The latest viral worry is swirling as moms find the popular LOL dolls appear to have 'Hooker' attire when they're dipped under cold water. But is this really surprising, in an era where there's so much blatant false advertising to girls (and boys) when it comes to body image and body confidence? What can we do about it and when is enough enough?
You may have seen the uproar over the popular LOL dolls wearing what many moms are calling 'Hooker' wear when they're dipped under water. Videos are viral, as even news anchors are trying it out to see what happens when their child's presumed innocent LOL doll is submerged under ice-cold water.
And, yes...this is inappropriate--if for no other reason but that most parents and grandparents buying these have NO idea this is what happens (seems to be randomly, as not every doll changes) and should at least be informed before buying. (For its part, MGA, the company that makes the L.O.L Surprise! dolls, says they're 'fashion-forward and expressive,' but they hear the criticism and are addressing it 'comprehensive corrective measures,' that still allow the 'brand to be intact.' What the heck does THAT mean?)
But let's be honest.
Are we really THAT shocked?
For decades, we've been battling advertising that repeatedly preaches that young girls need to be pretty, cool, sexy and SKINNY.
Any mom with daughters knows that part of raising young females is teaching them about body image, self-image, body confidence, and navigating the tricky waters of society's constant barrage of sexy images, skinny models, and advertising that being "pretty" and "cool" is more important than being "smart" and "strong."
Related: 'Strong is the New Pretty'; Shows Us What Being a Girl is Really About
A simple scroll through Instagram and other social media sites shows us exactly how society views women. And even though our young girls may not be on those sites, that imagery is found in hundreds of other mediums- billboards, magazine covers, television shows, apps, games, and even toys.
A quick walkthrough Target in the "girl" section (which is not longer labeled as the girl section but still houses all the gender -typical girl toys) and you will be met with slim-figured Barbies and Disney Princesses with beautiful hair and amazing gowns. Some brands, like Barbie, have made a conscious effort to create dolls that are more inclusive of body types, sizes, and even creating their classic dolls in more proportionate dimensions.
In 2016, after-sales continued to plummet for the third year in a row, Mattel recognized that it needed to make a change. Their dolls now come in petite, tall, and curvy with a variety of hair colors, skin tones, and careers. Of course, there are still some of the fantastical Barbies riding a unicorn with a pink flowing dress, or mermaids with long flowing hair, but the efforts haven't gone unnoticed. Mattel's sales have steadily increased since then.
But despite some brands' efforts, it is still apparent that many toy manufacturers still lean towards promoting the common image of certain body types being the most desirable. In fact, even Mattel's push for the new-age Barbie came on the heels of society's changing ideals of "the perfect body type." With stars like Kim Kardashian West, Beyonce, and Cardi B. on the scene, "sexy" has turned more towards the curvy women than the traditional "skinny is sexy." So are brands doing girls a favor by adding more body types to their line ups? Or are they just promoting what society deems as the best- for now anyways?
In addition to the body image of many dolls today, the gender stereotypes of what girls should be doing and what girls should like still reigns supreme. Many "girl" toys are still centered around stereotypical female roles like house cleaning, taking care of children, or being a teacher or nurse. Some brands, like Barbie, have opened up their dolls careers to things like astronauts, doctors, veterinarians, and scientists. All these dolls are often still in heels and have an air of sex appeal to them, though. You will be hard-pressed to find a doll that promotes a safe body image as well as give young girls a positive outlook on future careers or a healthy lifestyle.
And then there are the ones that just hide their inappropriateness altogether...until one mom takes it viral.
We decided it was time to pull this article back up. It's from Jodi Bondi Norgaard, who is the founder and CEO of the Dream Big Toy Company. She has a print book coming out in October, More Than A Doll, and you can get her Kindle version today. She has been shattering gender stereotypes and grooming issues for years, and this article from several years ago shows where her efforts started...and stalled. Thanks a lot, Congress, for continuing to support this ridiculous deception for our girls. In this previously published article, Norgaard talks of the Truth in Advertising Act of 2014. Since that act did not pass (hello lobbies), another Truth in Advertising Act of 2016 was introduced, but still?
Companies continue to bombard us with messages our daughters and sons simply don't need.
Stand up against this, mamas...take note, demand change, and join Norgarrd and others of us as we fight for our children to remain children with healthy body images and confidences.
Thank you to Jodi Bondi Norgaard, Founder & CEO of the Dream Big Toy Company for contributing her story. Originally Published in 2015
I never intended to go into the toy business seven years ago, but imagine browsing the store for toys with your 9-year-old daughter and she picks up a doll wearing a half-shirt, bellybutton ring, eye shadow and its name on the hang tag is 'Lovely Lola.'
"Mommy, is this doll for me to play with?" she asks.
That's what happened to me, and it inspired me to create the Go! Go! Sports Girl doll collection, designed to empower girls to be active, promote healthy life skills, and encourage creative play through sport over fashion and body image.
Since my 'Ah-ha' (or 'oh-no'!) moment seven years ago, my journey has been eye-opening. My questions have always been, 'Why aren't we ALL encouraging our girls to be strong, smart, and adventurous? Why is it so important to focus on appearance rather than ability? What is the downside to encouraging girls to do their best?'
Related: Building Positive Body Image: 8 Tips to Help Your Child Love Her Body
Then I started reading statistics:
- 3 of the most common mental-health problems among girls (eating disorders, depression or depressed mood/self-esteem) are linked to the presentation of women in the media
- 42% of girls in grades 1-3 want to be thinner
- 51% of 9-10 year old girls feel better about themselves when they're dieting
- 53% of 13 year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies
- 62% of girls don't think they "measure up" in some way
- By the time they're 17, these children have seen 250,000 TV commercials telling them they should be a decorative object, sex object or a body size they can never achieve
- 78% of 17 year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies
- 30% of High School girls and 16% of High School boys suffer from disordered eating
- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses
- 50% of women 18 - 25 would rather be hit by a truck than be fat
- 80% of women feel worse about themselves after seeing a beauty ad
In July 2011, The American Medical Association announced its adoption of a new policy to discourage the rampant use of photoshopping by advertisers. In its policy, the AMA cites the connection between the practice, the subsequent distribution of altered/unrealistic images, and adolescent health problems, particularly body image and eating disorders.
Advertisers commonly alter photographs to enhance the appearance of models' bodies, and such alterations can contribute to unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image - especially among impressionable children and adolescents. A large body of literature links exposure to media-propagated images of unrealistic body image to eating disorders and other child and adolescent health problems. The AMA adopted new policy to encourage advertising associations to work with public and private sector organization...to develop guidelines for advertisements that would discourage the altering of photographs in a manner that could promote unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image.
As I say to my three kids, 'I have had enough!' I am a founding member of the Brave Girl Alliance. A group of businesses, experts, not-for-profit organizations, authors, activists, artists, parents, educators, adults, and girls who have come together to ask media content creators and large corporations and retailers to make a commitment to support girls' empowerment. Our new campaign is called the Truth In Advertising Act of 2014 (HR4341). We want to make sure that all consumers, especially children, know when a human body has been altered in an ad. While we assume no ill-intent on behalf of advertisers and their agencies, it's past time for them to be accountable for the side effects of how they sell, not just what they sell.
In June, I will launch a series of books to go along with the six Go! Go! Sports Girls. They will be sold individually and as a doll/book set called Read & Play. The books and dolls in the series encourage all girls to dream big and work hard to achieve their goals and have fun while doing so. All six Read & Plays recently won the highest award in the toy industry, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award.
Image: Happy Owl/Shutterstock