Is This Barbie Alternative Really Progress?

Lammily, a crowdfunded plastic doll based on the proportions of an average 19-year-old girl (according to CDC data), has been named the new Barbie by dozens of top publications. Trading a tiny waist and permanently heeled feet for a more athletic figure, Lammily strives to show young girls that “reality is cool.” The doll's creator, Nickolay Lamm (age 26), came up with the design when he witnessed first hand the lack of realistic dolls on the market -- a problem that has been increasingly spotlighted as body positive movements gain momentum. While Lamm's doll is more realistically proportioned, it still falls far short of the lofty goals he set for it.

One of the most problematic issues with this doll is its lack of certain basic physical body parts. Yet again, a doll has been created with perky, nipple-less breasts -- a genetic phenomenon that, despite it’s ubiquity in doll world, is seemingly rarely discussed (or at least a Google search yielded few relevant results) -- and an unnaturally smooth and uncontoured crotch. With Lammily’s add-on sticker pack you can adorn your doll with acne, scars, cellulite, and stretch marks, but nipples and a vagina are still no where to be seen.

I find this both strange and worrying since, obviously, all women have nipples (no matter their breasts' size/shape/appearance) and vaginas. Yet, apparently Lamm has succumbed to the completely nonsensical hypersexualization of various parts of the female form that has taught us, among other things, that nipples are something to be hidden from view -- that we must cover them up with padding, and, if possible, erase them altogether -- and that vaginas are too shameful to acknowledge. To imply that these basic biological features are too risqué for young girls to witness is to prompt every girl to look down at her body and ask “If Lammily represents the average girl, and the average girl doesn’t have these, what is wrong with me?”

If this doll is being marketed as "realistic," it should not only represent the basic biological features all women have, but also represent all types of women. The Lammily doll, which is white, not only fails to reflect the lived reality of countless girls of color, but adds to a legacy of damage. As legendary sociologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark demonstrated in the Clark Doll Experiment, the race of dolls children play with not only reflects but may also impact their self-perception.

Lammily’s marketing further maintains this status quo by creating a new list of dangerous expectations. A promotional video for the doll clearly attempts to subvert standards set by Barbie by asking second graders what profession they think the Lammily doll might have. The students' answers -- including that Barbie would be a makeup artist while the Lammily doll would be a teacher -- have been regarded as proof that the doll is a success. But by forcing children to categorize some professions as suited for Barbie (bad) and others as fit for Lammily (good), we perpetuate stereotypes in the workplace and undermine millions of women’s livelihoods. Until watching the video, I was unaware that being a makeup artist, a profession that requires skill and creativity, is a bad thing.

Kudos to Lamm for entering the doll arena with a bold mission and good intentions, but they just aren’t enough. Lammily is a step forward, but not a solution or end point in the evolution of toys. While healthy proportions and a face that is light on makeup are great, Lammily is not realistic. In an effort to avoid important conversations, Lamm has produced yet another doll that shows young girls that the way they were born is in some way shameful. Rather than shaming girls for having nipples, pubic hair, or for striving for a certain profession, we need to show them that, as Lamm himself said, "reality is cool."

More articles by Category: Body image and body standards, Feminism, Girls, Media
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Pippa B
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