A barbie doll is positioned in front of a piece of artwork. The doll holds a placard that reads: 'A mansplaining fantasy! A group of women hanging on every word. In your dreams!'
ArtActivistBarbie draws attention to the scene in Simeon Solomon’s painting ‘A Youth Relating Tales to Ladies’.

ArtActivistBarbie is making her second appearance at Edge Hill to celebrate International Women’s Day with us. The renowned Twitter star [@BarbieReports] made her ISR debut last August at our Feminist Imaginaries Research Conference where, true to her mischievous and equality-seeking form, she pointed out that the overwhelming majority of artworks on our campus sculpture trail are by men. ArtActivistBarbie has a finely tuned eye when it comes to calling out gender inequality in the arts, and she is not afraid of making a scene. Her provocative wit and fabulous wardrobe lend themselves to staged interventions, predominantly in art galleries and museums. Posing with her tiny, pithy placards, ArtActivistBarbie is photographed gently mocking or drawing attention to problematic exhibits and the images are shared with millions of Twitter users. She also challenges the biases inherent in so many curatorial labels and statements.

ArtActivistBarbie seeks to change the practices of these institutions, the bulk of whose collections have historically been commissioned and produced by men, representing many centuries of male power and privilege. Over 94% of artworks in publicly funded galleries are by white men and many objectify and demean women and girls. Making visible the lives and experiences of women and minority ethnic groups is vital for a more just and equal society. This is becoming more widely recognised and ArtActivistBarbie has featured in the Guardian and the BBC. She was recently invited to present to Parliament (where she made a little mischief in the hallowed halls of Westminster).

Dr Sarah Williamson, the mind behind ArtActivistBarbie, is gratified at the attention that her activism has garnered. She notes how this playful approach subverts the vacuous and stereotypically feminine image of Barbie to draw attention to the male gaze and its problematic impact on people’s identities and opportunities.

Sarah says “I am really looking forward to this event to celebrate International Women’s Day. ArtActivistBarbie is a truth-sayer with a feminist gaze, and I will enjoy sharing some of her playful provocations in what she likes to describe as ‘Patriarchal Palaces of Painting’! Once you have seen things through the eyes of ArtActivistBarbie, you may never see them in the same way again!”

Do join us for Sarah’s webinar where she will discuss the redeployment of Barbie as a fearless feminist activist. She will talk about some of the reactions to ArtActivistBarbie’s interventions from enthusiastic embracing by visitors at galleries and museums, to bemusement and mild panic from security guards. In addition, Sarah will explore being an activist scholar and ‘good activism’ for social justice. We hope she will inspire creative approaches to pedagogy and activism that promote a fairer world.

Dr Victoria Foster and Dr Sarah Williamson