When I was growing up, I had a doll that cried fake tears, a doll that drank milk and a doll that “peed” in her diaper. (I was not a fan of that last one – I still hate diapers.) Their purpose, I suppose, was to teach little girls about taking care of babies – along with the play kitchen and cradle, dolls like this are just another way we slickly introduce domesticity into girls’ lives. Given that, I probably should be excited about the prospect of a more “empowering” doll – one whose fake bodily function is something girls actually need to learn about. But the reality of it leaves me… moody.
Yes, I’m talking about a period doll.
The Lammily doll, with more realistic body proportions than Disney and Barbie-fied alternatives, now comes with a “period party pack,” which the company touts as “the fun way to explain the menstrual cycle to kids”. I guess throwing a heating pad and some tampons at your mortified kid when she hits puberty isn’t considered ‘fun’ anymore, who knew.
I imagine the doll is meant for girls younger than those getting their periods, as I don’t see anyone post-10 years old playing with a politically correct Barbie. And demystifying periods for young girls is a nice idea. As the doll’s website points out, “this perfectly healthy natural process is still surrounded with taboos…let’s start an open and positive conversation about our periods.”
For some girls, pretending your doll gets her period might a fun and educational way to learn about menstruation. It’s certainly a better choice than the options of yore. But surely the easiest and best way to teach our daughters about menstruation is to, well, talk to them.
The ad for the period party pack shows a pair of clueless parents who can’t manage to get a word out about menstruation without breaking into a ridiculous rap. While we may feel inept from time to time, parents are not idiots. Nor are kids. Do they really need tiny doll-sized maxi pads in order to grasp the reality of getting their period? Do parents seriously need that kind of buffer?
Children – both boys and girls – should be learning about menstruation as part of everyday life and conversation, not necessarily a rite of passage. I remember seeing pads and tampons around the house as a child and asking about them, and my mother nonchalantly explaining her period. It’s similar for my daughter: she’s too young to understand the biology around periods, but she knows that they exist.
At the end of the day, I’m glad a period doll exists alongside dolls that require feeding and diaper changes and in lieu of toys that teach girls to hate their bodies. The more positive options girls have, the better. But I’ll still skip Period Patty (I’ll be trademarking that, thanks) for now. My daughter doesn’t need a doll to teach her; she has me.