Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

Hey Mattel,

I am giddy. For three years I have been explaining to my little girl why your product lines Barbie and Monster High are not welcome in our house. I have dissected time and again the negative messages your “toys” give to little girls and their body image, sense of self worth, and developing sexuality. Quite a tap dance, I assure you, as my daughter is only six and the words I need to use to adequately describe your astoundingly sexualized dolls are not appropriate to say to her. Little ironic, don’t you think?

For over a year my little girl has been intrigued with Monster High and perks up at your commercials, or lingers near the boxes on the shelf when we’re shopping. She’ll ask for one, her four year old brother tells her they are “infropropee-it” (inappropriate) and off we go, leaving your craptastic dolls on the shelf.ย  Over and over and over again I would explain to her in an age appropriate manner, why your dolls are too sexualized for a little girl to be playing with, and how they diminish the values deep inside of her that she needs to stay strong and that I will fiercely protect. Over and over in my head I would be steaming mad at your 12 inch tall undead hooker dolls and thinkingย  “Mother bumping Monster High” to myself while I calmly and sweetly encouraged critical thinking and media literacy skills in my daughter. Over and over and over again.

People told me to just get over it, the dolls “aren’t so bad”, and to just accept them use them as teachable moments. Bullshit, I say.

These dolls are toxic. I know far too much about sexualization and its heinous impact on children, abysmal body image in girls of all ages, and the development of self esteem and healthy sexuality to relent. To be fair, you aren’t the only one adding to the sexualized cesspool that girlhood has become on the marketplace. But you certainly are one of the front runners and I guess the profit margin you have on these dolls helps you sleep at night. For goodness sake, you sexed up Merida. Seriously?

Listen up — You don’t get her. You don’t get my daughter. You’ll have to meet your bottom line and drive up your quarterly profits on the heart and soul of some other poor little girl, because you don’t get my girl.

See, two weeks ago she was lobbying big time for Monster High again, and wanting to wear make up out of the house. For the 6,429th time we discussed that she is a little girl, Monster High sends inappropriate and hurtful messages to little girls’ minds and hearts, and that when she is a teenager she can wear make up but not when she is six. Then she asked if Monster High dolls look like girls who smoke cigarettes. She is on an anti-smoking crusade this summer, and out of complete exasperation, I answered yes, Monster High dolls look like some girls who smoke.

My child recoiled in horror. She was shocked and offended. It was comical, and I felt a little bit like I was playing dirty, and then I remembered I was discussing with her plastic dolls dressed like tiny cheap sex workers that you somehow think are appropriate to suavely market and sell to children. We’re dirty six ways from Sunday on this one, so yeah, Monster High dolls now smoke.

The next day we were having ice cream with friends, and when my daughter heard me whisper something to one of the other moms, she asked if we were talking about something inappropriate. My friend asked my daughter what “inappropriate” meant, and my six year old clearly and eloquently said it is when something isn’t right or unsuitable. And then she used Monster High as her example, stating that they dress too grown up for children, the dolls are mean to each other, and wear too much make up and clothes that suggest the only thing they find important is what people think of how they look.

I was surprised and proud to hear her repeat back everything I’ve been saying about the awfulness of Monster High. I later asked her about what she said and she told me that knowing the Monster High girls smoke made her look at them differently, and suddenly they weren’t cool to her anymore. She said she understood the things I was talking about and she thought the dolls looked nasty.

Yesterday we had a colleague over for lunch, and when she and I were discussing sexualization, Amelia piped up and said the exact same things again about Monster High, adding in that the dolls dress in a way that is “too skimpy that makes boys want to kiss them but not be friends with them or see them as a whole person.”

The day we were eating ice cream wasn’t a fluke or rote repetition. My daughter gets it now. I refused to give in to the peer pressure and the cultural pressure, and I have a six year old who sees Monster High for what it is: sexualized garbage. She loves her monsters and walking through graveyards and creepy stuff, but we’ll stick to Tim Burton and Scooby Doo. She wants nothing to do with you and your trashy dolls.

I won this round. You don’t get her. You don’t get my daughter.

Cheers!

Melissa

Amelia at the Milwaukee Public Museum, on a trip to look at skeletons and "disgusting things".

