover Observances

Passover is divided into two parts:

The first two days and last two days (the latter commemorating the splitting of the Red Sea) are full-fledged holidays. Holiday candles are lit at night, andkiddush and sumptuous holiday meals are enjoyed on both nights and days. We don’t go to work, drive, write or switch on or off electric devices. We are permitted to cook and to carry outdoors (click here for the details).

The middle four days are called chol hamoed, semi-festive “intermediate days,” when most forms of work are permitted.

NO CHAMETZ

To commemorate the unleavened bread that the Israelites ate when they left Egypt, we don’t eat—or even retain in our possession—any chametz from midday of the day before Passover until the conclusion of the holiday. Chametzmeans leavened grain—any food or drink that contains even a trace of wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt or their derivatives, and which wasn’t guarded from leavening or fermentation. This includes bread, cake, cookies, cereal, pasta and most alcoholic beverages. Moreover, almost any processed food or drink can be assumed to be chametz unless certified otherwise.

Ridding our homes of chametz is an intensive process. It involves a full-out spring-cleaning search-and-destroy mission during the weeks before Passover, and culminates with a ceremonial search for chametz on the night before Passover, and then a burning of the chametz ceremony on the morning before the holiday. Chametz that cannot be disposed of can be sold to a non-Jew for the duration of the holiday.

For more on this topic, see Operation Zero Chametz.

MATZAH

Instead of chametz, we eat matzah—flat unleavened bread. It is a mitzvah to partake of matzah on the two Seder nights (see below for more on this), and during the rest of the holiday it is optional.

Click here for more on matzah.

THE SEDERS

The highlight of Passover is the Seder, observed on each of the first two nights of the holiday. The Seder is a fifteen-step family-oriented tradition and ritual-packed feast.

The focal points of the Seder are:

  • Eating matzah.
  • Eating bitter herbs—to commemorate the bitter slavery endured by the Israelites.
  • Drinking four cups of wine or grape juice—a royal drink to celebrate our newfound freedom.
  • The recitation of the Haggadah, a liturgy that describes in detail the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The Haggadah is the fulfillment of the biblical obligation to recount to our children the story of the Exodus on the night of Passover.

via Chabad.org

You Need to Watch Laverne Cox’s Inspiring Speech on Transgender Issues

Last week, the Trans 100 list went public, celebrating those who have raised the public profile or made a difference for transgender people. This list was read live two weeks ago, at the Trans 100 gala in Chicago. The event also featured keynote speeches by author Janet Mock and Laverne Cox of Orange Is the New Black.

Cox’s speech hinged on the saying, “Hurt people hurt people” and the “revolutionary action” of trans people loving each other, and touched on issues of oppression, kindness, and healing. It’s a powerful, emotional speech, especially when she speaks of the crowdfunding effort for the documentary about CeCe McDonald, a transgender activist who served 19 months in a men’s prison after defending herself from an attack in 2011.

“So often, trans people are told that our lives don’t matter,” Cox says. “Particularly black trans women. And tens of thousands of dollars were raised for this woman CeCe McDonald to prove that our lives do matter.”

Co-Screenwriter of ‘Noah’ Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film

O.K. let’s see if this makes sense.

No doubt, one of the most talked about films so far this year is Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. The film has gotten its share of rave reviews, though there are those who have major problems with it. However, one cannot deny that it is truly an ambitious, unique and original film – the kind of risk-taking movie you wish Hollywood would make more of, like they used to.

However, there is that one thing; That one thing that stuck out in my mind when I saw the film: “Hey, where are the black folks or people or color in the film?

If this film had been made back during the epic “Biblical film” era, in the 1950s, well then, yes, you would expect that.

But even Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments has black people in it. So, here we are well into the 21stcentury, and Noah is populated with nothing but white people, many who speak with British or Australian accents.

Well, in a new interview on the website The High Calling (HERE) the co-screenwriter of the film Ari Handel, who wrote Noah with Aronofsky, was asked about the lack of diversity and addressed by saying:

“From the beginning, we were concerned about casting, the issue of race. What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people. Either you end up with a Bennetton ad or the crew of the Starship Enterprise.”

He goes on to say:

“You either try to put everything in there, which just calls attention to it, or you just say, “Let’s make that not a factor, because we’re trying to deal with everyman.” Looking at this story through that kind of lens is the same as saying, “Would the ark float and is it big enough to get all the species in there?” That’s irrelevant to the questions because the questions are operating on a different plane than that; they’re operating on the mythical plane.”

Really? That’s the best he could do? Why not just say, we just didn’t want to be bothered? I would have bought that.

