Go Look In the Mirror, After You Tell Me How You Feel You Look

This morning while getting dressed for school, the almost-seven year old Amelia rejected the t-shirt I had grabbed for her to go with her leggings and fleece jacket. It surprised me because it was the Clearwater Marine Aquarium tee with two dolphins on it, her favorite animal.

“Mom, I don’t feel comfortable in this t-shirt.”

It was the first time she had ever said anything like that to me, and I could tell this wasn’t because of an itchy tag or the shirt not fitting right.

“What about it makes it feel not comfortable to you?”

“Well, it feels like a paint shirt. Can I have one that fits closer?” Amelia is a tall and thin kid, and the shirt was boxy on her. She usually wears contoured tees so she isn’t swimming in them.

“I grabbed this one because it was a little longer, so it looked more like a tunic over your leggings. Your leggings are tight, so I would like your bum covered. But I would also like you to feel comfortable in your t-shirt. What should we do?”

“Wellll, when my fleece is on my bum is covered. I would just like a shirt that isn’t so bunchy.”

So I hunt down two different tees while she brushes her teeth, she picks one that is more contoured (a blue one with baleen whales on it) and covers her bum, puts on her jacket, smooths her hand over her tummy, does a full body wiggle and declares, “Now that’s more like it, Alice.”  (My name is not Alice.)

I wrapped her up in a big hug and said she looked ready to be a learning girl today and that we needed to brush her hair. Then I asked how she felt in her new t-shirt and how she thought she looked. She replied, “Full of awesome, Baby!”

It was only then that I told her to go take a once over in the mirror. I want her to practice feeling confidence in the image she projects, instead of the mirror telling her that answer. The mirror is just to make sure she doesn’t have pumpkin bread crumbs on her chin. The mirror provides a reflection. Her heart will provide confidence.

I glance at Amelia looking at herself in the mirror. She was standing with her feet apart, bouncing on her toes, giving herself two thumbs up and wiggling her eyebrows at herself. Her hair looked like a squirrel was living it, but I could tell she felt very full of awesome.

And then I realized I had been holding my breath. When she had said she wasn’t comfortable in her shirt, I immediately made a mental note of the words she chose and was internally grateful she had not said that she looked “fat” or “ugly”. I would be crushed if she said that about herself. She doesn’t hear her parents use those words nor do we use media that reinforces the Beauty Myth and Thin Ideal. She brought home a book from her school library yesterday that had Ariel, Disney’s Little Mermaid on it. Ariel’s waist is thinner than her arm on the cover.

“Motherbumping Disney princesses” I muttered in my head when she took it out of her backpack. I wondered if her school library also had children’s books on eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder? But when Amelia was showing the books to her little brother Benny, she informed him that Ariel’s “tummy was way too small” and the artist had drawn her wrong. Later that evening following Girl Scouts, Amelia had been sitting at the table drawing pictures of mermaids for me and all of their waists were in proportion to their heads. Phew!

But then she made the comment this morning about not feeling uncomfortable in her shirt! Egads! Was is starting? Was she beginning to doubt herself and her body image? She’s not even seven! I was telling myself to stop overreacting as I could feel myself overreacting. I made her body from scratch, it took forever to get pregnant with her and then I puked for nine months. It took so much of my body to create her body, I wanted her to know every day how glorious her body and life are. I want her to love and cherish herself as much as her dad and I do. I want that kind of self love for all girls.

So on the walk to school, I checked in with her to see how the t-shirt was feeling.

“How we doing, Smalls? How’s the t-shirt feel under all those layers?”

“Oh, good. I was worried that other one might lead to a flea infestation.”

Yep, we’re all good here. Just normal, super quirky Amelia whose positive body image is well intact.

Water Slides and Body Image

I wrote this on Saturday before heading to a birthday party for a good buddy of my kids. Happy to report, we all had a blast:

We’re headed to a swim birthday party this afternoon, which means I have to be in my swimsuit helping the kids in the pool. Normally this wouldn’t be a big issue for me, but a recent health issue has made me gain some weight despite a day to day healthy lifestyle. This is hard for me because I’ve always been athletic and fit and my own body doesn’t feel “right” to me right now.
But I never considered not getting in the pool with the kids, or hiding myself under a t-shirt. I plan to “Whooop!” when I go down the water slide. Because while my kids know I have to wear a special bracelet now and take medicine and work hard at getting my body strong and healthy again, they’ll never see me ashamed of my body.
The message me and my extra 20 pounds will be giving my daughter and my son and the two little friends we are taking the to the party is that it is not how your body looks that is important, but rather how you choose to live in it and what you choose to do with it that makes you full of awesome.