Update 8/23/12: At this time, Comments are now closed to the post. This blog is for parents and concerned adults looking to fight the sexualized messages in the media and being sold to our girls. This post was meant to show one of many discussions I have had with my little girl about why Monster High is completely inappropriate for her, at six years old. This is also a blog that requires reading comprehension, and I sit here at my desk chuckling over the people losing their minds because I confirmed to my little girl that the Monster High dolls do look like the teenagers we saw smoking earlier that week when we were leaving the library. I fail to see the cause for attack over my daughter’s expression of her powers of comparison.

Comments

  1. More shades of awesome than I can even imagine. You (and your daughter) give me hope.

  2. Bravo! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I’m so using this if my daughters ever ask for these dolls. They loathe smoking and shudder at the thought of it. Love this!

  4. Congratulations you indoctrinated your daughter with your own radical beliefs, well done. Wait til this backfires when she becomes a rebellious teen. I’m guessing that will happen big time because she is going to realize mom is a prude and well out of touch.

    • Gabrielle says:

      I guess most of the parents here qualify as prudes, too, then, because we don’t want our kids playing with oversexualized toys, either. Our girls will respect their bodies and insist that others do, too. Our boys will have more realistic views of the female people around them. Of course our kids will rebel, as all kids do, but I doubt it will be as bad as you think, as our kids will also have honest knowledge of their bodies and sex, the dangers of smoking, etc. It’s not indoctrination – it’s the passing on of values, which is a big part of parenting. My parents taught me modesty in their own way, and so now I teach it to my daughter, so she will respect herself. I don’t see how that makes us out of touch at all. Rather, aware of the pressures out there, and doing something about it.

      • Yeah, I admit my comment was a bit of knee-jerk reaction. The thing I was reacting to was that you had your daughter repeating things you said and thinking that was cool. I found it especially disturbing that you won her over by allowing her to believe that Monster High dolls smoke. I can remember being a child and having certain concrete beliefs, inherited from things my parents said, that would cause me to develop severe and judgmental aversions to certain people. What is she going to think of and say to other girls she knows that like and play with Monster High dolls? Hearing what you said your daughter said and how you felt about it reminded me of the way children of conservative Christian parents think and speak. They repeat back what they were told no matter how ridiculous it is and carry a judgement towards others that they don’t even fully understand.

        • And the part about rebellion also is a parallel to what I see in children of conservatives. Their sheltered childhood leads to dangerously rebellious behavior as teens.

          • Well Josh, sleep easy tonight knowing this anything-but-Conservative, never a prude, former rebellious teen has things under control. And I appreciate your misplaced concern for my daughter.

            I remain unconvinced that not allowing my daughter to play with dolls that look like sex workers is “sheltering” her. I think it is “parenting” her.

        • Josh –
          I said I was happy that she was getting the message, like in the part when I mentioned her words were “not rote repetition”. Hence, I was happy she was thinking for herself, which is the opposite of being brainwashed. Also, is what I told her about self esteem and body image and sexualization ridiculous? Or facts backed up with multitudes of peer reviewed research? I’ll let you dig around on the blog a bit more to uncover that one for yourself.

          And, she asked if they *look* like girls who smoke. I said yes, the dolls look like some girls who smoke. That isn’t untruthful, and please believe my daughter is clever enough to know that dolls do not smoke.

          How will she feel towards playmates who have these dolls? I don’t have to worry about that right now, because we form friendships and align our family with others who share our beliefs (you’ll be interested to know we are the only non-Christians of the group), and this includes being concerned about sexualization and allowing our little girls a girlhood. So while all of the moms in our group are reading and enjoying “Fifty Shades of Grey”, we are at the same time saying “hell no” to sexualized media and toys for our little kids.

          The moral of my story is this: I don’t want her to think it is inappropriate because I do, I want her to think of it as inappropriate because she understands the “why”. In the past two weeks, she has shown me that she gets it.

      • ::applause::

        • Yeah cool whatever, now that I’m stoned I find it hard to disagree with you. You’re right, my concern for your daughter is misplaced. You and your daughter I people I don’t know, and you sure could be doing a lot worse so whatever.

    • Yeah. How dare her mother indoctrinate her with the belief that she is strong and capable and intelligent and able to make her own decisions because she is armed with information. How irresponsible. She should just have let her go to float down the cesspool that is mainstream media and let her find her own way. I’m sure she is going to totally regret it.

