by Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK
By now, as moms, we've all become accustomed to the debate that looms large around Barbie and her self-esteem shredding proportions - as evidenced by Galia Slayen the student and anorexia survivor who made a life-sized Barbie model. The venerable blond looks every bit as ridiculous in "real life" as you would imagine her to be and yet there aren't very many popular dolls that would fare any better. Yet Barbie is a kind, responsible and funny girl in her movies and at least Mattel has given her other jobs besides bimbo. The same cannot be said for the one-dimensional Bratz and the horror movie alumni Monster High dolls. For me the debate isn't about Barbie and her waning influence anymore but rather what to do about the latest crop of sexually provocative dolls aimed at our daughters. Who cares about Barbie when we've got "Clawdeen" the shewolf whose favorite activities are waxing and boys (presumably in that order) to contend with?
Girls will play with dolls. Not all girls, of course - but as I learned from finally having a daughter after three boys, many gravitate towards anything with vaguely humanoid proportions. My daughter, at just 13 months, rescued a "baby" from a trash can in the airport and proceeded to rock, cuddle, kiss and otherwise adore that disgusting thing. And she hasn't stopped since. The legend of Dirty Baby is epic in our house. As she grows older I imagine we will still be having conversations about her dolls but "dirty baby" may take on a whole new meaning.
There isn't a single mom I know who is entirely comfortable with the Bratz, Monster High and other similar dolls and yet a fair proportion still have them in their house. Tweets Tontonathon about allowing the Monster High dolls for her daughter but banning Bratz, "She'd never aspire to look like a monster, I hope!"
Cari, mom of 6, draws the line with the makeup saying, "I have a hard time with some barbie outfits just because it's hard to talk modesty with them, but still not that big of a deal. The slut make-up is hard to excuse."
Ted, father to a daughter and the president of The Santa Squad charity which buys toys for needy children takes it one step further saying, "[The Santa Squad] refuses to purchase these toys. (For boys toys we refuse to buy guns). While you can debate that Barbie objectifies women, Bratz and Monster High overly sexualizes them, and also sexualizes minors (and even in the case of Bratz Babiez, babies!)."
So is the answer to ban all dolls save for baby dolls? Not so fast say some experts in Childcare Quarterly, "Teen dolls can have a place, depending upon children's needs and the teacher's values and beliefs. For example, if you believe that fashion dolls have impossible figures that no person could live up to, and if you believe that children already are exposed to models that the vast majority of people could never look like, then those beliefs may influence you to keep teen fashion dolls out of the child care environment. If you value the creative process that children go through in pretend play and you want them to be able to use dolls to act out what they may be seeing in part of their world of teenage siblings, friends and relatives, then you may want to allow fashion dolls."
We live in a world where a woman's sexuality is part of the daily public discourse and what better way to prepare our daughters to be analytical consumers of this than to use their toys to start the converstion? Shellie, mom of 4, shares how she talks about the dolls with her kids, "We have had multiple conversations about how it's not humanly possible for a woman's body to look like a Barbie's or a Disney princess cartoon. Once I get the eye roll and 'Okay, mom, we know and we don't care what their bodies look like' response I figure I have done my job. I also threw in that no one can grow up to have a head like Phineas just to cover my bases."
What kind of dolls do you allow your daughters to play with? Where do you draw the line - clothing? Makeup? Fictional status?
Which dolls do you think are inappropriate for kids? Go here to vote!
- Monster High
- Other (List doll in next question.)
- None are inappropriate.
- I'd let my kids play with any doll as long as we have a talk about realistic body types.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.