Two Worlds of Doll Shopping

I had an interesting experience this weekend while I shopped for the 18 inch doll that the OPP wants for Christmas. First, the obvious stuff like there were no boy dolls, most everything was pink and in the designated ‘girl’ aisles, and at one store all of the dolls were blonde haired and blue-eyed. I was looking for a doll with olive skin, black hair and brown eyes to look like the OPP who looks like her partial Lebanese heritage. The OPP has outgrown her handmade dolls, and wants one of these “big girl” dolls very badly.

But what really struck me was the feeling I got as I looked at the dolls (similar to American Girl except in price), with sweet makeup-free faces and cute, age-appropriate clothing and great story lines behind them. I felt nostalgic for my baby dolls from when I was a girl, and all of the adventures I took them on like 1840′s frontier school house or rescuing them from a sinking cruise ship and living on a deserted island. The doll I was looking at for the OPP just felt like a perfect fit for my almost-seven-year-old and seemed like she would become a great pal for the OPP during her girlhood.

And then I turned the corner to the dolls that don’t look like little girls. The dolls with impossibly thin bodies and giant heads and breasts, dressed in skimpy clothing and heavy make up and sexually fetishized footwear, and I sucked my breath in. I saw a little girl, maybe eight or nine, dressed like a small woman in a tight shirt and short skirt and heeled shoes, drooling over these dolls. Toys are media, and media is a diet. I wondered what this little girl had been taking in, silently hoping not all of it was toxic. I hoped she was getting messages or was involved in activities that counteracted the awfulness comprised in these sexualized dolls. One doll and one outfit certainly doesn’t make nor undo a girl, but a girlhood full of those messages is harmful.

Those are not messages that I accept for my child.

It disturbs me when parents opt into this problem by purchasing the toys and clothing that carry those harmful messages. Sexualization is a pestilent beast.

I looked down at the doll I was about to purchase, and the little travel suitcase and passport accessory, and was content knowing that this doll, the story that came with her (an animal and marine lover who wants to travel to South Africa), and the way she looked represented the messages I want my little girl growing up with and internalizing.

The day may come when Amelia wants to wear revealing clothing and chase romantic interests or go out partying. I did when I was a young adult in college. But not when I was almost-seven-years-old.

I want my little girl to be six going on seven. I don’t need her rushing into young adulthood, and all the pitfalls it can bring if you aren’t ready for it and don’t have a sense of who you are.

Six going on seven. The rest will come, or not, in time. But it is these days of her girlhood I find so precious in this space, in this time.

 

The Journey Girl I purchased for Amelia, the 6yo OPP.

The Monster High doll the 8yo girl in the aisle with me was looking at.

Meeting With Mattel about Monster High

In early September I flew to Los Angeles to Mattel’s corporate headquarters to take part in round table discussion called an “influencer meeting”. At the invitation of Jess Weiner, an independent consultant who excels at creating positive media from the inside of corporations by bringing advocates for girls and women into the boardroom, I joined the team from Mattel and Whitney Smith (founder of Girls for a Change) to discuss issues parents and girl advocates had with the Monster High brand and where we saw room for improvement.

I was very excited for this meeting, but as a known adversary of the Monster High brand, I was a little unsure of what I’d be walking into. Never the less, it was a spot at the table I wanted badly. One, to have my voice heard by decision makers within the company, and two, the idea of meeting face to face with the creators of this brand fascinated me. We were coming into the meeting from very different starting points, but I felt confident we would be able to reach some middle ground. One month later, the feedback from the meeting is excellent, and I think the conversation was beneficial for all involved.

I’ve been asked many times to petition or boycott Mattel over this sexualized line of dolls primarily beloved by grade school girls, but I never felt that was the right approach for this issue or this company. Frankly, Monster High was too popular and making Mattel too much money for a petition or boycott to be effective. I needed a way to create change from within, by making the decision makers aware of the issues in the media and culture that our girls are facing, and how their product might be contributing to these negative messages as opposed to helping by presenting an alternative message. Not only did I need to make them aware of the issues, I needed to make them care about the issues. Luckily my partner at the meeting, Whitney Smith, lives and breathes the idea of creating better media for girls, and I am so grateful that our paths crossed.

