I read in this morning’s newspaper that Disney’s been taken to task about “touching up” their Merida (princess in Pixar’s “Brave”) doll in their new toy line. Apparently the doll is curvier and more conventionally pretty and “princess-like” than the character from the movie.
This, of course, sparked off the whole debate about beauty being something from within, and not what society sets as an ideal. Disney was also blamed for perpetuating stereotypes and setting impossibly high and narrow standards of beauty for young girls to aspire to.
Although technically the point is correct, I feel the need to ask when toys became such an important focal point in the war on stereotypes. When I was a child, a toy may have initially influenced my ideas about beauty, but it definitely is not the root cause for my insecurities. It seems to me that the people fighting this war are focusing on the little things and blowing them out of proportion, rather than spending time fighting the more important battles that they seem to think they can’t win, such as the popularity of body slimming commercials, hair bleaching and skin lightening commercials, consumer plastic surgery commercials, and many more. (Although I think everyone has the right to look the way they feel most confident, the popularity of this begs the question of why so many people all feel beautiful looking a particular way.) Women’s magazines, with all their skin-and-bones, 5’10” Caucasian models aren’t any less to blame either. In fact, neither are you, for admiring and attempting to emulate “beautiful” people. Or chasing after them.
The debate about dolls reminds me of a saying I heard somewhere a while back: that creating a debate about something, or attempting to disprove a discriminating stereotype, usually only ends up perpetuating it. The saying was originally used in conjunction with an article about a study which “disproved sexist stereotypes regarding intelligence”, but it works in this scenario just as well.
One way to fix this? Start by opening up your mind to new, wider definitions of beauty first. Then expose others around you to your new views – if you can’t convince those closest to you, how can you expect strangers, making money off of our insecurities, to listen?
I admire celebrities such as P!nk (“Stupid Girl”) and J. K. Rowling (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/454548-fat-is-usually-the-first-insult-a-girl-throws-at), who speak out against society-imposed ideals of beauty, and although they, you might say, don’t need their looks to earn either love or a living, the point remains that neither do we.