      • Melissa,
        My only question is: Why do you even bring them to the stores, let them watch commercial TV, or go to the movies? I am not encouraging that parents raise their children under a rock but this exposure is not necessary, especially at this age. We have a term in our house that my son coined at about age 4 when a toy he lobbied very hard for, broke 5 minutes after he bought it: Meanie Marketing. That is my answer for pretty much everything they want that I am not comfortable with them having.
        ps. Bravo for aligning yourself with other families that feel the same way. It makes life a lot easier.

        • Amy –
          I have to bring them to stores because they are in my care during the day when I have time to run the errands for the family. I’m not sure that suggesting to parents they not bring children to stores is the answer. I let them watch one show that has commercials, and use them as teachable moments. The kids have become quite adept at being unable to unpack the marketing inside a 30 second ad spot. We have gone to a handful of family movies, all G rated, and have really enjoyed the experience of taking our kids to the theater. My kids are six and four, and attend public school. I’m not really sure I could shelter them from all if this even if I tried.

          Media is not the enemy. Bad Media is.

  5. I wanted to stand up on my seat and cheer!! Hooray for you!!

  6. I love the tipping point that got Amelia to view these dolls as disgusting! She is a remarkable kiddo, and this is such a fantastic example of how kids come around to make meaning for themselves in different ways and at different times (and number of tries it may take on our parts as parents to help them get there).
    Full of Awesome ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks Hillary –
      I just couldn’t believe when she said everything to you at lunch, verbatim to what she had said when we were out for ice cream. I wanted to stand up and do a happy dance!

  7. That’s not a ‘truth bend’ anymore than the aspirational marketing strategy the corps are using to glam-n-slam with sexualization, imo, so good for you in adopting a ‘whatever it takes’ line in the sand to snatch back the hearts and minds in the war against childhood.

    Truth be told, I’ve used the same dang anti-smoking tactic, deployed as an ‘ewww’ against junk food cues sold to kids in the schoolyard w/pouch processed stuff positioned as ‘must haves’ See–> “Extreme lunchbox makeovers: Counter-Marketing via Joe Camel” http://www.shapingyouth.org/?p=182

    Call it a stretch, a spin, or a statistical corollary that can’t be ignored, there’s no doubt in my mind that ‘harm is harm’ and it’s our job as parents to put internal and external health above the mega-million$ in media me$$age$ flung into kids’ socioemotional/physical spheres…

    Thx for the inspiration that not EVERYone is shoulder shrugging helplessly and ‘giving in’ to the ‘powers that be’ —yay! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I love those little moments of victory, when you know you really have made a point and that your kids GET it. I happen to agree with your feelings about Monster High dolls, as they are identical to the way I’ve always felt about Bratz dolls–Yup. They’re out there. Not in my house. And you know what? Your daughter will hold onto that throughout her life. My mom taught me the sincere difference between appropriate and inappropriate when I was a child, and when a boy I liked tried to get me to change my look to trampy skirts and high heels in order to date him, the alarm bells went off in my head. Did I occasionally wear short skirts and high heels on my own? Yes. But once he told me that girls who dressed in shorter skirts and higher heels were so much sexier than, well, me–I dumped him like a hot potato. Because that was THE objectification sign, and I was not about to let someone make me feel I had to dress a certain way to be sexy. Of course then I found the awesome guy who told me I was sexy even with my hair in curlers and sweatpants on. ๐Ÿ™‚ Twenty years later–totally happy (and still sexy) with my beloved. Why? Because my mom had cultivated the strength of my self-image. And you’re doing the same with your daughter. And I’m doing the same with mine. BRAVO, Melissa! Good job!

    • Diane –
      BINGO!! I like wearing skirts and heels if I’m in the mood to wear those things and don’t have to chase after my kids. I know the difference between *feeling* sexy, and *looking* sexy. Your comment captures that beautifully.

      My great concern is the current generation of girls is being taught through self objectification that the male gaze will tell them whether or not they *look* sexy, and that will determine if they *feel* sexy. And as a sex positive person, that makes me really sad.

    • Well said, Diane.

