Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

A Sexy Werewolf? No, not Jacob, Clawdeen. Shame on Mattel




Mattel's Clawdeen

Mattels Waxing and Shaving Monster High Doll Sparks Outrage – FoxNews.com.

I read the article linked above after Melissa Wardy posted a link to it on Pigtail Pals. Here’s what I find strange about the Monster High Dolls, Struts sexified horses, Baby Bratz, and so forth: Where has the creativity gone? It’s like all toy makers and marketers have sat down and decided that if they want to appeal to girls, then just slap some make-up and fancy clothes on it, and you’re golden.

Mattel, please listen up: LITTLE GIRLS ARE NOT ALL ABOUT MAKE-UP AND SHORT SKIRTS!!! Believe me, I live with three of them and have worked with hundreds. Little girls love to run, kick soccer balls, climb trees, read books, play in the mud, conduct science experiments, play instruments, and on and on, all things that you can’t and shouldn’t do in a pair of high heels. Little girls do not need or want everything in their life to be pink and sparkly. They may enjoy pink, sparkly, and princess sometimes. But why are those almost the only choices?

Shame on every creative person who has been involved in making these ridiculous, highly gender stereotyped, sexualized toys for little girls. You have creativity and money at your disposal, so get busy making some toys of which you can be proud. Get to work coming up with ideas to get and keep girls interested in math and science, in playing sports, and in having fun. We’re sick and tired of our girls only being encouraged to pose, dance, and walk the catwalk.

There are some products that are good out there. These include Pigtail Pals line of t-shirts and accessories, Mattel’s American Girl line is great but it’s too expensive to be accessible to a lot of little girls, Mindwares has a lot of great toys for both genders. Treasure Box Toys even has dolls for boys, because, yes, some boys enjoy playing with dolls just like some girls enjoy playing with building sets. The point is, there are non-sexualized toys out there, but you have to look for them. Here’s an amazing thought, staggering really: What if, you could find toys like these in the toy aisles of your local big box store? What if, instead of having to search the internet and have them shipped, people had non-sexualized toys readily accessible? Now, that’s a point to ponder. I hope it’s something that I’ll see in the future, but the way Mattel is going, I’m not so sure. If you have examples of non-gendered, non-sexualized toys and brands, I’d love for you to share them.

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10 comments on “A Sexy Werewolf? No, not Jacob, Clawdeen. Shame on Mattel

  1. Marie
    August 15, 2011

    OK I understand the concern here but I truly hate to burst your bubble. Alot of kids have become rather cynical ( and sadly, still see outer beauty quite appealing) these days and I highly doubt the still innocent ones will understand sexy they’ll just see her as pretty that’s it. I know I’ve seen it.

    Personally I think it’s cool to let youngsters start looking art the monster high stuff and appreciate the light-hearted side of classic movie monsters before they move on the scary stuff as they grow older.

    Also some moms are so old fashioned they don’t want their girls to play sports – they say little girls should girl stuff like play with dolls and boys play with balls.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      August 15, 2011

      There is no bubble to burst. I work and live with kids every single day. Children can and will learn to evaluate the value of the products that are marketed to them when we teach them how to do it. Even very young children can start learning to understand what messages are being sent to them when the adults in their lives are open in talking with them about it. So, kids find themselves feeling that the most important thing about them is how they look? Well, then the adults in their lives have some work to do to help them process that, and to help them learn to look at the media and the products being marketed to them and critique it. See my posts on Positive Activism and Talking to get some examples of how adults can help children learn to be critical consumers. See also my posts on Deconstructing Monster High to see some specific ways of talking about this particular product. These dolls may have some fun messages to teach about monsters, but they’re wrapped up in a package that is inappropriate for the young children to whom they are being marketed.

  2. Amy Jussel
    July 10, 2011

    Aaron, I wish I could swallow your argument that toy companies are doing us a favor by ‘portraying beauty on something that was horrific as a positive ideal’ but frankly, that’s like saying the Halloween sexualization of Frankenstein brides/bloody vampires/werewolves is ‘positive beauty’ personified too…self-objectification and sexploitation in that manner is selling off childhood. Period. Exclamation mark.

    Further, these dolls are not remotely “positive ideals” —and we certainly don’t need toy companies perpetuating the Barbie as beauty myth benchmark in a thinner more monster-like form…Not drinking that KoolAid, we’ve trashed plenty of psyches already with the glamorama celebrification of toy products far beyond Barbie, Bratz and Monster High…(Mattel is clearly NOT on my happy list)

    If toys aren’t just sold for kids anymore (media/film argues this ‘adult swim’ innuendo necessary too) then perhaps we as adults should ‘grow up’ and find our own entertainment instead of expecting to be amused as “levity/diversion.”

