Yesterday Jezebel ran an article making the plea to parents that if they don’t buy their children racist gifts, they shouldn’t buy their children sexist gifts for Christmas. It’s a nice thought and something I agree with, as a rule, but the article is so all over the place and misinformed at the end of it I just had a blistering rage headache. The article starts off with:
I call her Polly Prostitute, partly due to her fashion choices which includes boots, heels, and minis that barely cover her ass. Before you get mad at me for “slut-shaming,” this is a doll marketed to little girls.
And sometimes little girls wear miniskirts and boots, and this does not make them “sluts.” Or sex workers. And if a woman grows up to be a sex worker, that is a different issue entirely, and it in no way means these women don’t also deserve respect. I get that highly sexualized dolls are a problem. I also get that there are many alternatives for parents out there looking for dolls that aren’t wearing revealing clothing or with makeup painted on their faces. But this still doesn’t make Barbie or Polly a “slut” – and it doesn’t make a woman a slut either.
I grew up playing with dolls. I still like dolls. I let my daughter have almost every sort of doll. I consider myself a pretty militant feminist. My daughter and I discuss her dolls, what clothing they wear, but more importantly, I tell her that no one is ever allowed to treat her in any sort of ill manner because of the clothing choices she makes. I teach my sons that they need to respect women regardless of what they do or don’t wear. The article then goes on to say something I find even more troubling:
I’m here to tell you that these toys are not cute, nor are they a phase girls are ever allowed to “grow out” of. This focus on appearance never disappears from a girl’s life; it simply mutates. That, my friends, is dangerous. We wonder how and why girls get so obsessed with their bodies. Mystified, we conclude this preoccupation is “natural.” Kids keep getting sexualized and sexually abused.
The sad fact is, kids would be sexually abused even if there were no dolls in the world. To make a connection between the sexual abuse of children and the fact that some children’s dolls wear makeup or revealing clothing is beyond offensive because it comes pretty close to blaming children and what they play with for their own abuse. A child is no more likely to be sexually abused if she is playing with a doll or with a rock.
Parents need more choices for toys for kids that encourage open-ended play and foster imagination and intellect. No child should ever be sexually harmed, but to blame what a child plays with for their own abuse is amazingly disrespectful to these victims. The conversation about how soceity sexualizes children is an important one to have, but it’s not one that should include the connection that a girl who plays with Polly Pocket is, to paraphrase this entire shitshow of an article, “asking for it” just because Polly wears a little plastic skirt.