Is there such a thing as ‘too girly’?
That’s the question we were asking ourselves when some people took issue with the name of a Swiss fashion doll being launched in the UK, which we’re working with. The brand is called I’M A GIRLY.
It’s this word ‘girly’ that’s triggered responses, rather than the dolls themselves. After all, the range of 5 dolls — put together by a mother and entrepreneur — features realistic proportions and a range of hair colours, hair textures and skin tones. The trendy accessories for the dolls range from trainers, horn-rimmed glasses and jean jackets to faux fur coats, llama pyjamas and silver sandals. The ambitions of the dolls range from being a vet in Africa to an astronaut to a gymnast.
As parents we like that toy aisles are moving away from the stereotypical pink-for-girls-blue-for-boys. We want toys these days that let our children develop their interests and explore through play. Any child can play with any toy.
But does it follow that every toy has to do everything? Must every toy broadcast the message that all children and indeed all people are alike in every way?
It’s natural and right that as parents and as a society that we don’t want children put in a box because of their gender. But at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with noticing that children enjoy different activities. We understood the name I’M A GIRLY to refer to the dolls themselves — the dolls are all girls — rather than the children who own them. (The company develops the dolls and accessories using a panel of girls and boys aged 9 – 13. The high-end fashion-dolls are available at Harrods and Hamleys. If you’re interested in being among the first to see and style the dolls, check out this exclusive event!)
“I’M A GIRLY is not about gender, rather it’s a feeling or expression,” says founder Theresia Le Battistini, who notes the name hasn’t provoked any controversy in its native Switzerland.
We can’t help but wonder as well if there’s a whiff of unconscious bias in reactions to a doll aimed that celebrate the ‘girly’ and what are considered traditional ‘girly’ leisure interests. It reminds us of the way until quite recently an interest in fashion was considered less important or serious than a similar interest in, say, cars. Many ask, ‘What’s wrong with a toy that allows children to dress up a doll and do its hair?’ — like parents do with children and an activity many of our us enjoyed as children and with our children. We like that with I’M A GIRLY, children can play with a doll whose proportions, skin tone and hair texture resemble their own.
Which leads us to our next question. Of course playing with dolls isn’t only for girls. Wouldn’t it be great to imagine a boy picking up fashion-doll Jasmine (loves her golden retriever) or Lucy (wants to be an astronaut) and not feeling like playing with his ‘Girly’ makes him any less of a ‘boy’.
From its inception, BritMums has been a feminist organisation — promoting equality of opportunity between men and women and between mothers and fathers. We’ve written about tax breaks for childcare (just like you get for your chauffeur!), championed dads to be as much as part of the parenthood conversation as mums, and proudly worn the label ‘feminist’ when it was common a few years ago to say, ‘I’m not a feminist but…’.
We are feminists and we think it’s great to celebrate children and their interests. That includes being a girl, being a boy, being any way you want to be.
Disclosure: BritMums is working with I’M A GIRLY in a paid relationship. All opinions are our own.