Thursday, July 21, 2011

Someone, Please, Think of the Children! Also, Boobs.

Boobs are in the news again. They're terribly exciting, it seems, and also the focal point of a discussion about children's sensitive moral compasses.

Bebe Gloton Breastfeeding DollThis Salon article by Mary Elizabeth Williams looks at a doll that is about to become available and marketed in the United States, Bebe Gloton.  This doll (which sells for a rather ridiculous $118) comes with a special halter that allows a child to mimic breastfeeding. The doll latches on to the halter and makes sucking noises.

People, as you can probably imagine, are not happy. Their concern focuses on the children, of course, who must be protected from breastfeeding and breasts. Fox and Friends' Dr. Keith Ablow says that it is "beyond ridiculous. It's destructive . . . this is another way of turning little girls into adults. It blurs the boundary between children and adults . . . it contributes to the sexualization of children. . . it's a terrible, terrible idea."

When asked why he saw it as sexual, he responded with a typical fallacy of aversion and suggests hyperbolically that  "little girls, three and four, have an OB/GYN suite where they deliver their babies!" (Seriously, just watch the video. If I keep quoting all of the ridiculous things he says, I won't have space for any commentary.)


He finishes by ignoring blogger Jennifer Gotlieb's reasoned response that children will mimic the actions they see adults doing, so children with younger siblings are likely to mimic breastfeeding with or without a doll. Instead he looks confused and says "that's the craziest thing" he's ever heard. Obviously he doesn't watch his own network (or any other) very often.

This debate is not isolated to baby dolls. As this blog post from Her Bad Mother illustrates, people think that the real thing is damaging the little ones among us as well. The author of this post was breastfeeding in a public library and had a brief moment of exposure. Another patron coughed disapprovingly and raised her eyebrows towards some young boys sitting at a computer nearby. The implication was clear: put your breast away before you destroy these young boys.

Toysmith Doll Care SetSo, what's so damaging about the idea of letting little girls (or boys) pretend to breastfeed their baby dolls? As Williams points out "children play at adult roles all the time. They play at being soldiers and cops and fashion models and moms. Pretending to nurture a baby isn't inherently any more sexual than any of those acts." And there are plenty of dolls that come equipped with bottles. And baby dolls that "pee" and "poop." Aren't feeding babies from bottles and changing diapers jobs usually done by adults?

Fisher-Price Medical KitThe product description for Baby Gloton declares "the idea is to educate and familiarize children with the process of breastfeeding so hopefully when they grow up they are more in tune with the process and inclined to choose breastfeeding instead of the bottle." And that makes sense, right? Part of play is to demonstrate activities and choices that will be made in adulthood, and we want children to be equipped to make the right ones. It's why we have play doctor sets but not play drug dealer sets.  

None of these get to the heart of the real issue people have with a breastfeeding baby doll. The fact of the matter is that breastfeeding is stigmatized in America, and many people want to maintain that stigma. Declaring a breastfeeding doll as wrong sends the message to little girls that breastfeeding is wrong, and it is part of a larger narrative that keeps breastfeeding difficult and sometimes shameful for women, despite countless public health campaigns touting its benefits.

For comparison, I invite Keith Ablow to take a look at this Cracked article by Dawn Morrow: "8 Weirdly Sexual Products You Won't Believe are for Kids."

No, Keithy (what's a condescending nickname here, Keithkins?), your eyes are not deceiving you. That is a stripper pole toyset complete with garter belt and fake cash marketed on the package to children "11 and upwards."

But that's comparing apples to oranges, you say? A doll is nothing like a stripper pole? Oh, well, perhaps this will convince you that there is definitely a sexualization problem among our toys, and normalizing breastfeeding just isn't it.

Bratz Large Babyz Twinz
Sure, they're wearing nothing but panties and leather jackets. But they're drinking out of bottles, so it's okay. 


  1. Thank you for posting this! My sister posted a link to these dolls on FB with a comment that said "so disturbing." And SHE IS A PEDIATRIC NURSE. On a related note, I had a friend in Chicago who, upon watching her daughters play with dolls and feed them bottles, laughed and remarked "I don't even know how they know what to do, they never had a bottle in their lives." I think if toys are meant to be teaching tools - which I think the best ones are - then a breastfeeding doll makes as much sense as any.

  2. I hate to break it to this company, but my sister and I "breastfed" all our baby dolls. We didn't need a special one. Also, our Barbie dolls always breastfed.