One of my favorite Christmas presents of all time, hands down, was a doll named “Beautiful Crissy.” Late-end Baby Boomers will remember that particular toy manufactured by Ideal, a mini-skirted cutie with brown eyes, hard plastic limbs and the most amazing mane of chestnut hair this side of Secretariat.
The magical thing about Crissy was her belly button. It was definitely an ‘insy’ which, when poked, allowed you to pull her pony tail out to what in human dimensions would have been four and a half feet. You could brush it, style it and, while not advisable if you wanted to avoid a Rastafarian look, shampoo it.
I loved that doll. We shared a name, a mane, and an insy. More important, she was realistic enough to let me identify with her while still sufficiently toy-like so my imagination could run wild.
That’s one of the things, but hardly the only one, that upsets me about the new breast-feeding doll that is set to hit US markets later this year (she’s already available online.) As pretty much everyone has heard by now, Breast Milk Baby comes with a halter top for little girls to slip on so they can approximate the (hopefully missing) breasts necessary to feed BMB. If hungry baby is a girl, the halter has flowers where the nipples should be. If it’s a boy, he gets to suck on star appliqués.
The doll comes from Spain, where breast-feeding is as common as paella. It’s apparently quite popular there, where youngsters of all ages (and maybe some others, a point I’ll get to in a minute) happily recreate that most natural of activities. Except it’s natural for a grown woman who has a fully-developed uterus, an obstetrician and a fairly good health care plan. It also helps to have a husband, too.
I don’t think it’s quite as normal for a five to ten year old (the apparent target market for the doll) to play with a baby doll that makes motions and suckling sounds when it’s mouth gets close to the appliquéd nipple stand-in. That’s one step away from having a doll who, at the push of a button, goes into a battery-powered PMS rage and can only be calmed down with fruit-flavored sugar pills and a trip to the Spa/Store/Free Clinic (depending upon which model you buy.)
I can hear the angry breast-feeders (and PMSers) tapping out vitriolic letters to my editor on their keyboards. I’ve already had some experience with their rage, having once made the mistake of suggesting that breastfeeding in public was a breach of etiquette. To this day, google my name next to “breastfeeding” and you come up with some of the most amazingly colorful tirades in the blogosphere.
But even if you think that women should be able to feed their children wherever, whenever and however they want, you have to agree that encouraging a little girl to ‘make believe’ that she’s doing the same thing is wrong. And if you don’t think so, you might try and explain to me if you think it would be equally ok to have a toy that let’s little boys measure their ‘make-believe’ sperm counts, or helps them understand about how a ‘make-believe’ little blue pill can give them a ‘make-believe’ erection.
Sorry if those suggestions come with a strong ‘yuck’ factor, but that’s exactly what happens when you start pushing kids to grow up too fast. You might say that breastfeeding has nothing whatsoever to do with sex, so the analogy with male virility is misplaced.
You might also say my suspicion that pedophiles will pick up a doll or two is paranoid.
But let’s take a look at the larger picture. Children are supposed to be children, at least the ones that come from loving homes and aren’t born to wild-child mothers in Orlando or depend upon broken DHS systems in Philadelphia to keep them safe. While nursing is a normal activity, it isn’t one that we need to explain to a little girl who should be spending her time hugging her pretend baby, tucking her in for the night and feeding her pretend formula. Those are all things you can do without a pair of breasts (or flowers, or stars.) Those are things that make childhood magical, and give a little girl an idea of what it means to care about someone else.
I have a suggestion. If you really want to teach a kid to serve up a nice nutritious meal, get her an Easy Bake oven.