Growing up I truly loved my Barbies and Bratz dolls, but looking back I realize that there were not many other “girl toys” that carried the same popularity with them.
I love to tell stories. That’s why I love to read, write and act. This story-telling obsession can easily be traced back to my days huddled around my Barbie bin trying to play with friends, while simultaneously trying to direct what everyone was doing. I would re model the set over and over again and constantly change the relationship dynamics between dolls. “They’re sisters! No! They’re best friends! No they are best friend sisters!“
Some of my most fun days consisted of me scurrying around my room trying to set up the perfect doll neighborhood, before my brother came crashing in and switched my dolls heads around (it was not uncommon to find a white dolls face on a black dolls body).
There is no doubt in my mind that playing with dolls was an amazing way for me to use my imagination, but what I am pondering is how did the doll itself shape what “play” was? And how did that shape who I am today? Looking back at all of the dolls I played with, I notice trends. Though my white French Canadian Grandma handed me a black bratz doll for Christmas one year and exclaimed, “I found one that looks just like you!” this was not a usual event (hence the excitement)infact,the majority of my dolls were white. And out of these white dolls, at least 85% had blonde hair and blue eyes. And each and every one of these dolls were unrealistically skinny (even pregnant Barbie)!
The look of the dolls shaped how I played. They were always some prissy, girly- girl. That’s what their clothes were designed to make them.
In the long term the dolls shaped my image of beauty. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Those are two things I will always be envious of, yet I recognize that look as a style adventure I should never embark on! Despite what Nicki Manaj thinks looks good on black women…
I’m not saying that my childhood dolls have ruined my self confidence, or sense of worth, because honestly they haven’t. Obviously I still have more undeserved confidence than the average person because I can wear crocs and sweat pants in public without feeling any shame. But what I am saying, is that though the impact these dolls have made is small now, without the encouragement of many real-life beautiful and intelligent female role models, I may have never realized exactly how unrealistic these dolls are.
But now that we as a society have recognized the repeated glorification of unrealistic beauty, I am proud to say the way kids play is being updated by people like Dawn Nadeau and Julie Kerwin who have said, “We set out to design a series of figures with healthier breast, waist and hip ratios; fierce, strong females worthy of an active, save-the-world storyline that fosters creativity in kids,”. They have created a doll line called IAmElemental that encourages girls to learn about what they call “the seven elements of courage” and to also “play with power”.
With women like this I know that the future of dolls is in realisticly beautiful and very strong hands.
For more on these dolls, check out http://www.policymic.com/articles/89791/a-very-different-action-figure-hits-shelves-to-transform-how-girls-think-about-their-bodies?utm_source=policymicFB&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social