At this influencer meeting was the vice president of the Monster High brand within Mattel, Mattel’s child psychologist, Mattel’s lead designer and one of the creators of Monster High, and then several public relations and marketing people. Jess Weiner facilitated the discussion while Whitney Smith and I presented the Mattel team with ideas and constructive criticism. The meeting began with friendly introductions and a history of how Monster High came to be at Mattel.

Two interesting facts to me were that the majority of the people in the room are parents of young children, answering the question my community has long wondered if it was parents who were designing these toys for other people’s children. The other fact was that the Mattel team is very proud of their work, their brand, and their company. Each of them has been with Mattel for a number of years, and was very happy to be working there.

As the story was related to us, Monster High began as a series of stories and doodles created by Mattel after a research shopping trip with girls. The story and characters finally came together after several rounds of drafts, with the intent that a group of fabulous teen monsters could address problems like bullying and accepting differences in oneself and others. The initial design concepts went through several revamps, and ultimately Mattel launched the webisodes, and then the toy line and spin off merchandise followed.

The Mattel team in the room was clearly proud of Monster High and the connection it had made with fans. They all expressed confidence that Monster High was helping to create awareness and kindness in girls, acceptance of differences, and was helping to detract from bullying. More on that in a minute.

Post launch, Mattel acknowledged merit to some feedback that a few of the character’s outfits were too short or too sexy, and that the characters in the webisodes were too mean to each other which detracted from the anti-bullying message. Internal changes were made and webisode content is making the effort to align better with the message of the brand. I was informed that the entertainment team has gone back in to “locked” episodes (content that has been edited and aired) and has done further editing to remove unnecessary mean comments. Creators had expressed a difficulty in developing fully fleshed characters in the 90 second and 3 minute story lines, and felt more successful at getting their message across in the longer forms of entertainment and animated specials that allowed for better character development and richer storytelling.

Mattel and Monster High also began partnering with girl-run advocacy groups like the Kind Campaign and We Stop Hate to further the anti-bullying message and to bring more eyes on the work of these campaigns. Manufacturing changes were implemented to guarantee the soft goods (clothing) came off the line more accurately to the design and now must fit the “Modesty Test”, which involves a focus group of employees reviewing new dolls against the approved sample and giving feedback on the clothing and if it is perceived to be too sexy. Another change is that hemlines got longer and leggings are now worn under most of the shorter skirts.

So that’s the good news, and Whitney and I commended Mattel for making those changes, as they are a step in the right direction. But we felt there was need for a conversation on some discrepancy that remained with the brand, the product, and the messaging.

First being, the characters were still pretty vicious to each other in the webisodes, and the feel good 9 second message at the end didn’t cut it if this was really to be a brand about anti-bullying. I presented Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker’s research that in 86 minutes of webisodes programming she observed 37 instances of peer cruelty. Most of the character fighting was still centered around popularity, heterosexual relationships, and fashion or needing makeovers. I also brought up the many YouTube videos that exist of girls (usually upper elementary age) playing with their dolls, and the story line being voiced by the child is almost always one of girl-on-girl aggression. The take-away from the webisodes did not seem to be the final PSA, but rather the drama that frenemies creates. Some of the anti-bullying girl experts that teamed with Monster High have offered solutions that my colleagues and I have felt was lacking and weak. Not that the advice was bad, but it was a fluffy version of really empowering girls and creating, as Rosalind Wiseman calls is, cultures of dignity. When not going with a full-court press on the bullying, body image, or beauty myth issues, this move of pairing with girl entrepreneurs can look like corporate goodwashing. Presenting conflict and story resolution is one thing, teaching real anti-bullying, self-acceptance, and leadership skills to your audience is another. But to Mattel’s credit, the approach they are taking is to advocate for personal solutions for each girl to implement in her life, such as being more accepting of her own flaws and imperfection in others.

