By Yvonne Frank
Lammily, the doll often referred to as “realistic Barbie,” just got even more real. The retailer now offers a “Period Party” accessory kit, featuring tiny doll-size panties, maxi pads, and liners (which, notably, resemble reusable cloth pads more than they do Always or Kotex.)
The moment I heard about this, I knew there would be a backlash. There’s always a backlash to anything that even smells like feminism. But I expected the grumbling to come from MRA types who haunt dark corners of Internet I don’t travel. And I’m sure it did. I wouldn’t know.
But, to my surprise, the dissent also came from The Frisky, a pop culture blog with feminist tendencies. The site recently posted an article titled “Thanks To The Lammily Doll, Now Little Girls Can Throw Period Parties,” which derides not only the product in question, but the entire premise of the doll itself:
“When I see a confident little girl, it always bums me out to realize that she’s got only a few years before her hormones hijack her insecurities indefinitely. This special innocent time in every girls’ life didn’t last nearly long enough for me, and I didn’t have a doll taunting me with the cellulite and adult acne I would inevitably get.”
Well, maybe cellulite and acne wouldn’t cause so much insecurity if they were more normalized and presented through realistic beauty standards. Like, in a doll, perhaps. Hmm.
In case the author’s feelings weren’t already clear, she goes on to say:
“But that’s exactly what the Lammily Doll is, a well-intended but misguided toy that teaches young girls that being a woman is a fucking nightmare.”
Stretch marks and pimples are a nightmare? In my nightmares, there’s a two foot long wasp on my medicine cabinet door, people I love are dying, and all my teeth are falling out. But, you know, do you.
After recalling her own first period, and the lack of fanfare that accompanied it, the author states:
“It’s anything but a party and framing it as one might make a lot of girls way weirder about something awkward to begin with.”
Isn’t the only reason periods are “awkward to begin with” because they’re stigmatized? And doesn’t a toy like this help to destigmatize it, thereby making it less awkward? If we avoid awkward things because they’re awkward, we feed into a vicious cycle of awkwardness. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
She goes on to say:
“I’m all for having a more updated version of Barbie and exploring new ways to talk about growing up, but shoehorning all this into a doll that no little girl wants to play with is not the way to do it.”
I call bullshit. I had nothing of this sort as a child, but that didn’t stop me from folding Kleenex into perfect, elongated rectangles to mimic a maxi pad and putting them in the crotch of my underwear for no reason. Do people think this toy is the advent of menstruation-themed play?
Finally, she concludes:
“Plus, periods really aren’t that complicated. Though they shouldn’t be stigmatized, the particulars can be covered pretty easily in a conversation as it comes up. Kids don’t need to spend that much time playing with pads and pamphlets to mentally prepare for it. It’s all pretty straightforward when you break it down.”
You know what else isn’t that complicated? Learning to use the toilet, getting a check-up, or going to the dentist. But there are children’s books about all of these subjects, because all of them are new experiences that seem intimidating to children. Being exposed to the idealized, pastel version of something before you have to deal with the real thing helps kids deal.
The reusable pads are definitely a hard sell, but whatever. It’s just not that big a deal. A girl playing with doll-size maxi pads is a girl that won’t think she’s dying when she gets her period, and that’s what really matters.