So Mattel, a toy manufacturer just came out with a doll line about three weeks called Creatable World. According to Mattel, a “doll line designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in—giving kids the freedom to create their own customizable characters again and again”.
This innovative line offers children various combinations of self-personalized styles from various wardrobe options, hairstyles, and accessories that allow children to style their dolls according to themselves. This dope ass creation can potentially create representation for each child – within the various complexions, gender expression, and abilities – all creating sense of self.
When I heard about this new release, I was genuinely hopeful – mainly because becoming a suicide counselor, I connected with many youth who identified outside of the norm. Whether relating to gender identity, sexual orientation, or gender expression, all called either to just talk or seek support about the challenges of being different and a lack of representation. So when this line was released, all I could feel was hope, because for the first time, I believed this would lead to more open conversations between children and parents, and more education about the feelings many children having trouble expressing and identifying.
But instead, with this release, it opened the door to a lot of ignorance – and I don’t mean it in a negative way, however upsetting it is to hear some viewpoints. I pride myself to be someone who is open to hearing and discussing difficult conversations and hearing various perspectives, however, what makes it difficult for me to do so at times is when it’s coming from a place of lacking knowledge and choosing to be uninformed. But, let’s talk about it.
According to the Vice President of Mattel Fashion Doll Design:
Some options are more feminine-presenting, while others are more masculine-presenting, which allows kids to combine the elements anyway they want to.
In their promotional video, a couple of points that stood out to me was that ‘children see and experience gender very differently’ and it’s all about ‘storytelling, imagination, and self-expression’. Two points that I completely stand by, however, many disagreed.
I’ve heard concerns about where are children being guided with gender neutral dolls and that realistically, no child can verbally express or understand what gender expression or identity is. There were many concerns further evolving around exposing children to binary and non-binary, transgender individuals. What I realized was that many people are just uninformed and should use this as a learning opportunity.
Where Are Children Being Guided with Gender Neutral Dolls?
No Child Can Verbally Express or Understand What Gender Expression or Identity Is
Well to be frank, that’s completely inaccurate. As far as where children are headed with the release of gender neutral dolls, I can easily say acceptance. With this release, it will potentially create a conversation with parents that will lead to tolerance, acceptance, and most importantly respect for those individuals different than your child.
This world will continue to evolve, so this is an opportunity as parents and adults to instill morals and principles in yourself, as well as the youth. This is a conversation that we need to have. Further, with the release of these dolls, it creates representation for our youth who are currently experiencing the gender or expressive differences between them and another child who meets society’s ‘norm’.
This allows that child the opportunity to live outside, or in between femininity and masculinity – creating a variation of both, or neither – a reflection of who they are. It’s confirming that what they’re feeling is not unusual or weird, and their experiences and gender expressions are just as valid as someone else’s.
Watch this dope TEDxAdelaide talk with Audrey Mason-Hyde about their experience:
Gender Expression is NOT Gender Identity
It’s time to challenge people’s assumptions on the way they think boys and girls should look. There are a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities – however that in itself doesn’t determine if someone is lesbian, gay, bisexual, non-binary, or a binary trans individual. And I think that’s what makes people nervous about these dolls.
Many people fear, and are closed off to the idea of having to teach their children anything outside of two genders – girl and boy. They assume these dolls will introduce them to various genders and I somewhat understand the concern. As a parent, you have that right to determine what you want to expose your child to at whatever age.
However, regardless of how much you try to “protect” your child from these topics, those conversations will still happen. So why not do it at home where you can control the narrative?
It is not necessary to explain the complexities of gender identity and sexual orientation to your child at a young age because they may not understand it, however you have a responsibility as a parent to teach your child to be a good person and treat people differently than them with respect – that includes individuals who express their gender in a non-traditional way, individuals who identify as binary, non-binary, or other, and those who identify with a particular sexual orientation.
Furthermore, I think the creation of gender neutral dolls was purposed to allow children to self-express themselves through clothing without having to settle for gender based clothing. It’s to challenge gender spectrum and include them into the picture. This does not mean that they are transitioning into a different sex. It simply gives children the option to choose. This can be for anyone – wear what the f*ck you want and how you want – honestly.
The takeaway is that only you know who you were born to be, and you need to be free to be that person.Ruby Rose
Identity is ambiguously transient, it is constantly shifting. When I see these dolls, I think of all people – not just children who don’t fit into the traditional gender categories of a man or woman, but instead – fluctuate between the two. My god brother has made jokes about me sometimes looking like a little boy, and I identify as cisgender (meaning I identify with the gender assigned to me at birth).
Some days I feel more feminine and other times I’m a mix of the two. We are all multifaceted beings, and I believe that is what these dolls were created to represent.
“Are you a boy or a girl?” I’m an experience.Said one bad ass individual
Celebrities Who Have Mastered Androgyny
Gender nonconformity is a thing – it doesn’t always have to do with someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation, unless they say it is. We need to recognize the differences between someone’s sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression for EACH person. No one’s experience is equal to another’s. It’s time to acknowledge a wider range of expressions and experiences. Many of our favorite artists and creatives have challenged gender stereotypes.
Take Prince for instance, in a 1997 interview he did on VH1 with Chris Rock posed a question about his gender expression. “The androgynous thing … was that an act, or were you searching for your sexual identity?” Prince, simply responded, “I don’t suppose I was searching, really … I think I was just being who I was…and there’s many sides in that as well”.
Prince repeatedly transgressed boundaries, not caring how he was perceived by the masses. He was a man who confidently wore makeup, heels, and ‘feminine presenting’ clothing. But that was just him – he didn’t feel the need to accept the conservative choices of what a man should wear. He was effortlessly him, and that’s what his true supporters saw. Ruby Rose, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Da Brat, Aaliyah, can’t forget my fav; Ellen DeGeneres – they all have challenged gender stereotypes! What is the issue with gender neutral dolls doing the same thing?
I think we should have less conversations about whether this is right or wrong, and more questions about how we can better educate ourselves, and raise more accepting and openminded individuals. We should further ask questions on determining when the best time to spark these conversations with youth.
Questions about the experiences of LGBTQIA children and those individuals who don’t feel right sticking to a traditional feminine or masculine presenting role. These discussions need to happen and talked about in school because it will create an open door policy, decrease the amount of youth who contemplate suicide and kill themselves, and avoid other children from being bullied and isolated.