The Gender Politics of Toys Part III: The Lammily “Average is Beautiful” Doll

07 March 2014 Categories: Boys and Girls, Uncategorized

Where is the male counterpart? Do only girls need proportionally human dolls? (Photo via Lammily.com)

Where is the male counterpart? Do only girls need proportionally human dolls? (Photo via Lammily.com)

When I wrote the articles, The Gender Politics of Toys Part I and The Gender Politics of Toys Part II, I had not envisioned the need for a three part series. However, despite my advocacy for true gender equality and my bringing attention to society ignoring the suffering and needs of boys while championing girls, the media has not brought attention to this problem. In fact, in the latest toy news, the powerful mainstream media has been assisting a Pittsburg artist, Nickolay Lamm, in stimulating the crowd funding for a new alternative to the Barbie doll: Lammily, with the slogan, “Average is Beautiful”.

At least Barbie isn't THIS drastic in promoting impossible body image standards! Why aren't parents concerned how these standards affect their sons?

At least Barbie isn’t THIS drastic in promoting impossible body image standards! Why aren’t parents concerned with how these standards affect their sons? (Photo via ToyArk.com)

Although this is a very positive development, it doesn’t take a thinking, socially conscious person long to realize that this female doll has no male counterpart. Buying into the myth that girls and women suffer more pressure (and thus more angst) to look a certain way, the Lammily doll ignores that boys, also, need an action figure doll that looks more proportionally human. Would the mainstream media had spread this story had Lamm created a male doll instead of a female doll?

Male action figure dolls are often far more drastic than Barbie in their unattainable body proportions. Yet parents, researchers and society as a whole does not seem at all concerned with how these dolls affect their sons’ self esteem or body image. It seems as if parents don’t concern themselves at all with the often secret angst boys feel about their bodies and body image, being trained by the media to believe that only girls feel pressure to meet a certain standard of physical beauty. I wonder, how many parents of sons have ever wondered if their sons feel they are beautiful?  How many mothers and fathers actually tell their sons they are beautiful?

My son and I watched a news interview with Lamm and in response, I sent him the following email:

Hi Nickolay,

I am a researcher, mental health counselor, author and mother of a 20 year old son. I have been working with youth for two decades. I have been trusted with the angst of thousands of boys and girls as young as toddlers and as old as college age. I am disheartened that your attempt at making more realistic dolls has excluded boys, seeming to cater to what is politically correct in society: A focus on girls while ignoring boys.

My son and I cringed at a comment you made in a news story, “If I can feel inadequate at times, I can’t imagine what women have to go through who are subject to much higher beauty standards than us men”.

We disagree and we discussed this prior to me writing. As a woman myself, as the mother of a son and as a child and adolescent mental health counselor, I want you to be aware that boys and young men suffer incredible pressure to live up to impossible standards of physical attractiveness, all while they get the message their entire lives that “boys can’t be beautiful” and “girls are more beautiful than boys”.

As a woman and when I was a girl, I suffered no more pressures or insecurities than my male friends or partners suffered; in fact I bore far less burden because I am female- As an adult, I was able to heal from those youthful insecurities with supports and affirmations that men are not provided in this society. While our society is set up to remind girls and women how beautiful they are, boys are rarely told they are beautiful. They are only told they aren’t desirable unless they have the bodies of ripped body builders.

Have you looked at Barbie’s Ken doll or any of the action figure dolls for boys? The musculature, groin and body proportions on the male dolls are just as impossible as Barbie. It perplexes me when I see people in our society, especially men, who are in a position to stand up for both girls and boys and their suffering, but who instead present gender issues in a false “female victim”/”male privilege” manner, ignoring the equal (or in many cases worse) suffering of males in our society.

If you had focused your entire project on an “average is beautiful” male action figure doll, not a female doll, you would not have received the attention of the powerful media outlets that you received. They are politically motivated and politically charged and focusing on boys as victims is not something they accept.

Why not work for true gender equality and put out an “average is beautiful” (and yes, use the word “beautiful”) male action figure doll?

-Laurie A. Couture

4 Responses to “The Gender Politics of Toys Part III: The Lammily “Average is Beautiful” Doll”

  1. Luke 7 March 2014 at 4:02 pm (PERMALINK)

    Great points brought up again Laurie. Nobody really seems to care much about male body image issues.

    Another important aspect is male height. Pressuring women to be skinny is annoying and all, but at least fat can be lost. I dunno how every boy is supposed to grow to 5’10-6′ in order to be “real men.”

    Author
  2. Laura Schuerwegen 8 March 2014 at 3:12 am (PERMALINK)

    I agree! I have been saying this for so long, but it always seems to fall in deaf ears.
    When we talk about girls and oversexualized dress, what about boys and the unavailability of choice? If anything, boys [are] so much more gender constrict[ed] than girls.

    Author
  3. Megan DePerro 18 March 2014 at 12:14 am (PERMALINK)

    As a long time supporter of Laurie A. Couture, she has hit the nail on the head again. Her first two blogs about Legos for girls were brilliantly written in that they are forgetting to market to half of the human gender. I will go one step further and say they are also pigeonholing girls to stereotypical roles like going to the mall, something not all girls, like myself, enjoy doing. As for this particular blog on the beauty of males, I strongly and whole heartedly agree with this wonderfully written blog. I have personally known boys and young man who suffered from depression, eating disorders, or a mixture of horrendous mental and physical illness due to the pressure placed upon them from illogical theories on what the male body should look like. I hope that mothers like Laurie A. Couture, along with fathers, step parents, and child advocates can advocate for boys from tiny tots to young men to prove that the male human body comes in all shapes and sizes. This is not to condone obesity, as the health of every child is of importance to people like Laurie and I, but to prove a boy or man doesn’t need six pack abs in order to be considered beautiful.
    It is time, like Laurie has so intelligently explained in her blogs, that we start treating boys like children and not small version of men. It is time we teach our boys the various forms of beauty, that sexual abuse by a teacher when they are in high school (if going to a school) is never justified, that it is okay to play dress up it doesn’t constitute their sexuality, that spanking (a sugar coated word for hitting) a son but not a daughter is wrong, and that it is okay to cry.
    I look forward to the next blog by Ms. Couture.

    Author
  4. Megan DePerro 12 April 2014 at 6:18 pm (PERMALINK)

    Laurie, I found this link and feel it important to share.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/health-26935687

    Author

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