Stuart Dent
English 101-00
Assignment #1: Revision
October 4, 1996

Children With Newborns

          Newborn babies’ heads are usually shaped like cones, their faceshave baby acne, their eyes are crossed, and they have a clamp with a bloodclot where the navel will be. These are all typical characteristics of areal newborn baby. Yet in recent years we have seen a trend favoring thenewborn over the traditionally cute baby doll as the ideal toy for littlegirls to “play” with. Some of the toy manufacturers responsible for thesenewborns pride themselves on the realism of their creations, and indeedthe dolls look appropriately hideous. Others, though, promote thesupposed desirability of the newborn, but cannot convince themselves thatany child consumer would be charmed by a realistic depiction of a newbornhuman baby. Playmates Inc., for example, among their Water Babies line oftoys, offers “Little Baby Doll,” intended to depict a real newborn butglamorized sufficiently for them to sell to the public. What they havecreated, then, is essentially a twisted and sterile monstrosity intendedto attract girls towards an idealized future of childcare.

          Depicted on the box, a little girl looks down adoringly at thedoll baby which rests on a pink blanket in a cradle. The doll wears afloral gown and pink ribbon. The Water Babies packaging often refers tothe Little Baby Doll as soft, tiny, and warm: words that are most oftenused to describe a girl. Studies have shown that daughters, as opposed tosons, are rated as significantly softer, finer featured, weaker, and moredelicate (Rubin et al. 153). Obviously, Playmates’ Little Baby Doll is agirl and designed specifically for little girls to play with. What isthis teaching our children? Simply that it is the role of the mother tocare for the children? Thus, Playmates Water Babies Little Baby Doll hassuccessfully promoted traditional sex-role socialization.

          Playmates’ Little Baby Doll smiles between rosy cheeks. Like theso-called glamorous fashion dolls, this infant wears lipstick, mascara,eyeshadow, and blush. Thus Playmates blurs the line between babies andteen fashion, the latter of which, due largely to other toy companiesthemselves, most girls in this culture learn to admire. The bizarreappearance of the doll suggests that even newborn babies are glamorous andtherefore desirable for young girls. Yet consider the panic currentlyrampant about teenage pregnancy!

          Playmates offers the promise that the little mother-to-be canbring the infant to life. She just must “add the magic” by filling thedoll with warm water, which makes the doll “seem to come alive.”According to instructions on the packaging, the child is to open the plugfound in the doll’s back, “burp” out any air pockets by “gently squeezingthe doll’s body,” and then “firmly insert the easy fill funnel and fillslowly with warm tap water, whereupon “she feels just like a real newborn. . . so soft . . . so tiny.” You do not burp a newborn by squeezing itsbody! And how can a doll made of rubber and filled with water feel like a”real” newborn? Playmates here promises to the prematurely aspiringmothers what is essentially a human teddy bear requiring minimal care.

          The manufacturers further simplify childcare by promising girlsthat “Your loving touch makes her wiggle and squirm — just like anewborn!” and “Nestled in your arms, she’s so soft and warm — you’llbelieve she’s real!” It would seem that the only skill required fortaking care of a newborn is a loving touch. Playmates has omitted all ofthe unpleasantness of having a newborn baby, such as the messy diapers andthe constant spit-up! Instead, the prospective mother is the one whoreceives comfort, and with minimal concern for the baby.

          Early in their lives, our children are taught the values of asociety that discriminates based on gender. Studies show that sex-typingand sex-role socialization appear to begin their course at the time of theinfant’s birth (Rubin et al. 156). Children’s toys carry on theseparatism by making dolls and tea sets for girls and GI Joes and Rambosfor boys. Ultimately, because of the way that our society is organized,women end up having greater domestic responsibilities than men (Walton 29)and fewer opportunities outside these confines.

          Although not a parent myself, I am concerned with what childrentoday are being taught, whether it be by a teacher or by a toy. ThePlaymates Water Babies Little Baby Doll is showing our children the”idealistic” version of a newborn as opposed to the “realistic” version.The fact that I make such a big deal over a baby doll may seem ridiculous;however, if you take the time to look beyond the surface of the toy, youwill be amazed with what you find.

Works Cited

Rubin, Jeffrey Z., Frank J. Provenzano, and Zella Luria. ìThe
          Eyeof the Beholder: Parents’ View on the Sex of
          Newborns.î InWriting About the World. Ed.
          Susan McLeod. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College
          Jovanovich, 1991. 25-38.

Walton, Anne. ìWomen Scientists: Are They Really Different?î
          InWriting About the World. 149-57.