Guess what toy makers? Girls love adventure!

Katie Nielsen is a young entrepreneur who loved adventure as a kid. Looking at the toy market today, Nielsen sees sharp gender segregation that encourages action-oriented play for boys and fashion-oriented play for girls. Frustrated by this stereotyping, she’s founded Ember World, a toy company to create a brand new category of empowering toys for girls: adventure dolls.

I’ve gotten to know Katie over the past couple weeks, and I love her understanding of girl culture and the need for messages and products just like Ember World. I cannot wait to buy her entire line for my own adventurous daughter. (I think my son would like them, too!) I really love this quote from Katie, “I want to offer girls a doll that lets them play as their most confident and imaginative selves! So many young girls are enthralled with adventure, and love to imagine themselves as the heroes of their own stories. Now these girls can play with a doll that will encourage that adventurous spirit.”

I invited Katie to share her story with the PPBB Community. Enjoy it, and support her Ember World Indiegogo campaign so that we can continue to make meaningful change for our girls!

 

A guest post by Katie Nielsen, creator of Ember World.

Guess what toy makers? Girls love adventure!

The memories from my own childhood and the imaginations I see in young girls today are chock full of great adventures and unwavering self-confidence. Yet the play style of most girl-centered fashion dolls is all about dress-up and hairdos, while the boys get “action figures” intended for role playing that involves bravery, heroism and power. Why are young girls left out of the action when they are just as likely to see themselves as brave heroes? Why can’t girls have dolls to play out their own adventures with a female lead? The more I thought about this, the more I became convinced that I needed to do something. You know what? Forget fashion dolls – I’m making adventure dolls!

The Ember doll will come with hiking boots and a grappling hook.

The Ember doll will come with hiking boots and a grappling hook.

I designed Ember World adventure dolls to tap into a girl’s natural curiosity and wild imagination. Ember comes with hiking boots and a grappling hook, not your typical hairbrush and pink stilettos. She’s dressed to explore, push limits and make her own way.

We were careful to avoid the dangerously thin proportions of a typical fashion doll and instead we’ve made her strong and healthy looking. Her body is a tool she can use to accomplish her goals, not the center of her life.

Each of the dolls in our series will have a unique skill set they can use to overcome challenges on their adventures.  We have even created a book series to illustrate what confident, motivated girls can accomplish. We hope the girls who play with these dolls and read our stories will be able to see themselves as adventurers and dream big.

The four follow-up characters in Ember World.

The four follow-up characters in Ember World.

Adventure is beautiful. It’s about pushing boundaries and discovering new things. It’s about believing in yourself and finding your hidden courage. It’s about pressing onward. Every child should practice this a million times when they play: I want to see girls fall in love with adventure. I say it’s important to reinforce to girls that they are allowed to be curious, that it’s good to be brave, and that they also belong at the center of great adventures.

To me, this is not just a doll, it’s a whole new category of toys for girls.

 

Ember Adventure doll vs Fashion Doll

Ember Adventure doll vs Fashion Doll

My hair is worthy of a shampoo commercial and that’s just what grows on my legs. Plucking and shaving is definitely a full time job”  – Clawdeen Wolf

It seems really odd to describe a doll shaving her legs on a toy targeted to children under 10, but that’s exactly what’s on the bio of the popular Monster High® doll Clawdeen Wolf.  I can’t fathom why a major toy company thinks that young girls care about leg hair! The fashion doll markets seems to be unwilling or unable to move away from the old stereotypes about beauty. It’s 2015! It is time to provide girls with choices outside of the fashion and beauty category.

Adventure dolls are designed to be a refreshing alternative to fashion dolls – built for action. They will feature action-oriented clothing and accessories, an immersive adventure storyline, and a strong and healthy looking body. Each doll is a relatable character, and comes with a unique skill set that she uses to drive the adventure.

I hope you’ll come explore what Ember World is all about!

To help us to raise the funds needed to manufacture the first production run of Ember dolls and storybooks (and to order a doll for a young girl in your life), you can visit our crowdfunding campaign page at: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/meet-ember-the-world-s-first-adventure-doll

 

Ember World creator Katie Nielsen.

Ember World creator Katie Nielsen.

Katie Nielsen is an adventurer, entrepreneur and the founder of Ember World – a toy start-up that is looking to inspire confidence in young girls through adventure play. With a background in business, marketing, and women’s studies Katie is passionate about the empowerment of young girls, and the power of entrepreneurship to help change the culture. She wants to see the toy industry invite girls into the action/adventure space, and she’s making this happen with adventure dolls.

Artistic Expression Does Not Pedophilia Make

The new video by musical artist Sia, director Daniel Askill and choreographer Ryan Heffington for Sia’s emotional song “Elastic Heart” starring actor Shia LaBeouf and child dance star Maddie Ziegler has been called a “poetic cage battle” the singer sets up as “two warring ‘sia’ self states”. And it has people stirred up and shouting accusations of pedophilia. It may be the age and gender difference. It may be the nude bodysuits meant to showcase the choreography without distraction. It may be that people are so unfamiliar to the type of deep art Sia creates and with viewing raw, poetic, primal dance that they do not recognize art when they see it.

In the heat of the "Elastic Heart" cage battle.

In the heat of the “Elastic Heart” cage battle.

 

But to call it pedophilia.

I am not comfortable with this.

