Do all these diverse dolls really make a difference to children’s selves?

Just children played, there were dolls. They were made from corn husks and animal bones, soapstone and wood, leather and wax. And then, in 1959, from 11 inch plastic molded into non-human feminine curves. Six decades after Barbie, there’s Glitter Girls, LOL Surprising, dozens of Disney princesses and overage teenagers from at least two rival high schools (Monster and Rainbow).

There is also a small industry of YouTube creators who spend hours unboxing it all. I recently spent 45 minutes watching an elderly woman unfold three Rainbow High Slumber Party dolls and describe everything from their finished paper boxes to Manicure on their little rubber hands. I came out of my trance while she was petting a pink-haired doll named Brianna Dulce, whose hoodie pocket was unfortunately closed. “Honestly, she’s a doll, so we shouldn’t expect more than that anyway,” the woman happily concluded.

But we expect more from the dolls. More and more. They are cultural jigsaw puzzles embedded in adult memories and are part of the media vortex that shapes future generations. “They are also a prediction of what we would like to see in our society,” said the sociologist Dr. Elizabeth Sweet, a professor at San Jose State University who studies gender inequality and toys. And since at least the 18th century, when mass production of dolls began in France and Germany, they have become lightning rods, often blamed for maintaining narrow standards of beauty, negatively affect young girls as soon as they begin to get involved. What does it mean to be beautiful and want and see.

Rainbow High Doll
Original Bratz Doll, Yasmin
Creature World Doll

“Dolls play an important role in the conversation about belonging,” Diana Leon-Boys, Ph.D., a professor of communications at the University of South Florida who focuses on girlhood and Latinx studies. “If you have a kid who doesn’t see themselves through the dolls they play with, it’s going to be hard for them to fully understand ‘Who am I in this whole grand scheme of things? How do you look at me? do they see me?'”

Until very recently, that sense of belonging was limited to slim, white, fit transgender girls. In 1986, the first three times American Girl Doll was born, part of a new line that was supposed to be all about education and empowerment, with each doll sharing a story about the part she played in American history. All are white. Seven years later, when the first Black American Girl, Addy, appears, the nine-year-old is trying to break free from slavery.

History of the brand

Since then, American Girl has featured four other Black American Girls – including one whose wealthy family contributed to the pre-Civil War culture of New Orleans, and another whose story happened. in Detroit during the Civil Rights Movement. There was a Native American girl and a Jew. You can get an American Girl with hearing aids or prosthetics. In December, the company announced American Girl of the Year 2022: Corinne Tan, a Chinese-American girl who grew up in Aspen, Colorado, whose story mentions anti-racism anti-asia and the dynamics of blended families. Do all these diverse dolls really make a difference to children’s selves?

Charles Jones

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