Dolls to Tackle Difficult Topics

Marina Bychkova creates dolls to “confront difficult topics that transcend the innocence normally associated with dolls.”  Touching on themes of social injustice and women’s rights, Marina is able to face the “ugly realities of life.”  I think this is an effective way to discuss and confront the taboo subject of sexuality.  Many dolls nowadays are made to be asexual, with no developed sex organs.  This can cause body issues and insecurity for young girls. Marina Bychkova wanted to make dolls that were vulnerable with no shame on the female body.

The keyword “Body” by Kelly Hager in Keywords for Children’s Literature relates to Marina Bychkova’s dolls. “…engagement with the body and its physical vulnerability is the genre of young adult fiction, with its focus on sexual maturation, orientation, body size, and physical abuse.” Marina Bychkova is touching on all these difficult subjects in her dolls.  Young adults are becoming of age; developing morally, intellectually, spiritually, and sexually.  These dolls show the vulnerable state all these children are experiencing through a type of media that they are all familiar with, dolls. The keyword “body” also discusses how “we are invested in ignoring the existence of children’s sexuality.” This taboo subject of sexuality is discussed throughout the book “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.  Pecola was thought of as “ruined” after being raped, meaning she lost her innocence and purity.  The Keywords essay on “Body” discusses how the ‘value’ of a female body is considered  crucial.  In Pecola’s case, her loss of virginity was out of her hands – she was the victim.

How might a doll that was made to look like she had experienced rape have helped Pecola through this tough time and confusion?  Do you think Marina Bychkova’s dolls act like a gateway for communication into these taboo subjects? Is there any other ways you can think of to open up these conversations on the “body”?


6 thoughts on “Dolls to Tackle Difficult Topics”

  1. I think these dolls are a really interesting way of exposing different topics that need to be discussed! I wasn’t sure what to think when I started watching that video, but when it was over all I could think about was how influential the video alone was on me. Everyone goes through tough times throughout their lives, and normalizing certain situations may be a really beneficial way to help girls feel like they are not alone.

  2. After reading your post and thinking about your questions, I think that a doll that would have been made to look like she has experienced rape would have helped her through this time by just knowing and feeling that she isn’t alone. She could relate to the doll and know that there are others that have been through this and she is still loved…like Pecola would have loved her doll that experienced it.

  3. Although I would imagine that the typical buyers for these dolls would realistically be adults, as most parents do not want to expose their children to the violent realities of the world, and therefore “rid them of their innocence”, I do think that these dolls would positively impact Pecola. She may not have completely understood the rape that took place, but she was aware that her pregnancy had been caused by her father, and all media portrayals of pregnancy are of consenting adult women. It may be difficult to normalize a young pregnant doll that represents child molestation or rape to the point where young girls understand that they are not alone, however I do think that having a figure, like a doll that she idolized, would have been beneficial for Pecola in order to realize that she was not alone and that there is beauty even when bad things happen. These dolls go against her mother’s statement that sexualized women are “ruined”, because they display horrible realities of life but still appear beautiful in a way.

  4. Marina Bychkova’s dolls really struck me. I had never seen anything quite like this before and am very impressed by the idea. I was first concerned that this sort of doll is not appropriate for young children, but then better understood. As young girl grow, they will be exposed to a variety of situations and to shield them from these realities forever is not realistic. I see these dolls not as an everyday plaything for girls, but more of a coping mechanism for girls who have experienced these harsh realities firsthand.

  5. I love this! I think these dolls are great because they promote a realistic view of unfortunate things that can happen to women. They also may help a young girl’s self image as she is developing and going through puberty. Like you stated, traditional Barbie dolls appear asexual with no real sex organs, which makes it hard for girls to identify. I also thought your question about Pecola benefiting from one of these dolls was interesting. I’m sure it would’ve made her less confused about her situation, and possibly could’ve encouraged her to press charges.

  6. I saw this video floating around Facebook a few weeks back and I’m glad you brought it to light in the aspect of this class. Traditionally, dolls have portrayed what it looks like to be flawless and have a perfect life. But what is a girl to do when dolls are a large role model for her, but when something happens in her life that is less than desirable, such as abuse, she can’t attribute it to what a perfect life is? I think these dolls could be a gateway for women to discuss the flaws that may happen in their lives without having to be ashamed. Thanks for sharing this!

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