    Finally, it’s a bloody travesty that ‘creative’ toy companies like Mattel can’t come up with healthier, fun, fab products that inspire and enlighten (careers, sports, inventors?) instead of tear down and trash childrens’ self-worth with toxic behavioral, attitudinal, and visual cues.

    Despite the Mattel PR machine intervening to save market share, it’s painfully clear that Monster High has hit a pain point with parents viewing it rightfully as negative pablum…Mattel simply chose to position a toxic line of vampy/trampy dolls w/mean girl/spiteful personas in the webisodes and are now (after negative press/parental pushback) “reframing” them as ‘changed’ and ‘kind’ (from the partnership w/the Kindness Campaign to the ‘acceptance of flaws’…and extra-curricular physicality)

    It’s bogus backpedaling to save a distressed toy line and protect an investment…Foul.
    p.s. You are quite right that kids need physical fitness; give ’em a ball, not a doll like this.

  3. Aaron Charles Wade
    July 10, 2011

    Let’s keep in mind though that not all toys these days are sold exclusively with children in mind. As the older generations keep up, there is a stimulus to keep them interested in things that allow for levity and diversion. And while I can see the concern for sexualizing a child’s plaything, it’s up to the parents to make conscientious decisions to govern what children play with. A company is only as good as the money it makes, and if people are going for the stuff that’s flashy and attractive, that’s where their resources are going to be spent. I must concur with another poster (Solitarybird) posted. There is a very positive message put forth by the creators of the Monster High doll line. They strongly encourage the acceptance of flaws in other and unify different talents to achieve common goals. The characters are all involved in physical extra-curricular activities, which I believe todays youth would be better off doing. I cannot agree with what you’re saying about the lack of creativity. The ability to portray beauty upon something that was for several decades personifies as horrific is a positive ideal, and I think that the subliminal efforts to encourage cooperation among people who don’t look the same is a good message that deserves applause.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      July 10, 2011

      Aaron, these toys are marketed to children as young as 6. If you visit a toystore, they are at eye level for 5-7 year olds. I agree with Amy that just calling something “monsterous” while also making it for all intents and purposes fit the thin beauty ideal does not creativity make. See my other posts on Deconstructing Monster High and Does Monster High Teach Kindness for more of my thoughts on this brand. If you want to encourage kids to play sports, how about Go!Go! Sports Girls? They have realistic shapes and are all linked to sporting activities.

  4. Jennifer Shewmaker
    April 11, 2011

    Fom Julie:
    Julie says:
    March 17, 2011 at 8:31 am  (Edit)
    I agree, shame on Mattel and all other companies that produce such toys. While I also agree that little girls need more options than pink/sparkly/princess or mommy toys, I also want to point out that when they DO want pink princess toys, they don’t want them to be “sexy.” Wholesome, innocent, and child-like toys is what all children need. Another good option for toys is http://www.melissaanddoug.com/. Some of their products are sold in big stores like Target and Wal-Mart, but they have more options online. Let’s support these companies that let children be children.

  5. Solitarybird
    April 9, 2011

    But, Clawdeen ran for track.

    And she likes to play sports!

    And Lagoona Blue is Captain of the swim team.

    I understand your point and it’s very valid, but I find it a bit unfair to attack Monster High without knowing the whole story. Or if you did, pointedly ignoring the whole truth for the sake of your argument.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      April 10, 2011

      I hear what you’re saying. My thoughts are, though, that the whole sexy look and focus on appearance detracts from those positive messages. It seems to me that there are a lot of products that kind of do a pseudo-positive message, and then pile on the sexualization. I wish that toy companies would choose to produce some toys that focus on the positives without all the other junk. It can’t be that hard, can it?

      Of course, this is just my opinion, and other parents will choose to look at these toys and others in different ways. I think if parents choose to let their kids be exposed to products and media that do have sexualized messages, then they certainly want to point those out and help their children learn to critique them. We all do this with certain media that we may enjoy, but don’t want to buy hook, line, and sinker. I think your point is well taken that we can take certain toys or media and share the positives with our children while also pointing out the aspects that we don’t agree with, see as negative, and so forth.

  6. Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth
    March 17, 2011

    Great post Jennifer, nice to see you cite positive alternatives as benchmarks to strive for and remind the big leagues they’re missing a ‘mega marketing opportunity’ to be mainstream with innovation that’s not gendered, sexist slop. Tweeting and sharing this pronto and adding link to my post on the topic at Shaping Youth, too: http://www.shapingyouth.org/?p=14209

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      March 17, 2011

      Thanks, Amy! I’m posting a link to your site later today. Your post on this is very insightful.

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