I asked Mattel to realize they had an incredible vehicle for social change with this brand, they were keyed into the youth demographic most accepting of bullying and leadership training, and that they simply needed to have the strength of their convictions. They could go further with the stories as the cat fighting and boyfriend meme has been done. Give the characters real life tween/teen problems to work out – as a team. We talked about ways for the characters to experience conflict in their lives without needing to be in conflict with each other. They could continue to be monsterific and interesting, but a kinder and gentler version of Monster High would still be successful.

Next, we discussed the sexiness of the dolls. The designer had a strong reaction to this, and I have to admit, I think she had the most at stake in this meeting because it was her art, her creation that had come to life and was now being criticized. During the introductions she told the room she was a mom to five girls, and was “very dialed into the issues girls faced”. She said she never went into this project with the intention of creating characters that were as sexy or harmful as they appeared to us to be. I need to tell you, we could see the pain on her face at this accusation – and I think that came from a place as a professional artist and a mother to girls. Her words were heartfelt as she described to us the design process the dolls went under. This felt like the moment when we were furthest away from each other, which meant now there was only space to come closer together.
Whitney Smith and I felt what the designer said was true, that she didn’t go into this with any intention to hurt or sexualize girls. Whitney pointed out, that is just how ingrained this beauty myth and sexualization is and that sometimes we can be a part of it without even realizing it. I commented that everything negative from the media was present in these dolls – the sexualized dress and makeup/eyes, extreme thinness, body shaming, Beauty Myth, and focus on being popular over substantive. I asked that as she continued to develop new characters and dolls, to use some diversity in body shape, interests, and focus on the scary over sexy. Whitney and I asked that Mattel shift the focus from what the characters look like, to what they can “do”.

We addressed the heavy make-up and “Come hither” eyes. The designer explained there is a lot of research that goes into a doll’s eyes, and it is the difference between a doll being beloved or creepy. Mattel research showed that girls were attracted to a made-up eye with reflective light spots. Many dolls now have larger eyes because research shows the eyes are the window that helps girls emotionally connect with the toy. I think there is a way to do large, friendly eyes without looking sexy and inviting. I asked if they would ever consider doing a character/doll that was more of a “tomboy”, or who wore less makeup.
When we talked about the thinness of the dolls, we were told that the clothes had to look good, because the brand was also about a fabulous fashion sense. I commented that much like the fashion industry, clothes are best displayed when the body looks like a coat hanger but that doesn’t necessarily mean that is what is best for the human body. We compared body types to some other dolls on the market, and asked if there could be an introduction of some characters with larger or shorter frames, since the brand is supposed to be about accepting flaws and differences. From a production stand point – the dolls need to be able to wear each other’s clothes so it is easier to produce one body type. This is also more beneficial to the consumer, because a one-size-fits-all is a better economic value than having to buy a dozen dolls and a dozen outfits. I think this will be a hard change on the production lines, but it is something that Mattel could accomplish via the webisodes. This is an idea that went over well at the meeting.

Finally we talked about body image and the adult nature of the dolls. I think the newer dolls are dressed much more appropriately dressed than the original creations. The funk is still there, but the Playboy Mansion look is gone. Whitney and I applauded Emily Anne’s character, both in body size and in dress. Emily Anne’s character looked like a normal teen, like someone I would have over to babysit my kids. We discussed that if you are an authentic and uniquely weird brand with an edge, you don’t need sex to sell your product. I used examples of Ruby Gloom or Tim Burton being the former, with Lady Gaga being the latter. I asked for more of a Coraline/Emily the Strange vibe and less adult sexuality. I talked about my own daughter Amelia loving monsters and creepy stuff and I would otherwise be their target mom, but that I couldn’t buy into Monster High because of the sexualization and the body image concerns. I challenged them to make me want to buy a doll.

In closing, Whitney and I explained the idea between being a sexual agent and a sex object, and the immense pressure even young girls are under to be sex objects. Girls need media that does not have them so focused on beauty, sex, and being thin. Whitney and I both felt that Monster High had a lot of room to grow, and had the space to do some really incredible things for their audience and fans.

In my final statement to the team, I looked in the eyes of the people around the room and asked them what legacy did Mattel want to leave on childhood knowing the main audience and consumer for Monster High was young girls. The worst issues girls are facing in their young lives are body insecurity and eating disorders, low self-esteem, sex abuse and assault, early pregnancy, and dating violence. Would someone who was never heard of these dolls be able to see the message Mattel wanted this brand to convey? Would someone who has never seen Monster High before think that the brand was contributing to or detracting from these issues? I again asked them to focus on scary over sexy, and truly making the commitment to be an anti-bullying vehicle.

