Ever since the American company Mattel Inc. launched the incredibly popular Barbie-doll in 1959, critics the world over have denounced and disparaged this representation as a female stereotype marketed not only with an impossible figure (studies showed that if Barbie’s measurements were to scale, her bust would actually tip her over), but also promoting woman’s role in society as being solely dedicated to certain tasks and jobs ‘appropriate’ to her gender.
Although Barbie has changed with the times, sporting pink cars, business women suits, and even with different, more average-sized body proportions, the media still doesn’t ‘buy it’, though the masses certainly have.
The first ever Barbie commercial
In 2001, the Bratz line of dolls was manufactured by yet another American company, MGA Entertainment, claiming to portray a more modern facet of female individuality, but in reality being just another variation of the Barbie concept. Although the Bratz dolls cover a wider ethnic variety than the 60’s and 70’s Barbies, in truth they still mirror media-related concepts of how girls ‘should be’, this time basing such concepts not on post-war elegance, but on the singers and reality-show divas shown on MTV. The British newspaper calls them ‘a clique of sultry-eyed trollops’ and the American Psychological Association actually includes Bratz dolls in a list of examples of over-sexualisation in society. Flouting enormously pursed lips, impossibly glossy eye shadow, lush features and a posh lifestyle, these dolls are as far from reality as ever.
In 2014, frustrated by these doll-like examples of unrealistic formulas which have slowly become a subconscious manipulating fixture in children’s lives, graphic artist and designer Nicholai Lamm decided to take matters into his own hands. He designed what is now being called a ‘Lammily Doll’, whose body is based on the average body mass of your normal 19-year old American girl. Standing at 10.27 inches, Lammily wears regular and toned-down outfits and make-up when compared to her Bratz and Barbie counterparts. She has articulated joints which allow her actual movements, and children can further customise their dolls to make them even more realistic, adding acne, moles, cellulite, bruises and glasses. This doll tells a story – she tells children that it is ok not to be a super model. It is ok to have pimples, scratches and stretch marks – all signs which manifest while growing up. She shows them that being normal is cool, and that an individual does not need to make disproportionate efforts to appear perfect and faultless in order to be worthy of being accepted, cared-for and loved.
An Australian mum, Sonia Singh, is currently taking the internet by storm with her new range of Bratz-recycled dolls, which she has named ‘Tree Change Dolls’. Sonia buys discarded second hand dolls in bazaars and thrift-stalls, rubs off their glitzy make-up and inflated features and gives them a ‘make-under’, which basically involves reducing their prominent and cartoonish features and giving them a more realistic look, removing signs of obvious make-up (ten-year old girls, after all, shouldn’t really wear all that mascara and blush), conditioning and relaxing the hair which is worn loose, rather than having it styled up, maintaining a clear facial complexion and sewing appropriate non-revealing clothes which any normal underage girl would wear.
Do you think the ‘usual’ dolls little girls play with are over-sexualised?
Would you prefer your child to play with a Bratz doll or a Tree Change doll?