It is critically important that we act as a village around our children and as a society condemn pedophilia and other child-focused sexual predilections and regard them as taboo.   (cc: toy companies and tween clothing brands who make millions off of corporate pedophilia with hyper-sexualized apparel and products as you groom children into becoming cradle-to-grave consumers)

It is equally critical we allow girls to have relationships with people outside of sexual categorizations: Pedophilia – Lolita – Slut. Or the seemingly less dangerous: Little Girlfriend – Future Heart breaker – Playground Crush – Future Wife – Future Stripper.  When we sexualize the motives, relationships, and bodies of girls as they move through life we cut short their ability to experience the full scope of human interaction.

Girls are not sexual objects. A girl’s identity does not come from nor should it be framed by her status to a male in an actual or more often times perceived sexual relationship.

Similarly, when we label every interaction between a grown man and a girl child with a knee jerk “pedophilia” cry, we criminalize men on the sole nature of their biological sex. This not only creates a false and unnecessary air of suspicion around men who harbor no ill intent toward our children, it robs girls of half the population that could have been a teacher, mentor, loving family member, coach, or fellow artist to her.

This I identified with immediately: that sense of wonder, tenderness, abject fear, and bewilderment you feel when your loved one afflicted with mental illness is asleep before you.

This I identified with immediately: that sense of wonder, tenderness, abject fear, and bewilderment you feel when your loved one afflicted with mental illness is asleep before you.

We must understand what pedophilia truly is, what it looks like, and what it isn’t. When we cry wolf with ‘pedophilia’ too easily we undermine efforts to stop true child exploitation and abuse. This isn’t that.

This performance is not pedophilia. This dance is not sexual. The human form is not always sexual. Nudity is not always sexual. Rather, nude body suits meant specifically to create a blank canvas for the dance to play out instead of highlight the dancers are not sexual (in this context). Interactions between a male and female are not always sexual. A girl moving her body is not always for the sake of sexual titillation.

A girl has the right to take up space with her body. Move her body. Express raw emotion with her body. Create art with her body.

People do not have the right to always sexualize that. Any of that.

Pedophilia – I don’t think that word means what people think it means. By definition is a psychiatric disorder in which a post-pubescent teen over the age of 16 or adult has a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children, usually under the age of 11 years old but as old as 13 years old. More common in men than women, it affects less than 5% of the population. Pedophilia can have comorbidity with other psychopathologies and does not always lead to child molestation.

Or music videos.

Sia’s issues the following statement: “I anticipated some ‘pedophelia!!!’ Cries for this video. All I can say is Maddie and Shia are two of the only actors I felt could play these two warring ‘sia’ self states. I apologize to those who feel triggered by ?#?ElasticHeart.? My intention was to create some emotional content, not to upset anybody.”

Sia’s statement helps us to understand the two dancers represent the two battling sides of herself, possibly referring to mental illness. We see a precursor to this in the “Chandelier” video, in which Maddie Ziegler gives an equally haunting and gorgeous performance. “Elastic Heart” is a continuation of that battle. It is the self fighting against self. It has also been interpreted as a sibling or parent/child relationship. As someone who parents a child with anxiety, I immediately recognized and identified with the struggle, heart ache, exhaustion, fear, and unconditional love Shia LaBeouf portrays in such a soulful way toward the girl, in all her many emotional states. Maddie Ziegler is….beyond. Clearly she is a gifted child whose talent in dance and depth of emotion extends far, far past her twelve years of age. During a conversation with friends, several who deal with mental illness said they immediately connected with Maddie’s portion of this story.

And that is all we have here, folks. A story crafted by a group of artists. It was suggested in conversation to me that the sex of either performer could be changed but the dance kept the same and the story would endure.

The sexualization of girls is a significant and massive continuum we need to continue to talk about and stand up to. Part of that fight is making sure that anytime a girl takes up space with her body she is not stigmatized into a premature and erroneous sex object paradigm.

A moment where unconditional love and a tearing of the selves takes place.

A moment where unconditional love and a tearing of the selves takes place.

“Elastic Heart”
Sia

And another one bites the dust
Oh why can I not conquer love?
And I might have thought that we were one
Wanted to fight this war without weapons

And I wanted it, I wanted it bad
But there were so many red flags
Now another one bites the dust
Yeah, let’s be clear, I’ll trust no one

You did not break me
I’m still fighting for peace

Well, I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart,
But your blade it might be too sharp
I’m like a rubber band until you pull too hard,
I may snap and I move fast
But you won’t see me fall apart
‘Cause I’ve got an elastic heart

I’ve got an elastic heart
Yeah, I’ve got an elastic heart

And I will stay up through the night
Let’s be clear, won’t close my eyes
And I know that I can survive
I’ll walk through fire to save my life

And I want it, I want my life so bad
I’m doing everything I can
Then another one bites the dust
It’s hard to lose a chosen one

You did not break me
I’m still fighting for peace

Well, I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart,
But your blade it might be too sharp
I’m like a rubber band until you pull too hard,
I may snap and I move fast
But you won’t see me fall apart
‘Cause I’ve got an elastic heart
[3x]

I’ve got an elastic heart

Thank you MaryEllen, Pearl, Debra, Imelda, Courtney, Gabrielle, Erika, Brystan, Leland, Emily, Laura, Miranda, Casey, Kerry, Christine, Jess, Tyler, Bil, Christina, Mike, Hayley, Brandi, Karen and Mary for the thoughtful discussion today.

Melissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween”. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com. Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can read her blog at: http://pigtailpalsblog.com or connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals).