How’s that for a Buzzfeed-worthy headline? Anyway, I remember hearing about the crowdfunding campaign for Lammily and thinking, “She’d better have awesome clothes.” Oh wait, I’d better back up. Lammily is a new Barbie alternative designed after actual human body dimensions. The first time I saw a picture of one, I thought it looked weird. Then my daughter received one for her 6th birthday, and her response actually did surprise me.
She didn’t notice anything unusual about the doll. In full disclosure, my kids don’t have any Barbies. They have Tinkerbell characters, which aren’t much better for body image except that since they come with wings, maybe girls are less likely to think they are supposed to be the same shape?
They also have Kurhn dolls, elaborately clothed Chinese Barbie-type dolls with names like Chang-e, Tang Dynasty Bride, and Four Gods Legend – Blue Dragon. These also have unrealistic body types, but they are not hypersexualized and the focus is on the clothes.
All of these dolls are pretty, and have fabulous clothes, but they don’t have lots of extra outfits to dress up in. So my kids usually play with their Groovy Girls, which are basically rag dolls with tons of accessories.
So when the Lammily (named for the Lamm family by designer Nickolay Lamm) showed up, I tried not to influence my daughter with comments about her short neck, wide body and huge ass. Instead I apologized for her ugly shoes and commented that they were probably really comfortable for traveling. Then I read the little brochure introducing the character of a young woman who has just returned from a round-the-world trip. I liked the subtle way they reinforced her competence.
My daughter’s only comment?
Then where is her backpack?
I got online and started looking for outfits. It turns out there are no couture gowns for the doll my daughter has named Lilianta (passport has been downloaded from the website). Instead, each of her outfits is named for destinations on her trip – plaid coat for Scotland, turtleneck for Paris, and so on.
While my daughter played with Lilianta, I discovered reusable stickers “Lammily Marks” with freckles, moles, glasses, scars, bandaids and other individuizing characteristics. I thought cellulite and stretch marks might be taking it too far, but my daughter stopped playing to beg for the tattoos.
I noticed that my daughter hadn’t brought out any other dolls, and asked why she didn’t get some friends for Lilianta.
“Well, she’s just a normal girl, and I don’t want to her feel bad.”
Aha! I thought.
“What do you mean?” I said.
“Well, all my other dolls have wings, and are fairies, and she’s just normal.”
“You’re just a normal girl. Wouldn’t you like to be friends with a fairy?”
“Well, it’s dark upstairs.”
I went upstairs and retrieved the box of fake Barbies. My daughter played happily for another hour until her big sister got home from soccer.
“What’s this?” asked big sister, considering whether to be jealous.
“It’s my birthday present. Her name’s Lilianta.”
“She’s fat,” replied my ten-year-old.
So, if you were wondering when to start talking to your daughter about body image, the answer is “already.”