We’ve been hearing about it for years. Same argument, same market. Different doll, different “wolf” in sheep’s clothing. You would think we’d get used to it by now.
But we don’t…do we?
Between the mock-celebrity party limos for birthday girls (with pink virgin cocktails for the ride!) and the “fabulous” and heavily made-up Monster High Dolls that have been causing a renewed outcry, it’s enough to make any parent scream. But isn’t this just like…???
The More Things Change
Playing dress up and playing in Mom’s Make-up VS Boozy-licious Birthday Bashes
Why people think it’s the same: Girls dress up and pretend they’re older in both scenarios.
Why they’re different:
I used to love playing in my Mom’s make-up. She even had a separate bag for me of make up she didn’t use anymore. My friend Jen and I used to put it on each other. Sometimes I’d make her look like a circus clown, other times I tried to make her look like a Mommy.
Mom’s clothing and shoes were also of fascination. Her dresses were, of course, falling off the shoulders and dragging on the floor. I thought I looked great. I’d clomp around in her high heels and tell people I was off to the store or taking my baby dolls to the park. It was fun, innocent, and totally unsexy. The message was clear: You can dress up and be anything.
When girls get dressed up in their OWN “sexy” clothes, spa treatments to look older and more “desirable,” get into limos to drink virgin pink cocktails, this is not the same thing as playing dress up. A third grader getting her eye-brows tweezed is not the same thing as putting on your Mommy’s jewelry. No; it’s dressing up to experience a version of the real thing. Not much imagination is required. The message is clear: You should dress up and be this ONE thing: Flirtatious, adult, sexy. You should act this ONE way.
And if they learn this message now…what will they be doing to push the envelope during the teen age years? Yikes.
Barbie vs The Monster High Dolls
Look; I’m not a huge fan of either, to be frank. Being a body image expert puts me in direct opposition with any doll who’s proportions can’t exist in real life. But still, I’ve been hearing the argument that the Monster High Dolls (and Bratz Dolls), are just the newest version of Barbie.
How they are the same: They have proportions that are deemed as “ideal” since, that’s why they are made into dolls! Manufacturers want the dolls to be as appealing as possible so that they’ll sell like hot cakes on a cold day. They’ll pick whatever girls think is the best, prettiest, and most desirable even if they do a number on a girl’s self esteem.
How they are different: The manufacturers are seeing that, while very young girls are interested in Barbie, by age 7, the interest wanes. This is certainly a much younger drop off than we once experienced. This is where Bratz and Monster High Dolls are supposed to take over. These are more hip to the “older” young crowd.
But Barbie and these other dolls are not the same. The manufacturers would love us to think we’re making a big thing out of nothing– that we’re hypocrites, hypochondriacs, and helicopter parents if we believe these dolls are anything but the latest craze. But these “older” dolls have personas that are sexualized, pouty and flirtatious.
In the case of the Monster High Dolls, we see the impossibly long legs, , heavy make-up, and tight, short clothing (the dolls actually have limbs that come apart from the body in order to get the very snug outfits on the dolls- what a metaphor for our girls. You can wear this too– just take off pieces of yourself!). I know. We ALSO hear that they are supporting a message of diversity and tolerance. But if it’s all about acceptance, why does Clawdeen have to shave and pluck between classes? And if we’re supposed to be impressed that Clawdeen also loves the school subject economics because she wants to have a successful fashion empire one day, do we really need to package her in a skirt that looks like a belt?
I am all for bringing girls through one door so we can get them through ours, but is the way to get girls interested in mathematics through the door of sexualization and “perfect” model thin bodies? Gosh I hope not.
Lastly, the character’s admitted hobby of “flirting with boys” PAIRED with her perceived “flaw” of body hair that she meticulously grooms AND an impossibly thin body gives girls a new mathematical theorum that schools them in what is acceptable. It may seem subtle to the girls– even inperceivable (as obvious as it is to us) but don’t be fooled. The messages seep in quietly and odorously like carbon monoxide through the air.
What’s a parent to do?
Get up on the trends: Know what’s out there and then read up on it. Be in the know, form an opinion, and decide how you want to handle your child’s participation in that trend.
Stick to your guns: Yes, I know it kinda stinks to be the bad guy. But if you don’t want her wearing it, playing with it, or watching it, then don’t. Just because she got it for her birthday, or her best friend has it, or she’s going to be the only “loser” in 2nd grade who doesn’t have it, doesn’t mean she should.
Talk it out: Be transparent about your reasons. The worst mistake parents make in this regard is to tell their kids they’re too young to talk about it or understand it. If you don’t talk about it with them, they will come up with their own or seek information about it elsewhere.
Seek alternatives: I know. Nothing perfectly replaces the “thing,” does it? Ask her what she likes about the doll or trend in question. Is it the color? The funky clothes? Find something you both agree on and know that you may not LOVE what she gets. But can you live with it? Is your gut OK with it? Pick your battles and win the important ones.
Seek positive messages: Surround your child with positive people, speak in positive terms, and get her items that underscore your values. Role models don’t have to be ones that we only find on TV or in the press. You have amazing role models in your neighborhood and likely, in your household. Drop the fat talk, celebrity snarking, and negative body chatter and discuss what you love and think is worthwhile. Buy clothing with positive messages that tell your daughter she can be whatever she wants to be and she needs no “fixing”– plucking, primping or otherwise to be beautiful and valuable.
We have a big job to do– but parenting was never intended to be easy. And YOU are the one with the real power. Media is big. It’s everywhere. But you are the one with your kids. Your trusted words hold a lot more weight than plastic dolls and twisted advertisers.
A cautionary note: This is not one of those things to turn a blind eye to as if we simply close our eyes, we’ll blink, our children will be teens, and the messages will be ingrained. Today, you have influence. Tomorrow, you may have less. Make a decision and go with it. Do it now. Do it now. Do it now.
Other Articles of Similar Content and Important Resources
Vamp Tramp Dolls: A Monster Problem (Shaping Youth)
Monster High’s New Low (Peggy Orenstein)
Fishnets, the Tooth Fairy, and Capitol Hill (Pigtail Pals)
Positive Message Clothing for Girls (Pigtail Pals)
Trashy parties for girls (UK Mail)
See my book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat for the Resource Section that has pages of resources to help you!