Sunday, February 3, 2008

Barbie Power!

For over half a century, starting with Evita Perón, Argentine women have directly influenced politics at the highest levels. Even if Evita and the hapless María Estela Martínez ("Isabelita") gained their influence through marrying Juan Perón, there's no question they exercised political power, both openly and behind the scenes.

At present, of course, the highest profile female politician is President Cristina Fernández; even if she owes part of her success to her husband and predecessor Néstor Kirchner, there's no question she's clever and charismatic in her own way. Since the 2002 political and economic crisis, one of the main opposition figures is former congressional deputy Elisa Carrió, who finished second in the 2007 presidential election. Former Buenos Aires province gubernatorial candidate Margarita Stolbitzer has long been influential in the Radical party of former president Raúl Alfonsín (despite their name, the Radicals are a fairly conventional--and ineffectual--middle class party).
Outside the Barbie Store in Palermo
Culturally, though, there's another extreme: an obsession with impossibly slender fashion models that starts early. There’s no better place to observe the phenomenon than Buenos Aires's first-of-its-kind, Mattel-sanctioned Barbie Store that not only sells dolls, but encourages pre-teens (and their mothers) to emulate their style. Where else can five-year-olds saunter down the runway, in clothing inspired by their anorexic template of a toy, for their birthday parties?

Franchises are available.

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