Friday, April 9, 2010

Episcopal Priest Barbie

I'm not sure about this one...

Certainly, it must be mentioned on "Religion and Popular Culture." After all, the Facebook fan site has over 4600 members already.

This is the creation of The Rev. Julie Blake Fisher, priest in Kent, Ohio. Articles on Religion News Service and The Huffington Post (cleverly called "What would Rev. Barbie do?") tell the story behind Barbie's "second career." (A reality for the majority of current Episcopal clergy.)

Jim Lichtman writes in the Huffington Post article:
The Reverend Julie Blake Fisher, an Episcopal priest in Kent, Ohio, created Episcopal Priest Barbie High Church Edition for a friend, the Rev. Dena Cleaver-Bartholomew, when she got her first pulpit assignment in Manlius, New York. However, stories about Fisher's creation in conjunction with Newsweek's cover story - What Would Mary Do? - How Women Can Save the Catholic Church From its Sins -is a timely reminder of an issue that's spent far too long on the backburner - the role of women in leadership positions in the church.

He concludes:
While on the surface Reverend Barbie may be a joke to some, it might motivate others to begin a purposeful reexamination of the critical needs of the Catholic Church: more respect, accountability and compassion; qualities women can and do bring, not only to the secular table, but the spiritual table as well.


This is an interesting view from a Roman Catholic perspective (although I don't know Lichtman is actually RC). Rev. Blake Fisher was being interviewed this morning on MSNBC, and I'm all for positive Episcopal PR, and lifting up women in the leadership of the church.

But I do wonder two things:

1) I wonder if people will wrongly assume that women clergy means that the priesthood is now more about fashion and "dressing up." That view's completely inaccurate from my experiences with working with many women clergy. (You can make a historical case that it's the men that have always been about the vestments, but I would be digressing.)

2) Barbie? Really? Perhaps it's just me, but I've never cared much for Barbie and her unrealistic measurements: something that I've always considered not helpful to girls. To be fair, she is, after all, a doll. She was also redesigned in 1997 with a wider, slightly more realistic waist.

Perhaps I'm thinking too much (ok, probably). But for now, I'm waiting for more perspectives from others before I become her fan on Facebook...

NOTE: Please don't hear any of this as criticism of Rev. Blake Fisher's generous and creative gift for her friend...

4/11 Addition: More EP Barbie story comes from the special April 1st addition of Episcopal Cafe.

4 comments:

Noel said...

Kurt - you are so right about the not-rightness of Barbie as a role model for children. And I see this as a spoof on both the doll and the ulta seriousness with which some folks surround being clergy. This is probably a 15 minute wonder, so let's have some fun and smile at the creativity. When I was in seminary someone constructed a "My Bishop" doll ("My Bishop says....") and then we have the Infant of Prague.) I know that you are in favor of fun, so I hope that you are having that today. Easter blessings, Noel

Kurt said...

A fair assessment: I have no problem just calling this fun. Certainly Rev. Blake Fisher's creativity is really something. I think Litchman's article pushed my need to express my two concerns, but if this is just fun cleverness, I'm cool with that.

Kurt said...

BTW: I do like the intent of Litchman's conclusion, even if I don't necessarily by it from "Episcopal Priest Barbie."

"...(EPB) might motivate others to begin a purposeful reexamination of the critical needs of the Catholic Church: more respect, accountability and compassion; qualities women can and do bring, not only to the secular table, but the spiritual table as well."

Noel said...

What crazy irony if Barbie, the anti-woman par excellence, pushed anyone to recognize the gifts we bring to all aspects of life - even to the altar.