The meeting ended with handshakes, smiles, and even some hugs. I think both sides felt heard by the other side, and we found that we had a lot of common ground. Whitney and I presented some ideas the Mattel team really liked and wanted to move forward on. Mattel expressed a desire for this to be an ongoing conversation, and I think that sitting down together was the perfect way for the two sides to learn from each other. Systemic change doesn’t take place over night, but I know that Whitney and I walked out of there with our heads held high, confident that we gave Mattel some great ideas to move forward on. Monster High isn’t going away, but I think continued improvement to the brand can create something that is truly empowering to its young fans.

 

On Being Six In A Sea of Sexy Dolls

Many times when I’m sharing discussions I have with 6yo Amelia as she and I work through our hyper-sexual culture, I tend to get a comment or two about she or I being judgmental towards other females. While I do very much think that is a valid concern, that is not what I am teaching my daughter.

I want to make very clear this is not about judging others, but rather this is about  interpreting and thinking critically about cultural messages to determine if they align with our family’s values. The focus is on us and our family, not the outside source. I ask her questions about how she would feel, how would she react if ______, what reaction would Dad and I have,  and what consequences might occur (being cold, being sent home from school for dressing inappropriately, not being dressed appropriately for the kind of event, etc).

I ask her to constantly challenge the body image, sexualization, and sexism she sees in the media. I do the same when we encounter racism, as those things simply do not align with how our family practices respect towards other people and ourselves.

I am walking a fine line of being sex positive while teaching Amelia to be empowered and respectful of herself and others. At the same time I am not teaching patriarchal ideas like modesty or slut shaming. We’re working on building a “personal brand” for her, so that she has a rock solid understanding of who she is and what decisions help reinforce or weaken that faith in herself. I’m teaching her that private parts stay private, and that putting them on display for public viewing is not empowerment. Later on down the road we’ll talk about attracting boys (or girls) with personality, friendship, and humor…..not shoving her boobs up to her chin and objectifying herself through actions and clothing. I think she is starting to view Barbie (some of them) and other dolls as sexually objectified (without having that vocabulary). Just like Santa Claus, that is a revelation I want her to come to on her own.

In the past two weeks in particular I can see her really sorting it out (thank you, NFL cheerleaders, for sparking that discussion). At the same time, I don’t want to introduce my six year old to the concept of “sexiness”, nor do I want to issue a blanket statement like “Those dolls are too sexy for you.” Whose idea of sexy? Not hers, I hope. I want Amelia to have the space to develop her OWN ideas and feelings about what that means, in her OWN time. That is was PPBB is all about.

Being sexy – feeling sexy – is great, and even super great when you are the right age for it and when it is defined on your own terms. Having “sexy” be a personality description as a young girl = not great. My daughter, whether she be six or sixteen or twenty six, is more than a collection of sexual body parts. Using sex appeal (or actual sex) as your calling card leaves a lot to be desired, and frankly, sells a girl or woman short of the whole person she could be, and be seen as.

I Am Beautiful, In Every Single Way

This just happened: My family lives across the street from our state’s residential school for the visually impaired, and as I was walking to pick up Benny from preschool I saw one of their students walking down the street. Nothing remarkable for this neighborhood, expect this gal was singing at the TOP of her lungs to Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”. She wasn’t wearing ear buds, she was just jamming out as she made her way down the sidewalk with her white cane.

As her notes of “I am beautiful no matter what they say…..Words can’t bring me down….I am beautiful in every single way….Yes, words can’t bring me down, oh no…..So don’t you bring me down today…” drifted across the street, I smiled and waved at her. In a moment of genius I remembered blind people can’t see me smiling and waving at them, so I called out, “Hey Girl! On your left, you ARE beautiful! Have a great day!”

She started to sing louder. And I thought to myself, “Damn Self, that takes some kind of awesome to feel that beautiful, and let the world know it.”

So I started singing with her.

Beauty can be seen, but it is a thousand times more powerful when it is felt and shines from the inside out.

Purposeful

“At some point you have to wonder if this crap isn’t purposeful. And then you have to wonder why they’ve chosen to do this to our little girls.”

