Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Plea to Toy Companies and Consumers

It was a few days before Christmas, and my husband and I found ourselves stumbling around the toy store and fumbling through nearly-empty shelves, trying to find a few good toys last minute. We'd realized that my son's big present from Santa might not arrive in the mail on time and we wanted something special for under the tree in case it didn't come.

I found myself in the girl's section- an endless row of pink and sparkles and everything toy companies consider girly. I joked to Cameron that we should look for the "Shop till you cook" game we'd heard one comedian joke about. I usually roll my eyes when I am in the girl's section. Don't get me wrong, I am a girly girl and I grew up playing with Barbie, but as a mother I step cautiously when it comes to the dolls I let Sunshine play with. In a culture where eating disorders have reached epidemic proportions and beauty is so narrowly defined, I worry about the messages my daughter picks up. I suppose "worry" is an understatement; My anxiety about how to navigate this whole issue is something I struggle with continually.

Nothing could prepare me for what I came across. I knew it was bad... I'd seen the completely unrealistic proportions of Barbie before... but what I saw hit me like semi.

These images came up in google search- I don't own them.

They are called "Winx" and the picture really doesn't do it justice (maybe the camera does add ten pounds). In person, this thing looked... sick.

 Barbie is generally curvy and resembles a very exaggerated female figure, but this doll (which I can't find the exact picture of- darn it) looked like the poster girl for eating disorders.

The Winx dolls were nestled right next to the Monster High dolls.

Which resemble anorexic girls dressed up in "monster/tart" costumes.

And finally, I came across the "La Dee Da" line.  The picture speaks for itself.

These are not human proportions. They aren't even exaggerated human proportions. At this rate, I'm pretty sure the next doll line will look something like this:

I try to be open-minded and give toy companies the benefit of the doubt. I'm sure they do a lot of market research and spend a substantial amount of time and money trying to create something that will sell. I just wish they would take a page from the Hippocratic oath and make "do no harm" a part of their design plan.

Here are just a few sobering statistics from The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD):

• Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents.
• 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.8
• 25% of college-aged women engage in bingeing and purging as a weight-management technique.
• The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old
• Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S.
• Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
• 47% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.
• 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.
• 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
• 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.

You see, my daughter's cheeks are full with baby fat and she is just beginning to understand her body for all that it can do. She gallops across the house and jumps on the furniture. She is in a ballet class and breaks out her sweet ballet moves whenever we turn on the radio.

She loves herself.

Here she is modeling a pig hat with a red shirt and tutu. She is also in the process of finding her own unique sense of style. It's pretty awesome.

Cocooned in her innocence, she has yet to feel self-conscious about her appearance. She is keenly aware of which color dress each Disney princess wears. "Not the blue Cinderella dress, but the purple Rapunzel one," she'll declare as we pick out her outfit. Thankfully, the movies and dolls she plays with have only seemed to influence her clothing color. But, she's constantly changing. She's paying attention to the way she fits into this world. No matter how many times I tell her how strong and intelligent and kind she is, she keeps asking me if she is "cute" and "bootyful". "Of course!" I answer. But oh, how I worry.

While I was in the doll aisle, the only dolls I found that I would get for my little girl were Barbie dolls. One was an astronaut costume for Barbie. The other was a Barbie doll dressed as a teacher.

Thank you, Barbie. You're not perfect, but in a sea of boxes filled with sickly-thin bobble-headed tarts, you are a breath of fresh air.

Parents- please don't give this crap a market. Just don't buy it. Toy companies- please, please, please stop making this crap.

For the sake of my chubby cheeked, crooked pigtailed, gap-toothed little girl who is completely aware of just how awesome and "bootyful" she is- let's not let her, or any other little girl, lose sight of that.


  1. You hit the nail on the head. Keep fighting the good fight!

  2. So sad! Those numbers are scary to hear. I remember in SECOND grade, sitting on the floor, listening to our teacher read us a story, and the other girls and I were comparing ourselves and seeing who had the smallest thighs. Sad!

  3. Haha, this is Megan. Didn't realize Ben was signed in on the iPad. :)

  4. I have learned that I just go mad trying to shop for toys at Target or FM and certainly ToysRUs. I like to look on craigslist and "smart toy stores" like Lakeshore, the gift shops at children's museums, and even Barnes & Noble. Sex sells, but I don't want it to work on preschoolers. Keep fighting for yourself and kids! And who (in my generation, probably same as yours) would have thought that BARBIE would be the least of all doll evils!