By Todd E. Brady
Assistant Professor of Ministry and Vice President for University Ministries, Union University
In 1949, George Lemer invented the Mr. Potato Head doll — a plastic body of a spud that could be decorated with various interchangeable parts like ears, eyes, shoes, a hat, a nose, and a mouth. As a kid, I had a Mr. Potato Head. My kids have a Mr. Potato Head. It’s funny to design silly faces with different pieces. Lemer, who died in 1995 probably never imagined that people would be picking and choosing preferential parts and specially-designing their own human being dolls. If he were alive, he’d probably laugh that there are actually people who are serious about this.
With Mattel’s latest line of dolls called Creatable World, that seems to be exactly what is happening. Mattel once divided the doll world into Kens and Barbies, but now they are putting forth gender-neutral dolls for “boys, girls and children in between.” These dolls are “designed specifically to have a youthful gender neutral appearance.”
These gender neutral dolls come with different wardrobes. They also come with two wigs of different lengths and styles (curly, braided and straight), and dolls can be stylized with long or short hair, a skirt, pants or both.
This is merely the latest in an effort to continue blurring gender lines. In 2015, Target announced that it would stop labelling toys for boys and girls. The Disney Store did away with boy and girl designations for things like children’s Halloween costumes, backpacks, lunchboxes, and more. Amazon does not use gender-based categories for children’s toys. Closer to home, White Station High School in Memphis switched this year to gender-neutral titles for their homecoming court. Over the weekend, homecoming royalty Brandon Allen accepted the homecoming title and bouquet of flowers while wearing a tiara and a gold sequin gown.
In rolling out their new product, Mattel executive Kim Culmone said Creatable World is intended to reflect the culture “as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity.” She also said that “this product line isn’t necessarily for everyone.” That second statement does not come across as very inclusive.
Mattel said that leading up to the release of these gender-neutral dolls, their research found that “kids don’t want their toys dictated by gender norms.” I’m skeptical about that. Research? Is that what kids really said? The boys in my house say all kinds of things, but none of them has ever said that they don’t want their toys dictated by gender norms. I’d like to see that “research.”
Using the language of inclusivity, Mattel wants to help children who are supposedly suffering from confusion about their gender—something gender neutral proponents call “gender dysphoria.” According to Glen Stanton, director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, “no research or science exists to validate that children suffer from gender dysphoria.” Mattel’s effort to comfort children will serve only to confuse them.
I will admit that our home is heavily populated with males. I live in the house as do my five boys. The only females in our house are mom, our dog Sadie and our outside cat, Bell. That means that we don’t have any dolls. There are lots of balls and trucks and cars and Nerf guns scattered throughout the house and the yard. When it comes to our kids understanding gender issues, I want them to understand that gender is a matter of creation, not preference. Human beings are created by God, and we are created as male or female. (Genesis 1:27) It’s an either/or issue, not both/and. B&R