Girlhood and Dolls

The American Girl line “Truly Me” and the Evolution of Barbie can be related to the keyword “girlhood” and we can also relate this to the American Girl novels and Little Women. In several of the American Girl Doll novels, we see many of the girls playing with dolls throughout the novels. We also see this in Little Women, when Beth is treating her dolls as if they are real. As a baby, many girls are drawn to dolls. They comfort them, and as they get older they begin to act as a mother figure to them. An aspect of “girlhood” plays with the idea of what do girls do when they are girls.

The “Truly Me” from the American Girl line goes further with this idea and the keyword “girlhood”. They knew many girls loved playing with dolls at a young age, they created a line that allows girls to match what they look like to these dolls. I know when I was a young girl, I owned an American Girl doll from the Truly Me Dolls and I loved playing with it and dressing the doll to look like me. This leads me to the “Cool Thing” I have chosen.

In the Barbie Evolution video, it explains that the world of Barbie is beginning to evolve. New dolls are being made so that girls everywhere now have infinitely more ways to play out their stories through Barbie. They are looking at more diversity and new body types in their lines. They believe by doing this, it will create a sense of inclusion. This is interesting to me because they want their products to be empowering. For example, they are creating girl Barbies that are Presidents, Vice Presidents, Game Developer, and Spies. Many girls and women can be looked down upon in society if they become or want to become spies, game developers, or the President.

This brings me to something interesting and also to a few questions. Why are boys looked down upon for playing with dolls? In the Barbie Evolution video, we only see girls playing in the video with the Barbie dolls. Also will they be making different versions of Ken? If the girls in the American Girl Dolls novels and Little Women didn’t play with dolls, would they be seen as “tomboys”? Also in the real world, does “girlhood” mean girls have to play with dolls?

Mattel_TheEvolutionofBarbieSlideshow16 Evolution of BarbieSAM_6802“Truly Me”

7 thoughts on “Girlhood and Dolls”

  1. Whether the new Barbie line promotes inclusivity or continues to be exclusive is something to think about critically, for sure. The company has made new models, but there is still an even larger array of dolls that are the perfectly sized, blonde-haired beauties. This is similar to the Truly Me American Girl dolls; they all look very similar, despite their hair and eye colors, but have the same face and body structures, and non-white dolls are extremely rare. Girls of color, and short or curvy girls, or anyone that is not white and blonde, apparently, have limited options. Also, like you mentioned, where are the boys? They can’t play with them, and the only male doll available is Ken, who possibly has a few “friend” dolls, who has remained the same since the beginning, and doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

  2. As far as boys playing with dolls, my cousin’s first child was a boy. Once she became pregnant with her second child, she though buying her son a baby doll would help him understand and relate to his new baby sibling. Once my cousin gave birth to her second child, the older son would change his baby’s diaper while my cousin would change the new baby’s diaper. When he would bring his baby in public he treated it how his mom treated his little sibling, he was not looked down upon. I thought this approach to understanding his new sibling was very helpful for him in this huge adjustment.

  3. Dolls are a way that young children view themselves and their position in society – they often act out their dreams using the doll as a medium. As most dolls are female it is difficult for boys to do this and identify with the doll in the same way that girls can. If Barbie realizes this, and understands that boys can become just as interested in dolls as their girl counterparts more Ken dolls, and Ken doll variations will surely be made.

  4. It is very interesting to think about why boys often cannot play with dolls without the behavior being frowned upon. I think this is because the world really exemplifies the male gender and striving for anything else is seen as not good enough. Girls can usually play with boys toys without strange looks because our society thinks of the male gender as better and more important.

    When looking at the Barbie doll, I have also thought about the image it places in girls minds about how their body should look. This is one of the only popular dolls where the figure seems to be above adolescent age.

  5. I think you posed some great questions here. One thing that struck me when reading this is that I can’t think of a popular word like “Tomboy” to describe a male who prefers to do feminine things. I find it interesting that society appears to be much more accepting of girls taking on “boy” characteristics than boys taking on “girl” characteristics. Even in the case of male dolls, such as Ken, the marketing appears to still be aimed at girls.

  6. I agree with the points in your post. The books we read and the movies we saw in class often show a young girl playing with her “baby” doll. Throughout history girls have been entertaining themselves with their dolls. The dolls of long ago were homemade. Over time these dolls have evolved to be much more sophisticated. Girls now have very elaborate Barbie Dolls and the American Girl Doll.

    In the past girls took care of their dolls, as a mother would care for their baby. In more recent years dolls are purchased to look like their child owner. These “Truly Me Dolls” have become playmates instead of the more traditional view of a “baby” doll that needs to be cared for.

    The Barbie Dolls we see today are also more like their young girl owner. Barbie Dolls now have imperfect bodies and depict more current occupations. There is a Barbie Eye Doctor, Scientist and Zookeeper. Now girls can see their Barbie Doll as a role model instead of just something to play with.

  7. As we have learned numerous times in our class from various readings, doll play is a very typical aspect of girlhood. In the case of “Little Women,” Beth plays with and cares for all of her dolls, regardless of what they look like. Although all little girls may not accept all forms of dolls as compassionately as Beth does, we can still see a common theme with doll play where the child takes on the role of the “mother” or “caretaker” and the doll becomes the “baby” or “child” to the young girl. In this instance, I think that it is less likely for a girl to compare herself to the likeness of her doll, or to view her as a role model, than it is for a girl to view the doll as something to nurture. On the contrary, if a young girl were to compare herself to that of the typical Barbie doll, I think it is important that there exist such a doll that isn’t just platinum blonde, blue-eyed and seemingly perfect in every way. In regards to some of the other comments criticizing the current selection of Barbie dolls and how representative they are of all body types, I believe that as Barbie has just now made the switch to creating various styles and body types for their dolls, there isn’t a wide array of styles available yet. Although, I think they have moved their company in the right direction and I am excited about what they introduce next.

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