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Living Dolls – A Beauty Conspiracy

May 1, 2010

SSShhhhh, stop and listen for a moment. Listen to the radio, listen to the TV ads, listen to government policy, to the toy store, to popular magazines and OMG no, to science. If you are a fan of equality and freedom of choice you may want to listen up and when you’ve had your fill of propaganda it may just be time to shout! Sexual discrimination never died.

Living Dolls Book Review

Natasha Walter’s latest book “Living Dolls” outlines perfectly and with an array of examples how un-free us liberated women really are.  There seems to be a momentum building in the men vs women camp again and the way things are going guess who will be looking after the baby?  This isn’t just your old-fashioned sexism where women were fine as long as they knew their place, this is super sexism where women are probably best not to look too much like REAL women for fear of causing offense.  We have talked before about Barbie being the new ideal and this book strengthens this premise at every turn.

The book starts with a trip to a large multi-level toy shop in london where one can take the elevator to a floor for ‘girls’ all decked out in that colour that we females find irresistable – PINK. Oh yes, if it wasn’t clear before this floor had it all spelled out – little girls like to play dress-up, princesses, home-makers, nurses, weddings, babies and other soft and squishy games. Of course girls DO like all of this, being the mother of two daughters I have waded through my fair share of pink landscapes and lamented at the fact that one of my daughters wore nothing BUT pink for two years of her life (aged 2.5 to 4.5 – before school turned her into a goth. Black is now her favourite).  However, girls also like doing other things, they like getting dirty and exploring, climbing trees, inventing stuff, solving puzzles and smashing things up.  In my experience and when free to choose  girls and boys end up playing pretty similar games until gender becomes an issue and that’s the problem.  Sexism it starting early and it seems that in today’s world you are either all boy or all girl – crossing that line can spell social and emotional disaster.

We All Wanted To Be Fairies Once Upon A Time!

Sound a bit dramatic? Well this is only the beginning of the book but again I can attest to the comments and jeering that happens when a girl admits to preferring lego over barbies or tree-climbing over baby dolls. So, is it any wonder then that if we create planet boy and planet girl in kindergarten that we need manuals to help us work out those strang beings from mars or venus when we hit puberty.

Just Because Some Girls Like Pink Doesn't Mean They Can't Think!

That was all quite tame and fairly easy to manage on an individual level – you can buy your kids non-gendered toys or encourage a variety of play activities to broaden your childs horizons. But what about pole dancers?  I couldn’t believe it when I read that a UK supermarket was selling a pole dancing kit for kids – it was withdrawn after complaints but PLEEEASE.  What were they thinking? Then we have the seep of pornography into our high streets, the acceptability of pole dancing clubs, strippers and violent video games. It’s all in here and it’s leaving us cold. NO wonder we’d rather look un-human being a REAL woman is just too hard.

I was fascinated by the bit of the book that reviewed a series of experiments and research projects that have ‘found’ differences between the two sexes brains.  OK you say, there has to be a difference between the brains of men and women – men hunted and women raised children two different roles requiring two sets of skills.  Valid point, but does it make sense for that minor detail to overpower our whole thought processes or is it more likely that we are nurtured and conditioned into making these small differences big?

The book cites various experiments showing that conformation bias is rife in brain sex experiments – YES women can to math as well as men, women can read maps, men can nurture babies, men can talk as much and as well as women AND we are both capable of being as loving or as evil as each other.  It makes for fascinating and somewhat challenging reading – I have often fell into the ‘gender brain’ trap when describing people I know or situations that I’ve observed – it is only natural but that doesn’t mean it’s only biological!

And where does that leave those who are gay, transsexual, non-sexual, bi-sexual, transvestite, tomboys, metrosexuals or any other label that we may choose to adopt?  I put it to you that we enjoy the differences between the sexes and we encourage them, rebel against them, confront them, test them,  shy away from them and embrace them.  Our brains may have the same capabilities but our society and social interactions thrive on nurturing these differences.  After all, we are visual and complex creatures.

I always enjoy something that makes me want to go out and change the world and this book certainly does that. It is less overtly angry and panicked than some feminist books and makes many valid and scientifically rigorous points. I have been shocked at our lethargy and acceptance of the plastification of beauty which is why I call it a Beauty Conspiracy – we are moving to a place that is somehow un-human and thoroughly inhumane. All of this willingness to embrace  plastic at a time when many of us are trying to ‘go green’ buy natural and avoid synthetic chemicals in our beauty products?   It’s a crazy dichotomy that we are creating.

Anyhow, buy the book, read the book and challenge the stereotype.  I didn’t come out of  a box and I’m not going to make one my home now. So there!

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