Dolly is mother to us all.
She is muted and limbless; her physical state illustrating the socio-historical state of the female in patriarchal society. Dolly is pinned with messages, some positive and some negative. These messages address different issues that women have with their engendered social roles. The messages fall into categories: in the home, relationships, physicality, motherhood, age, careers. The over-arching umbrella term for all of these is ‘womanhood’.
Read Dolly’s body. When you have found a message that resonates with you, remove the pin and ribbon. In this way you are undressing Dolly of her labels and taking the thorns out of her sides. Tie the ribbon around your wrist.
Which ribbon will you choose? Are you honest enough (with yourself) to pick out the message that is really appropriate to your situation? Are you brave enough to wear the ribbon for all to see, or will it be hidden under a sleeve? If you do hide it, is it because you are ashamed or because you think it is nobody else’s business? Will you pick as inoffensive a text as possible to avoid embarrassment and questions from others? Will this act of self-portraiture be blunt or fictionalised?
Wear the ribbon until it becomes so naturally worn that it falls off. Use your ribbon bracelet as a tangible mnemonic device, raising your consciousness every time you look at it. If you choose a positive message, use the ribbon as a comfort. If you select a negative label, use the ribbon as a prompt and a reminder that there is an issue in your life that you need to address. There is an implicit challenge; if you are wearing a negative ribbon, can you change your situation before the bracelet falls off?
This starts off as a bit of fun, looking through pretty carnival-coloured ribbons, but it quickly becomes a vehicle for self-portraiture and self-diagnosis. If you choose a negative label, you will also need to self-prescribe a remedy and action it.
The wearing of bracelets has steadily evolved throughout time in all cultures, appearing in various pertinent incarnations, including: binds, handcuffs, friendship bracelets, copper healing bracelets. The ribbon bracelets follow the symbolisms of innumerable cultural traditions. Today, rubber charity bracelets and ribbon pins are used to show solidarity with a cause on the part of the wearer. Dolly’s carnival colours have meaning; at first it is aesthetic, but these colours carry psychological, political and emotional meanings that vary from culture to culture. Ribbons are a symbol of sovereign or judicial power, and designate the power to bind and to be set free. Wearing the ribbon bracelet is a form of non-verbal communication, both with the outer world and the inner self. Remove Dolly’s jewellery, her costume, and label yourself. Then take this as far as you can.
Jenny Elliott-Bennett has a BA Hons and an MA (both in English) and holds a PGCE. She has been working as a freelance writer for the past few years (producing educational, academic and commercial copy), and is published in six countries.