Monday, March 8, 2010

Paperdolls and Femininty

My sister and I LOVED paperdolls when we were little. My mother, who has some skill at sketching, would draw us our very own dolls. I remember vividly sitting in the kitchen instructing her as to the specific style I wanted for my hand-drawn skirt or Cinderella gown.

Of course we also loved the store-bought paperdolls as well. We would ever so carefully remove the pieces from their perforated edges, trying hard not to tear them. And we would play with them so much that often scotch tape was required to keep their worn tabs attached to the garments.
Now there are those that say that promoting this type of flagrantly gender-specific activity is sending poor messages to young girls. Perhaps they would suggest that instead of princess gowns and archetype Disney heroines, little girls should instead have "doctor" and "lawyer" and "CEO" paperdolls. Or maybe "superwoman" would be more appropriate (since that seems to be the identity we commonly feel pressured to wear as adult women).
And certainly I do not want to start an argument about femininity and gender rolls here on a Tuesday morning, but I will say that paperdolls are useful for instructing girls on an important subject, which is that resourcefulness can go a long way.

What I mean is that I practiced the art of mixing and matching long before I was old enough to responsibly pick out my own clothes.
With paperdolls you learn that three shirts and two skirts can multiply into at least a dozen different outfits. And that the process of trying new combinations is creatively gratifying.

And perhaps this lesson may seem trivial in the face of the greater concerns of feminine self-actualization, but let me ask you this:

which do you spend more time thinking about:
...whether your childhood appropriately equipped you to cast off traditional chains and achieve full potential...
...or what you are going to wear this week?

I submit to you that it is the latter.

Furthermore, which would you like more practice at:
...taking what you already own and finding new and fun ways to use it, thus saving you money and promoting good stewardship...
...or breaking the glass ceiling?

Again, I reckon for most of us that it is the first.

So although I appreciate the earnest strides made by feminist goals, sometimes what we really need are paperdolls.

What was your favorite childhood toy that taught you about being a lady? Share your comment below!

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