  9. I was cheering while reading that! You give me hope, my 4 yr old is so foccussed on ‘pretty’ as that’s what people always call her (beautiful red hair is all some people seem to see). We talk and talk and I hope that some of it is getting in.

    What an awesome mumma you are!

  10. Melissa, I’m rolling on the floor at the idea of someone calling you conservative. Bwahahahahaha!! The rest of what was said made me want to jump up and tell the person how much I disagree with what he said. You did a find job of that. Bravo!

    We are of like minds on this subject and many others. We raise our children to be aware of life and empower them to handle it. My children are successful adults so I know this approach of raising children works. We didn’t shelter our children but we did teach them the difference between appropriate and inappropriate and we certainly had definite rules. Those rules were adjusted as they got older and could handle more freedom and more responsibility. Sure, they had their moments of rebellion but they were equipped with the wisdom to know what was healthy and what was just plain stupid. Believe me, it was hard work. Bratz dolls and Monster High dolls didn’t exist back then but they would not have been in our house if they had existed. Bravo to you for speaking up and speaking out … and for giving the rest of us a forum for speaking up about this. You are Full of Awesome!!

    • Laurie –
      I have to giggle every time I’m called a “prude”. I remain ever grateful that none of you knew me from the ages of 15-22. Those memories are locked away, only revealed with a wicked little smile from time to time when I think back on the good ol’ days. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. Deborah says:

    So happy about this. I think you should write a big book for parent’s!

  12. Thank you again, Melissa for forging a way through the insanity with a grace and wisdom I strive to emulate. My little girl is 3 now and we use so much of the language I read here in helping her understand her own “awesome.” So thank you for helping us find words for the conversations I know are coming in the next few years. Congrats on winning this battle and thank you for fighting the war at all.

  13. Shelley says:

    THAT is FULL OF AWESOME!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Your post brought tears to my eyes. My daughter is only 8 months old, and when I look at her beautiful face and think about all of the ways that our culture will attempt to demean, belittle, and marginalize her just for being female I am heart sick. What a wonderful thing to know that parents can make a difference. Bravo!

    I’m also pretty sure that calling you a prude is just the flip side of the over-sexualized coin, no? If you see women (and girls) as sexual objects, first and foremost, then I suppose any woman not willing to play the game is a prude (or a bitch or insert your favorite gender slur). I am astounded by the irony of his attempt to belittle and demean you (by calling you names, comparing you to Christian conservatives) because you are unwilling to allow your daughter to be sexualized (and therefore demeaned) at the age of 6!

    • “If you see women (and girls) as sexual objects, first and foremost, then I suppose any woman not willing to play the game is a prude (or a bitch of insert your favorite gender slur).”

      This!!

      When I was little, my mom didn’t let me buy Spice Girls CDs because she didn’t like the way they dressed. It’s sad to see how tame Spice Girls seem in comparison to media today. I think it’s sad how people are so ready to jump all over parents for not blindly accepting anything the media spits out. I’m 23, don’t have kids and still think Monster High dolls are completely disgusting. And honestly, with their greyed out faces, they do kind of look like people who smoke!

  15. so.freakin.AWESOME!!

  16. I don’t think lying to your daughter about the Monster High characters is going to really help her understand why they are bad. It also sounds like she believes that anyone who smokes is automatically a bad person. Also eventually she will one day know that you lied to her and she will be less likely to take you seriously.

    • Sarah –
      I didn’t lie to my daughter. She knows that I used to smoke in college, so we can just get that out of the way. I’m very honest with my children.

      Focus now — she asked if Monster High *look* like girls who smoke cigarettes. I answered yes, they look like *some* girls who smoke cigarettes. That is not a lie.

      Six years old are known for their Draconian ways, because life is very black and white to them. Right now, smoking is considered vile to Amelia. Is that really a bad thing? As she continues to work this out, I’m sure she’ll progress into seeing that good people can have bad habits, such as smoking.

      And as the post explains, she and I have had myriad conversations on why the dolls were bad. This smoking conversation was just one drop in a very large, very full bucket.

  17. This: ‘the dolls dress in a way that is โ€œtoo skimpy that makes boys want to kiss them but not be friends with them or see them as a whole person.โ€’ made me both sad (this reality for our girls is painful) and proud of her for listening.

    It’s nice to have a win, congrats!

