WHEN women become leaders of society, entering previously male domains of authority in significant numbers, they feminize leadership. To feminize something is by definition to make it less stern, less weighty, less serious and less plain. This is not the case with every female leader. Margaret Thatcher did not feminize the British government. Janet Reno did not make the position of attorney general a girly thing. When individual women are manly and accept masculine standards, they do not change the nature of the job.
But with the entry of many women into leadership positions, the inevitable Oprah-ization and feminine embellishment occurs. After all, women can’t stop being women. They can’t become manly any more than a cat can become a bicycle, and who would want them to? A perfect example of this phenomenon is the creation by one woman of a single-issue Barbie doll with the high church outfit of an Episcopalian priest. Barbie adorns the office of the Rev. Dena Cleaver-Bartholomew, rector of Christ (Episcopal) Church, in Manlius, N.Y.
Whether this Barbie poses serious marketing opportunities, I cannot say. But as a woman who once avidly played with dolls, I can say that this outfit suggests tantalizing possibilities. It possesses the right amount of drama and interest. I can imagine taking on and off the tiny hat and having Barbie sweep into an imaginary room with her majestic cape. Cleaver-Bartholomew says Barbie could be used for evangelization, providing evidence that Christians “have a sense of humor, we can be fun.” Precisely. The woman priest removes the stern face and the furrowed brow from Christianity. She makes God an easygoing guy or even an appealing blonde.
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