So let me see if I understand this. In other words, if we put black people or POC in the film, then people would notice it, and that would have been like really, really distracting, taking people out of the film. So instead, we got a whole bunch of white British, American and Australian actors to represent all mankind, because it‘s just a lot easier?

And, furthermore, putting people of color in the film would have somewhat diminished the biblical Noah, making it look, God forbid, like some kind of Star Trek movie?

Sorry I’m all confused here. I was thinking that, if you want to represent all mankind in a film, then wouldn’t it make sense to have a cast that did actually represent all of mankind, in every color and hue, instead of having an all white cast, and telling audiences to just squint their eyes, and pretend that he’s another race, because it’s all just a myth after all? So black people can’t be mythical too? Nope, I guess we’re too real, too urban.

Am I wrong here, or is Handel? You tell us.

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What I Learned From Tweeting With A Black Woman’s Avatar For #RaceSwapExp

Two weeks ago, after writer and activist Suey Park sparked a wave of protest and dude-bro angst with her response to the Colbert Report’s racist tweet, I heeded Suey’s call and began to tweet about why Colbert’s work did not qualify as satire, did nothing to improve the lived experiences of people of color and was often racist and transmisogynist. Some of my tweets were included in the first half dozen or so pieces about the trending hashtag and the conversation it ignited. For me, the experience was thought provoking and empowering; it was also rather easy. How? I was tweeting as a white man. Everything I said was accepted, supported, re-tweeted or (at worst) ignored.

That was in stark contrast to the countless rape/death threats leveled at Suey and many other women. Not to mention the myriad bro-pundits—Huffington Post’s Josh Zepps and Slate’s Dave Weigel are obvious examples—desperate to derail and silence Park by calling her opinions “stupid” and using phrases like “weaponized hashtags.” This flurry of dude-bro logic and mansplaining led to something unexpected in my timeline, as many women of color and black women began to switch their avatars to those of white men. The result? A dramatic decrease in the number of trolls and the severity of said trolls. Fed-Up Hipster wrote a great piece about why she’s had a bearded white hipster’s avi since last fall.

Mikki Kendall—who launched #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, among others—inspired other women of color and black women to offer up photographs of themselves for white people who wanted to participate in #RaceSwapExp for the week. Shortly thereafter, I expressed my interest in participating and Feminista Jones was gracious enough to allow me to use a picture of her for the next five days. I’ll admit I was hesitant: How would people respond? Would the content of my tweets change or be received differently? The basic requirement for #RaceSwapExp was that you couldn’t change how or what you tweeted—and you had to obtain permission from the person whose avatar you used. I learned a few lessons about white supremacy and misogyny while tweeting as “Christine” with a picture of Feminista Jones as my avi.

1. My follower count went up by about 65. The vast majority of these were social justice-minded people; many (not all) were women of color. I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m thrilled.

2. My troll count went from a handful per week to many more, overnight. I was blocking/reporting around 15 to 25 of them per day. Many were eggs, some were white liberals, some were right-wingers and others were just dudes of unknown political origin.

3. The level of hateful tweets went from zero to off the charts. With many of these trolls, I would respond once and then block them, or just block them. One such troll, @vincentBrook666, tweeted the following to me in all caps.

(This was a manual RT response to the original tweet, as @vincentBrook666 deleted the original tweet.)

That type of language was fairly typical and nothing like I had ever experienced before. I was simultaneously horrified and not surprised. Though this language makes you feel uncomfortable (as it should), people are spoken to this way on a daily basis.

4. I didn’t change the tone or content of my tweets; however, I did tell at least one troll to jump off a cliff. I called another troll “white boy,” which in hindsight was probably provocative. I was very frustrated. Would I have tweeted that with my regular avatar? I believe so. I’d called out Dave Weigel’s ahistorical and white dude-bro coverage of #CancelColbert—with my regular avi—and he responded by blocking me. Were both of my responses perceived differently with a black woman’s avi? Definitely. Is this perception because of racist assumptions about black women and women of color? Of course.

5. Before switching my avatar, I’d been labeled a white hipster and called a faggot. One troll said that I was only defending women of color because I wanted to sleep with them. Because it’s somehow impossible for a man to just respect the humanity of black women?

6. The mansplaining came from all directions—self-proclaimed liberals, far-right conservatives and libertarians. A gay white journalist who I know in real life explained that I don’t understand satire.