  18. That is SO awesome!! Way to go, Amelia! And way to go you, Melissa, for being such a strong, excellent mother to instill such important values in your children from such a young age. I hope to do the same!

  19. I was so hoping this post was going to say that the Monster High line was being discontinued. My daughter (4) is blissfully unaware that these dolls exist. I’m not looking forward to her discovery.

    • Julie –
      I wish. Sadly, Monster High just brought in HUGE profits for Mattel. I’m glad that your daughter is unaware, and that you are filling her girlhood with healthier options.

  20. “the dolls dress in a way that is โ€œtoo skimpy that makes boys want to kiss them but not be friends with them or see them as a whole person.”

    To be honest, as long as she’s a girl there’s nothing she can do to really change this so it’s best to teach her not to care about what the boys think or see her as rather than pretending that short skirts and makeup and other girly things are somehow to blame for the dehumanizing way she’ll find herself treated by society due to her gender.

    I mean, you really can’t win as a woman. According to some, I’m probably a slut and a whore for liking makeup and certain clothes and shoes. According to men, I’m a prude and a frigid bitch for not being sexually available to them whenever they please, or at all really. In the end, you’ll always be a prude or a slut, so why bother caring what the boys and men will think of you and care more about what you think of yourself and what you like and what you want?

    So, while I agree that there are problems with the way young children, especially girls, are marketed to, playing into the binary scope of what patriarchal society paints us as is really not the answer. That is, judge the men who will disrespect your daughter. Judge the boys who will see her as less than human because she’s a girl and not a boy and boys are told from the start how much better they are than girls. Judge the society that backs the men and boys up while putting women and girls on the chopping block. I’m not saying you can’t side-eye the marketing at play here. I mean, if you must, judge the dolls, but don’t pretend that they’re what’s really wrong here.

    • Z-
      I agree with what you are saying, but how would you otherwise explain to a child who is too young to be told about the concept of being a sex object the idea of being a sex object? I’m not pretending the dolls are the problem, but they certainly are a symptom of the larger issues at play. And I have to try to help my six year old child make sense of it all so that she can, as you state, care more about herself and what she thinks above anything else. I don’t think I’m “playing into the binary scope of patriarchal society”, I’m trying to give her a beginning foundation to understand and then question it.

      Appreciate all of the advice, but when dealing with small kids, you have to speak in age-appropriate concepts they understand. Most of what you address in your comment would be age-inappropriate for me to discuss with my first grader.

  21. frankie stein says:

    here are some responses to your point of veiw,which I personally don’t think is right, but whatever its a free country.

    http://www.monsterhighdolls.com/forum/topics/pigtail-pals-on-monster-high-rant

    • I wonder, Frankie Stein, if inciting attacks on me both on your blog and encouraging people to come here and do the same aligns with the lessons about kindness and acceptance and anti-bullying you claim to have learned from Monster High. Give me a break.

  22. raven ahra says:

    I’m typing this on my smartphone so please forgive the inevitable typos.

    I’m over 30 with no children and I collect Monster High dolls.

    I would like to congratulate you on the job you are doing with your child. No sarcasm. I am glad to see a parent actively raising their child and understanding that it is the parents’ job and responsibility to raise their children and teach them proper values. It is the parents’ job to protect a child and teach a child how to value himself or herself. It is refreshing to see a parent willing to do so openly and without apology.

    I agree that Monster High dolls are not appropriate for a 6 year old and applaud that you did not give in to your child. I have seen far too many parents that do not resist a child’s whining and give in which only teaches the child that he or she can get whatever they want if they just whine enough. I’ve dealt with enough adults with this attitude to cringe when I see it being taught to a child.

    I will say that at first I didn’t agree with you telling your child that the dolls smoked when I first heard about it but after reading how it came about I could understand why you did it. I know you do not need my approval but you do have it.

    I do not agree that the Monster High dolls dress like hookers bit that is a matter of opinion which is useless to argue about.

    I am glad that there are parents like you who realize that raising a child is truly a job and are willing to do that job well. On the other hand, I hope Mattel will continue to put out Monster High dolls for me to colect but I would be pleased if Mattel took more steps to reinforce that these dolls are more appropriate for tweens and teens unless the parent is like the mother who replied to an earlier post who puts in the time to control the message received by her child by playing with her child.