–PPBB Community Member Miranda Lollis

 

In response to the image below, from this post about Barneys NY and Disney teaming up.

Disney's Minnie Mouse we know and love.

Disney's new unrecognizable Minnie.

The Tooth Fairy is Friends with Mermaid Barbies

We’ve had a go of it at our house lately. Taking our stalker to court after a year of being scared and harassed, wasp stings, and this week: Oral Surgery. It was a rotten way to spend a week in the summer and I decided to go a little overboard. I guess I just wanted to make everything right again in her little six year old world. The Original Pigtail Pal’s deep love of the ocean has naturally expanded into mermaids, and she has been saving up her Chore Chart money for this one below.

With OPP having four teeth pulled on Tuesday morning, puking blood and feeling generally miserable for a day, the Tooth Fairy knew she would have to bring her A-game for this one. The Tooth Fairy looked high and low for waterproof mermaid toys OPP could take in the tub and pool, ultimately Barbie seemed like the best (only) choice. OPP was so happy when she opened it, and has brought up several interesting body image talks while playing with her, showing me she is getting the message as best a 6yo can. And, the Tooth Fairy felt the Barbie mermaids were pretty awesome as far as mermaids go and they didn’t make her head explode. I, uh, I mean the Tooth Fairy, thought the Barbie Mermaid line was pretty wholesome and wasn’t sexualized (other Barbies take that prize). There was some unpacking to do for body image and Beauty Myth, but every once in a while it is good for the Tooth Fairy to get off her soap box.

Yes, I really do put this much thought into buying a Barbie. If Merida came in a wet suit I’d be walking on Easy Street.

The toothless OPP with her Barbie Mermaid from the Tooth Fairy.

 

Since OPP is reading everything in sight, I intentionally left this link displayed on my laptop this morning while I stepped away from my desk to do some chores. I saw her reading the article a few moments later, but waited for her to bring up the issue. I just wanted to get her wheels turning.

The Beauty Myth of Barbie.

OPP came into the kitchen after awhile and said, “So the dotted black lines is where the surgeons would cut ya?”  I answered yes, that is how a woman would have to be surgically altered and cut apart to look like Barbie. OPP then asked if I liked Barbie, to which I answered that I had liked them very much when I was her age, but as a mom I was concerned about some of the body image messages the dolls gave. I said all Barbies have the same body and their faces look the same, and that I felt that left out all of the other ways a woman can be beautiful. I said people with rounder bodies or shorter bodies or wider noses or slanted eyes are all beautiful too, and you don’t see that with Barbie. OPP then said she liked the woman in the photo below because it looked like me. I agreed, my body actually looks identical to the woman above, but that I would never cut myself to try to be beautiful, or to look like someone else.

She answered with this, “Well, I know Barbie is a grown up because she wears lots of makeup. And I’m not to worried about being skinny, because who cares a flip about that? But I really wish I had blue hair and a glittery tail.”

How can you argue with that? I told her blue hair and a glittery tail would be awesome indeed. I’m glad I could meet Amelia halfway on this one, because I have had to say no to several of the toys she has shown an interest in as of late.

And I am secretly relieved that not once in the past two days has OPP said anything about not being pretty or embarrassed because of her new (temporary) toothless smile. In fact, today I was taking a photo of her and her little brother eating strawberry shortcake and OPP said, “Make sure you get in my one good tooth!”

I don’t know if this body confidence in her will always be there, but I pray it will. I pray hard for that.

Forget What the Media Is Telling You About Your Body

I need 4 minutes and 34 seconds of your day. I need you to watch this — every woman, man, girl, and boy — and I need you to absorb it.

I need you to give yourself permission to start loving and enjoying the body you have been given to live this life with. All of the advocates and bloggers and celebrities in the world cannot do that for you. YOU have to do that for you. Whether you are a parent, a friend, a mentor, a teen….you have to start appreciating your amazing body. It will impact how you live the rest of your life.

Forget what the media is telling you about you. There is nothing wrong with you. YOU write your story. In that story, make sure you are awesome.

Please watch this with your boys and girls. Share it with your classroom, your sports team or Girl Scout troop or church youth group. Share it, because we are spending way too much time thinking about what our bodies look like in life, instead of LIVING LIFE.

Go live. You look amazing.

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.  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 thinking  “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.