For me, #RaceSwapExp was eye-opening because it allowed me, for one week, to experience a little bit of what black women and women of color deal with 24/7/365 in all online spaces: endless trolling, racist and misogynistic hate, tactics that silence and derail, demeaning assaults on their humanity. Even so, no matter what happened to me, it was just an experiment. I was (and am) privileged—I knew that in a few days I could go back to the safety of my regular avi. For the brilliant women of color that I follow, that’s not an option. If nothing else, this experience has given a new urgency to my personal resolve: I will work to dismantle white supremacy, decenter whiteness and center the voices of black people in my work and my life. TC mark

By  CHRISTOPHER CARBONE for Thought Catalogue

The Changing Face of America

We’ve become a country where race is no longer so black or white.

What is it about the faces on these pages that we find so intriguing? Is it simply that their features disrupt our expectations, that we’re not used to seeing those eyes with that hair, that nose above those lips? Our responses can range from the armchair anthropologist’s benign desire to unravel ancestries and find common ground to active revulsion at group boundaries being violated or, in the language of racist days past, “watered down.”

Out in the world, the more curious (or less polite) among us might approach, asking, “Where are you from?” or “What are you?” We look and wonder because what we see—and our curiosity—speaks volumes about our country’s past, its present, and the promise and peril of its future.

The U.S. Census Bureau has collected detailed data on multiracial people only since 2000, when it first allowed respondents to check off more than one race, and 6.8 million people chose to do so. Ten years later that number jumped by 32 percent, making it one of the fastest growing categories. The multiple-race option has been lauded as progress by individuals frustrated by the limitations of the racial categories established in the late 18th century by German scientist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, who divided humans into five “natural varieties” of red, yellow, brown, black, and white. Although the multiple-race option is still rooted in that taxonomy, it introduces the factor of self-determination. It’s a step toward fixing a categorization system that, paradoxically, is both erroneous (since geneticists have demonstrated that race is biologically not a reality) and essential (since living with race and racism is). The tracking of race is used both to enforce antidiscrimination laws and to identify health issues specific to certain populations.

The Census Bureau is aware that its racial categories are flawed instruments, disavowing any intention “to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically.” And indeed, for most multiple-race Americans, including the people pictured here, identity is a highly nuanced concept, influenced by politics, religion, history, and geography, as well as by how the person believes the answer will be used. “I just say I’m brown,” McKenzi McPherson, 9, says. “And I think, Why do you want to know?” Maximillian Sugiura, 29, says he responds with whatever ethnicity provides a situational advantage. Loyalties figure in too, especially when one’s heritage doesn’t show up in phenotypical facial features, hair, or skin. Yudah Holman, 29, self-identifies as half Thai and half black, but marks Asian on forms and always puts Thai first, “because my mother raised me, so I’m really proud of being Thai.”

Sandra Williams, 46, grew up at a time when the nation still turned on a black-white axis. The 1960 census depicted a country that was still 99 percent black or white, and when Williams was born six years later to parents of mixed black and white ancestry, 17 states still had laws against interracial marriage. In Williams’s western Virginia hometown, there was only one Asian child in her school. To link her own fair skin and hair to her white ancestry, Williams says, would have been seen by blacks as a rejection. And so, though she views race as a social construction, she checks black on the census. “It’s what my parents checked,” she says.

In today’s presumably more accepting world, people with complex cultural and racial origins become more fluid and playful with what they call themselves. On playgrounds and college campuses, you’ll find such homespun terms as Blackanese, Filatino, Chicanese, and Korgentinian. When Joshua Ahsoak, 34, attended college, his heritage of Inupiat (Eskimo) and midwestern Jewish earned him the moniker Juskimo, a term he still uses to describe himself (a practicing Jew who breaks kosher dietary laws not for bacon but for walrus and seal meat).

Tracey Williams Bautista says her seven-year-old son, Yoel Chac Bautista, identifies himself as black when he’s with her, his African-American parent. When he’s with his father, he’ll say Mexican. “We call him a Blaxican,” she jokes, and says she and her husband are raising him in a home where Martin Luther King, Jr., is displayed next to Frida Kahlo. Black relatives warn Williams about the persistence of the one-drop rule, the long-standing practice of seeing anyone with a trace of black “blood” as black. “They say, ‘He may be half, but he’s still the N word.’”

Certainly, race still matters in this country, despite claims that the election of Barack Obama heralded a post-racial world. We may be a pluralist nation by 2060, when the Census Bureau predicts that non-Hispanic whites will no longer be the majority. But head counts don’t guarantee opportunity or wipe out the legacy of Japanese-American internment camps or Jim Crow laws. Whites, on average, have twice the income and six times the wealth of blacks and Hispanics, and young black men are twice as likely as whites to be unemployed. Racial bias still figures into incarceration rates, health outcomes, and national news: A recent Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial family prompted a barrage of negative responses, including claims of white genocide and calls for “DIEversity.”

