About this new, ‘average’ size Lammily Doll that everyone is getting so worked up about. The one that if you believe half of what you see on the internet or hear on the news has hit the mark with young girls and is one step closer to magically resolving all our collective female body-image issues. Why? Well, because Lammily’s ‘legs move’, because she ‘looks like our sister’, because ‘her hair is soft’ and because she more closely resembles a ‘real woman’. I’m calling BS on this one.
As far as I’m concerned, despite the propaganda machine working overtime to convince us otherwise, Lammily’s actually nothing exceptional as far as dolls go. She’s not the first doll with non-Barbie proportions and she likely won’t be the last. She’s just another product trying to bust into a market already heaving with merchandise and being ‘average’ is her hook.
She is, however, the first doll for whom you can purchase stretch mark, cellulite and acne patches, and it is this that I find most offensive.
Let me just make it clear, Lammily is nothing but a ridiculous mash-up of human perfections and imperfections. She does NOT represent ‘average’ anymore than I do. Point in fact, Lammily’s figure is based entirely on the CDC’s own mash-up of a “representative sample” of 118 people. That’s right, 118 people. Figures which then somehow get used as a measuring stick for the average 19 year old (American) girl’s body. Given there are over 7 billion people on this planet, that’s hardly an indicator of ‘average’.
Also, as Virginia Postrel points out in her brilliantly penned: ‘Average’ Barbie is Just as Fake, Lammily’s proportions actually render her obese. “If Lammily were true to life… she’d have rolls of fat, not a firm plastic tummy.” She’s not fit, she’s fat, but clearly creating a doll with a muffin top was a step too far.
When the creator of the Lammily Doll, Nickolay Lamm (yes, he named the doll after himself) said that he “wanted to show that reality is cool”, I thought “Good for you Mr! Finally a man who cares about the female body image.” I was even prepared to look past his promotion of the concept ‘average’ as an ideal women should aspire too. Almost. But then he added those patches… and frankly, I blew a gasket.
Those patches aren’t about celebrating women and the beauty of our bodies – ‘average’ or otherwise. They are actually Lamm commentating that woman are flawed, and that he can’t make a doll to represent all those different flaws, so here are some patches. Pick and choose which flaw is most relevant to you. There’s more than one if you are having a really bad day.
What’s next, I wonder? A tampon string hanging between her legs?
As for the patch for stretch marks?! Really?! The only women I know with stretch marks are those that have miraculously brought life into this world. And their stretch marks look nothing like those patches! And even if they did, do you think that a mum who’s just had a baby, who’s already facing a barrage of pressure from every angle to “lose that baby weight in 4 weeks” wants that patch shoved in her face every day? Besides which, this doll is meant for little girls, so enough with the adult concepts.
Now I’m not going to argue that Barbie is a better option, but at least in an interview with Co.Design, Barbie Design Vice President (yes, it’s a real job), Kim Culmone, openly admitted that “Barbie’s body was never designed to be realistic. She was designed for girls to easily dress and undress.” (Oh, so just like catwalk models…) Lammily on the other hand, is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You’ll bring her into your home, naively thinking that she’ll make a nice addition to your family, only to wake the next morning to find she’s devoured your self-esteem.
Despite Culmone’s admission, as someone who grew up with a Barbie (actually many Barbies), I can tell you point blank that my body image issues aren’t Barbie’s fault. They come from all the mass media messages I was bombarded with while growing up that were intent on constantly reminding me that I was ‘not enough’. All the magazines featuring articles with headlines such as, “Summer is Coming – Time To Go On That Diet!”, “Lose 5 Kilos in 5 Days!” or my favourite “Drop a Dress Size in a Week!”, and which insist on using women as clothes hangers, rather than role models.
Hating on Barbie and holding her accountable for all our body image issues has become an institution. But Barbie is as much a victim as we are. She’s been forced to remain unchanged and stylish her entire 50 plus years – that’s exhausting!
Out of interest, here’s a quick peek at Barbie’s body proportions compared to that of an ‘average’ (there’s that word again) Lammily-esque female:
FYI, Barbie and I have the same size head – 22 inches. Although unlike Barbie, I can never find hats to fit my enormous bubble head. Also, unlike Barbie, my head doesn’t cause me to topple over when I walk (despite having a penchant for heels), because I have size 8 1/2 feet instead of a child’s size 3. I also have the appropriate 13 inch neck to support it. Other than that, I’m neither a Barbie nor the ‘average’ female. i.e. I have room for my liver, but I don’t have rolls of fat, and no matter how much yoga I do, I will never be taller than 5’3″.
In Mattel’s 1959 ad for Barbie, the jingle went like this “Barbie’s so small and so petite / Her clothes and figure look so neat … someday I’m gonna be exactly like you / Until then I know exactly what I’ll do … I’ll make believe that I am you.” I’m not convinced this jungle was actually about encouraging girls to remain tiny for the rest of their natural lives. But Mattel, not Barbie, who sang it to us, were certainly inviting us to enter a fantasy world that promoted household roles and being perpetually fashionable as a woman’s destiny.
Nothing much has changed since I grew up. It’s still not Barbie looking back at us and telling us we are not enough, it’s still the fashion / cosmetic industry powered by the media. The real flaws are the industries that put us down at every turn and guilty by association every time we pick up a copy of a fashion magazine or buy into a TV sitcom about women, where the focus is 10% on career and 90% on women living the high life of fashion and casual sex.
I’m going to admit, right here and right now, that because of all the social engineering I have been subjected to since the day I was sent off to school (we didn’t have TV before then, so I was protected to some extent) there is a dialogue happening almost 24/7, uninvited, unintended and unmoderated in my head about my body image and my role as a woman. And I know I am not the only one.
Have you got a patch for that?
Despite knowing that my body is a temple for my heart, which is a vehicle for my soul, there are days when it is still a struggle to ‘like’ myself. I know that my body is a lean, keen, loving machine, but I still can’t stand in front of the mirror and say “Wow girl” You rock that dress.” I even tried it for a month once. Epic fail. After 30 days of my own sarcasm I decided that sometimes you can’t fake it til you make it.
Now 43, I look back on the body of my teens, my early twenties and, admittedly, sometimes just a month ago and think – I look amazing. Followed by, gee I wish I could have appreciated it back then. But that’s the me of the past and she’s easy to admire and like. Her dialogue has been muted with the passing of time.
So when you thrust a Lammily in my face and tell me she’s average, she’s cool and she’s just like me, I’m bound to get a little irate. I’m not average and I don’t want to be, highlighting a person’s flaws isn’t cool (it’s called bullying) and she is not just like me. The only person just like me, is me.
I’ll tell you what Mr Lamm, when you create a new version of the also unrealistically proportioned Ken Doll, then get back to me. I’m thinking beer gut, hair on his shoulders, sweaty armpits and food embedded in his beard. Also if he could come with socks pre-loaded to stink and a fart mechanism that would be great.