Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When are monsters not monsters, but social acceptance aids.



My daughter is on a quest: she is seriously lobbying for a Monster High doll. She has asked and asked, and I have hummed and mumbled my half-baked replies: We will see; Maybe; Let’s think about it.


And it is true I am on the fence about it. On one hand I really dislike these dolls. They are hideous in my eyes, but that is not the point, as they are not to be my dolls. I see them as promoting early sexualization of young girls by displaying their vamp make-up and sexy clothing. But is there real evidence of this? I see them as having no other message other than “don’t I look cool and don’t I know it?”. They are expensive. And my daughter does not even play with dolls that much.  So why does she really, really want a Monster Height doll? (She pronounces height, I tell her it is high, she tells me height is how her friends call them, so I say ok, height it is)

Which leads me to why she really wants one:  her friends have them. The other day on the playground, as she sat on the swing set with another girl, I overhead the conversation, which basically consisted of this girl, around five years old, describing all the different Monster High dolls and accessories she owns. Two little girls side by side swinging away, yet proficient on the intricacies of  Monster High dolls taxonomy (each is the daughter of a different kind of monster, like vampire, Frankenstein, werewolf, etc). Also she has told me one of her classmates in school brings her dolls to school.  These dolls are a conundrum to me in that they are about high school sexy girls, not kindergarteners, yet they are dolls and as such marketed to this age, as high-schoolers are not playing with dolls at all.

We sat down and made a list of benefits and drawbacks of monster high dolls. She tells me on the plus side they look cool and they are not real (counteracting my argument that they may add to her fear of monsters). On the minus side she came up with the fact they sleep with monsters while on vacation. I am not sure what this means, but it is something she has heard, and I am really not analyzing that piece of information. I do not want to read too much into it. I have told her they are expensive, and that I really do not like them. She answered by telling me not to buy the one with pointy teeth (she is the scariest according to her) and can I please “accept this and just buy me one?” She is getting good at rational argument, I think. I tell her it is ok not to like what other people like, and that even grown-ups get sucked up into buying things just because other people like them. She says it is ok I do not like them, she does and that is more important. I tried to explain to her about peer pressure and how companies pay a lot of money to put ads on TV so kids will want to buy their toys. She may not care or understand this.  

Which brings me to more important points which I have to rethink: We don’t watch TV in our home. We hadn’t own a set since 2009 until recently, and had been TV-less more or less since 2004. A few months ago a visiting family member brought her own set and left it behind. People think it is very odd we don’t watch TV, and while I had more than one friend without a TV when we lived in the US, here in Chile it is a serious anomaly. I have been asked if it a religious taboo, and have been told I am depriving my children. We kept the TV in the guest bedroom until the Olympics started and I have to say it came in handy to watch the competition. It will go back into the guest room when it is over though. But, of course she is exposed to TV and cable channels when she visits friends. So watches ads and knows what is hot. Media exposure is not a topic that is discussed much here.

Today we will go to the store and check these dolls out. I am planning on using my bargain powers to persuade her to change her mind. I know I have final say in what she gets, as she still has no autonomy to get her own toys, but a question my husband asked last night keeps resonating in my head: “Why do you insist on making her the odd one out?” He thinks I am not doing enough to help her fit in, and it is true that she stands out in more than one way, but I cannot just surrender all my values so she will fit in better: She is the girl with the short hair, the only little girl with short hair for many miles.  She was asked recently why she has boy hair. She is the kid with the whole grain bread sandwiches, and she will remain so! She is the child who does not like soda.

Little by little she is growing up and her peers’ influence is becoming stronger. I am still unsure what to do about these silly dolls. My guess is that she will get one, she will tell all her key friends she has one, and the doll itself will get drown in the sea of toys in her room. 

5 comments:

  1. I can so relate to this! Since my daughter started going to school, its been an endless- I want, I want- just because her friends have it. My opinion, and it's just my opinion, is to just say no. If you don't feel it's appropriate, it's perfectly fine to say no without feeling guilty. The "in" things change all the time, and there will definitely be more wants.

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  2. I have a very hard time with those dolls, I didn't even like buying them for my neice and she is 10! I have the same issues with Barbie as well. Lucky for me so far my daughter is a huge tomboy and would rather play with cars than dolls - really hoping this means I get to skip all this in a few years. Can't wait to hear what you decided!

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  3. Hope I'm not too late here. I had to google these dolls and I must say, I would not allow my daughter to get one, or rather I wouldn't buy her one, if someone buys her one for her birthday, then- oh well... she's actually not a doll kind of girl.
    Just because her friends have something, doesn't mean she has to have something, ( speaking for my own kids) it teaches them to not buckle under peer pressure, that it's okay NOT to have everything that's HOT or IN. my kids were the last ones to get silly bandz last year and I told them, they are a FAD etc. and sure enough, soon after they got theirs, they got banned from schools and popularity dropped. we do have TV but we don't have cable or satellite, we have bunny ears and netflix, so the kids just watch netflix cartoons, which I monitor (somewhat) I know what shows they are watching and if I see a "new" show that's odd or too scary I will tell them not to watch it. Even their friends or neighbors will ask me if they are allowed to watch a certain show or play a certain game etc. Netflix is great though, no commercials!! so my kids are not brainwashed by that, on birthdays and christmas they don't know what they want! unless they've seen it at a friends house or something they already have- like more legos.
    so anyways, if YOU think she shouldn't get a doll or a certain toy, stick with it and say no and explain that you don't like it, maybe bargain for something else :-)
    well that's my 2 cents here.

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  4. Thank you for your comments, really helps me to feel that I am not alone in thinking the way I do.
    Short story, she did not get a doll, and the requests have subsided for now. Which confirms that she really does not care for these dolls as such, she just wishes to be part of the latest trend. Peer pressure is very strong. She will most likely change schools (of course not because of this), but I think it will help somehow, as it is a smaller school with more like minded people.
    Funnily, she came home a few days ago saying she would like to go to Disneyland! It made me laugh, as she did not even know what it was, just that a friend went there.
    We are in for interesting times ahead no doubt.
    Even though we do not have a TV, she does watch cartoons, movies, etc, just from DVDs (on the computer) rather than from TV channels. At least it saves me the ads and any surprises.

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