Both champions and detractors of that ad based their views on what’s known as the eyeball test: A study of brain activity at the University of Colorado at Boulder showed that subjects register race in about one-tenth of a second, even before they discern gender. In May researchers reported that political conservatives are more likely than liberals to categorize ambiguous black-white faces as black. We assign meaning in the blink of an eye.

When people ask Celeste Seda, 26, what she is, she likes to let them guess before she explains her Dominican-Korean background. She points out that even then she has revealed only a fraction of her identity, which includes a Long Island childhood, a Puerto Rican adoptive family, an African-American sister, and a nascent acting career. The attention she gets for her unusual looks can be both flattering and exhausting. “It’s a gift and a curse,” Seda says.

It’s also, for the rest of us, an opportunity. If we can’t slot people into familiar categories, perhaps we’ll be forced to reconsider existing definitions of race and identity, presumptions about who is us and who is them. Perhaps we’ll all end up less parsimonious about who we feel connected to as we increasingly come across people like Seda, whose faces seem to speak that resounding line from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”:

“I am large, I contain multitudes.”

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Why the Fear of Becoming a Minority Could Lead to a Lot More Republicans

Surprise! Fear of losing their majority status actually makes Americans more conservative.

At least, that’s the conclusion of a new study by two psychologists at Northwestern University investigating how white people react to the possibility of losing their majoritarian status.

While researching for “On the Precipice of a ‘Majority-Minority’ America: Perceived Status Threat from the Racial Demographic Shift Affects White Americans’ Political Ideology,” psychologists Maureen A. Craig and Jennifer A. Richeson conducted four experiments to assess how people who identify as white reacted to racial demographic changes regarding three different population sets. The first study showed that making Californians aware of the shift in demographics led “politically unaffiliated white Americans to lean more toward the Republican party and express greater political conservatism.” The other experiments showed similar results.

In other words, when the majority — here the still-existing racial majority of “white” Americans — perceives, even if not statistically factual, that they have become the minority, their psychological response is fear and loathing. Fear at the prospect of having to actually consider one’s race as not inhabiting the dominant position; loathing for having to realize that they live in a multiracial world, and that they have effectively become “othered.”

While certainly unsettling, the results of the survey may not surprise anyone familiar with, say, cable news. The fear the researchers are speaking of was, in fact, apparent last year when outlets like CBS News, CNN and Fox spent days reporting on recent census numbers with not-too-subtle headlines like “Whites losing majority in U.S. in under-5 group,” “White kids will no longer make up a majority in just a few years,” and “Minorities now surpass whites in U.S. births, census shows.” That last piece, from Fox News, nonchalantly throws in a highly problematic aside — “[T]he numbers also serve as a guide to where taxpayer dollars could be going in the coming decades” — to further perpetuate racist notions of the welfare state.

These psychological reactions to perceptions of a demographic shift also arguably influence legislative policies and legal decisions. As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in the shocking 5-4 Supreme Court decision to overturn key parts of the Voting Rights Amendment last summer, ”Our country has changed. … While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

In other words, the white majority will try to “ensure” that they remain as such for as long as possible.

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Heidi Klum’s redface photo shoot is a massive insult to Native Americans

Back in January, designer Walter Van Beirendonck sent a model down the runway wearing a comically large headdress with the words “stop racism” scrawled across it. It was a potent and powerful message, a message that apparently Heidi Klum didn’t get. In a continuation of fashion’s backward practice of cultural appropriation, Klum had contestants on Germany’s Next Top Model travel to Utah and pose as sexy indigenous people. What?

In this latest iteration of fashion’s ongoing cultural faux pas, the models posed in headdresses, blankets and face paint, some holding peace pipes and spears. The photos were later shared in a photo set on Facebook and described, in a supreme case of tone-deafness, as “Endlose Weite und einsame Wildnis – meine Girls beim Shooting in Utah” (“Endless length and lonely wilderness – my girls during the shoot in Utah”). Think Progress deservedly put the media microscope on the images yesterday.

Unfortunately, the sight of models in “red face” is a frequent occurrence. From headdresses on Victoria’s Secret runways to the recalled “hipster headdresses” at H&M, the fashion industry somehow hasn’t caught on to the fact that this is downright offensive cultural appropriation, no matter how often and how impassioned the online masses call them on it.

Indigenous people have long been stereotyped as serene and romantic token images, a practice obviously still perpetuated in fashion and pop culture and brought frequently to dreamy photo shoots. Even as Native, activist and feminist voices consistently explain why it’s wrong the internet continues to be forced into a position of ethical counterweight as big fashion business repeatedly opts for appropriation.

