Monday, April 12, 2010

More Episcopal Priest Barbie

The feedback from my first post, a skeptical view of Episcopal Priest Barbie, has been overwhelmingly pro-EP Barbie. (From blog comments and Facebook).

I have no problem with EP Barbie as a source of fun. I still wanted to know if there is more to this.

I decided to go to the source, since I know Rev. Julie Blake Fisher (EP Barbie's creator) from when I was Canon of Congregational Life at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, OH.

My Facebook email exchange with Julie:

Kurt C. Wiesner April 11 at 1:15pm
Hey Julie! It's Kurt (formally of Trinity Cathedral) Congrats on EP Barbie's success! I hope you had fun Friday with MSNBC. I can't say that I'm on board yet (see my blog post), but I really admire your creativity, and I'm open to being "swayed." Hope all is going well! Kurt Wiesner

Julie Blake Fisher April 11 at 8:24pm
Hi Kurt! I was thrilled to see you sent me a message and delighted to read your thoughtful response to her. Here's my take. Barbie acts as an emotional proxy for girls and women, and so reflects their hopes, dreams and anxieties. My sense (based on reading every one of the comments on her FB page) that a huge number of women (and lots and lots of men too) see Episcopal Priest Barbie as a big "win" for women and girls. Barbie can be a priest too! And as a priest she has every right to wear the traditional signs and signifiers of priesthood - including those of the wing of the church most traditionally associated with excluding women. And at the same time, she is a woman too and still Barbie - so why not a red silk swing coat with her clericals? Barbie is self confident and joyful in her priesthood. She is obviously having a blast being the Rector of St. Barbara's-by-the-Sea. I think people really enjoy watching her have so much fun and makes them feel encouraged about women in ministry - whether they are Episcopalians affirming our inclusion of women or Roman Catholics hoping for change in their own church.

I think Julie's response is wonderful, and I buy the rational. In fact, I think I'll expand on it:

Barbie's past...a questionable role model for girls (obsession with body image, material leisure, and girl stereotypes) not the door closer for a calling to priesthood in the church. People are called to ministry based on their gifts to share with the church and the world, and then are called to be themselves in the serving. The priesthood door that was once closed (because she was a woman) has been opened, and Barbie has not only been called to transformation, but she has been called to share her story and gifts for the glory of God.

(yes, I know...she's a doll...but use your imagination here about the conversations potentially stirred up.)

So: I joined EP Barbie's Facebook page. I'm a lukewarm fan at best, but I can see the potential for people to begin to see the priesthood differently thanks to a doll. I'd rather be part of that conversation (6,138 fans as of this evening), then grumbling alone about my personal hang-ups with Barbie.

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