How weird is this? A Spanish toy company has developed a doll that mimics the act of breastfeeding. Little girls can put on a halter top with daisies that mark where there nipples are, triggering a suckling noise from the doll.
If you are anything like me, you have a strong gut reaction of “Ick.”
But why? I have no problem whatsoever with breastfeeding. I think it’s great and I think we should not shame mothers who do so. (Although, I do recall being shocked on one occasion to see a 4-year-old child suckling his mother’s huge and not hidden nipple. Power to her though, really, for the confidence and refusal to be shamed.)
Anyway, I think what’s distressing to me is the idea that children are playing with these dolls. I’m not sure we should give little girls dolls at all — feeding into the gender identity she will come to know as expected of her — but particularly dolls that are breastfeeding.
When I think of little girls playing with dolls, it is much in the same way that I would picture them playing with puppies, or younger siblings. Just something cute to play with. Yes, many or most girls probably do pretend to be the mommy to that baby; but at least they have other options. We’re giving them a powerful enough message in handing them these babies when they’re still young children.
But if we attach the doll to a simulated nipple attached to the girl, well, this pretty much leaves one option only: you are the baby mama. You should have a baby attached to your nipple. Girls have babies. That is what little girls should aspire to.
This is not what I want our children thinking.
Happily this doll has not reached international markets, according to the Daily Mail. I have serious doubts that it would succeed in the United States. I can picture, ironically, our conservatives outraged by this doll. This would be ironic because it truly furthers their ideology better than most dolls on the market.
In fact, Fox News had an article with a pretty hysterical “slippery slope” argument against the doll:
“What’s next?” wrote Eric Ruhalter, a parenting columnist for New Jersey’s Star Ledger. “Bebe Sot — the doll who has a problem with a different kind of bottle, and loses his family, job and feelings of self-worth? Bebe Limp — the male doll who experiences erectile dysfunction? Bebe Cell Mate — a weak, unimposing doll that experiences all the indignation and humiliation of life in prison?
“Toy themes should be age appropriate. I think so anyway.”
I agree, wholeheartedly, that toy themes should be age appropriate. To me, that begs the question: why do we give little girls dolls anyway? What purpose does it serve beyond gender identification (a questionable motive for putting toys in your child’s hands, I think)?
When I was little, I was lucky enough to have parents who gave me math games to play. I had creative grandparents who helped me build elaborate sand villages on flatbed trailers. (Okay, yes, I grew up in the country.) I had dolls, but they weren’t my favorite toys — they were so limited in scope. Do you really have to be born a country girl to grow up with some gender neutral play time?