The outcry against Klum’s latest has been uniform and entirely legitimate. Writing at Last Real Indians, Ruth Hopkins, a self-proclaimed fan of Heidi Klum’s show Project Runway since episode one, summed up the both the broad Native response to the shoot:

“As a Native woman, I’m tired of being bombarded with negative, false imagery of who society thinks I am. For once I’d like to enjoy a fashion show, a music video, a football game or a photo spread without being singled out because of my race. It’s not just offensive, it’s discriminatory and just plain rude.”

So far, two weeks since sharing these photos, Klum has not issued any apology or statement.

It’s high time the fashion world opened their eyes, put away the offensive regalia and listened to the masses. We’re right.

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What to Watch: “The Geography of Small Talk”

How you start a conversation with a stranger depends on where you live. We survey the diverse geography of American greetings—from Honolulu to Hays, Kansas, from Anchorage to Appleton, Wisconsin, from New Orleans to New York.
Based on research and writing by Deborah Fallows.

‘B-Stylers’ Are Japanese Teens Who Want To Be Black

Dutch photographer Desiré van den Berg has spent the past seven months traveling around Asia. She lives in Hong Kong at the moment, but when she was in Tokyo, back in December 2013, she met Hina, a 23-year-old who works at a trendy Tokyo boutique called Baby Shoop. Hina’s shop has the tagline “Black for Life.” She describes its products as “a tribute to Black culture: the music, the fashion, and style of dance.”

Hina’s appearance is also loyal to what the Japanese call “B-style”—a contraction of the words “Black” and “Lifestyle” that refers to a subculture of young Japanese people who love American hip-hop culture so much that they do everything in their power to look as African American as possible.

I called up Desiré to find out more about her time photographing Hina and her gang.

VICE: How did you meet Hina?
Desiré van den Berg:
 She appeared in a documentary about B-style a couple of years back, which I happened to watch. This is what got me interested in the culture. It took a lot of effort, but I eventually got in touch with her on Facebook, through other B-stylers. I said I wanted to take photos of her, and she actually thought that was pretty cool. It was all a bit of a hassle, though, because Hina and the other B-stylers didn’t speak a single word of English. We needed a translator both to make an appointment and at the actual first meeting, too.

How does that work in terms of translating rap lyrics?
Hina speaks some English but not fluently. She does like to use some English slang when she speaks Japanese with her B-style friends, like finishing a sentence with “man” or using bad words like “motherfucker” jokingly.

I know Japan is full of weird subcultures, but how do you explain this one?
There are things like the Harajuku Girls, which I guess are rather normal but some are complete excesses. B-style is the sort of thing you would find on wtfjapanseriously.com. Hina often goes to New York, and she idolizes America. Japanese TV is full of American films and commercials and that must be a reason, too. She sees America as a kind of promised land.

Is B-style big in Japan?
No. It’s pretty small; you don’t really see it on the streets. You really have to look for it. According to Hina, it was bigger a couple of years ago—now there are only a few die-hards left in each city. It’s definitely not mainstream, and maybe still to small to even call it a subculture.

What do B-stylers like Hina mainly do?
Hina, for example, visits a tanning salon every week to darken her skin. I was surprised these tanning salons even exist, because in Japan it is a classic beauty ideal to have your skin be as pale as possible.

Just to be clear: Hina is 100 percent Japanese and naturally has pale skin. She is only dark because of the sunbed and the use of really dark foundation. B-stylers also listen to hip-hop, and visit special African hair salons to get braids or curly hair. These salons are usually found in Tokyo’s ghettos and are run by small African communities. Hina wears colored contact lenses: they are a lighter shade of brown to make her eyes seem bigger.

Do B-stylers get together, or does it mainly exist online?
There are special B-style events where primarily Japanese youth breakdance and dance to hip-hop and R&B. Even though the event attracts mostly Japanese people, you hear a lot of typical slang. I went to one of those events and had the feeling that all of a sudden everything had come together. I got the sense that it’s a bigger group than I’d imagined.

Are there people who believe this to be inappropriate?
Apparently not in Japan, but in most comments underneath videos on YouTube you see fierce reactions. Many seem to feel the Afro-American typecasting is all wrong. Hina and other B-stylers are not really aware of this.

And what do B-stylers’ families think of their lifestyles?
When I was in Japan I realized that it’s considered really impolite to stare. You see the weirdest people on the streets, but no one stares, not like the way they can in the Netherlands, where I’m from. It’s easier for people to be who they want to be. Hina’s parents are fine with it. Her mom sees it as a phase that will pass. Even though many Japanese feel right at home in the mass, it is still a land of extremes, which manage to coexist rather well.

You can see more of Desiré’s work here.

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