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Barbies, Bratz, Porn, and Justice

In a Times Literary Supplement review, Natasha Walters’s Living Dolls: the Return of Sexism hits on a conversation point that is common in the Hood household: the slutting of dolls and the inevitable negative impact on our girls.

When girls aged five to eight played with a Barbie, and were then asked about their own body image, they reported more dissatisfaction and a greater desire to be thin than did girls who had either been playing with a larger doll or who had not been playing with any doll.

Barbie, with her long legs and large breasts [[Hoods’ note:  we had to create new clothes for the last Barbie my daughter was given]], and Bratz [[Hoods’ note:  we’ve drawn the line here:  no Bratz allowed]], with fishnet stockings, feather boa and up-for-anything attitude, are not “just toys”; they indoctrinate girls into the culture of pornography wherein girls are raised not only to be thin and compulsively critical of their own physiques, but also to be “babes”.

These dolls form part of the pornography that has entered mainstream culture to transform girls into animate versions of the sexist and sexy dolls they embrace in innocent delight.

In another (far more mature) review of the same book, to which I won’t link, the point is made that the pornification of our culture is having far-reaching negative effects on girls, women and society:

“Some years ago, four ingenious psychologists conducted a study in which young men and women were instructed to complete a short maths [Brit-speak…they are either so smart or so postmodern in the UK they have more than one math; Mason can clarify] exercise while wearing either a sweater or a bathing suit. The women wearing the bathing suit performed less well on the maths test than did the women who were wearing a sweater.”

The upshot is that “with her painfully inflated breasts and surgically manipulated features,” the average woman “empowering herself” in the media “is as much a slave to cultural oppression as the poor African girl who has her genitals mutilated, or the Victorian virgin who would never dare to show an ankle.”

I think it’s safe to say that this is an issue of social justice, even if it is not trendy to name it as such. So I’m filing it accordingly. If I am contributing to the pornification of my daughter, have I done what is right by her?

The more pornified we become, the less oppressive older customs look. (I know Matthew Mason thinks that head-coverings weren’t such a bad idea.)