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Natasha Walter – Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism

Posted in Book reviews, and Non-fiction

With Christmas around the corner, yearly shopping fever has slowly started; at least judging by seasonal offers starting with Starbucks, ending with gifting season by Sephora. City’s Christmas lights illuminate our ways between various shops, while we are going through our mental notes about what to buy to whom. Luckily, at least shopping for kids is easy: dolls for girls, cars for boys. No toy store is just a toy store anymore. If we want to buy a present for girl, we better go to a girl section, filled with glitters, pink, and for boys is the other section; full of action toys, LEGO and video games. Yes, it really is 2016. How is it still possible there is no meeting point, there is no overlapping still?

Living Dolls offers an important point regarding widely used motto of ‘free choice’ in terms of both looks and behavior. With the idea in their mind, where women are stronger than ever and moving fast forward from established gender stereotypical patterns, women are breaking the rules while they also rediscover their sexuality and beauty. However, such approach is lastly creating unexpected dynamics, where women loyal to the motto of ‘free choice’ have changed their behavior from puritan-like wifes and decent mothers to empowered individuals taking classes of pole dancing and are getting their looks improved thanks to various degrees of plastic surgery. But is it really their own choice, or does our current society, together with powerful and omnipresent media campaigns, create certain pressure on how to be empowered? After reading Natasha’s examples I must admit it has changed few opinions I’ve had.

Another great point of this book is how higher masculine attributes are valued compared to femininity, which is nothing new, however in terms of gender representation it has gone little bit wild. Boys are considered stronger, faster, more skillful, whereas girls are more gentle, emotional and their skills are placed primarily in social sphere. This basic = stereotypical point of view presents boys as, simply put, more useful for the world we live in now. However, girls who displays more boyish behavior are suddenly in the better position than girls who prefer ‘traditional feminine’ activities. Reinforcing this attitude has two following results: being a boyish girl means being better than an average girl, because her masculine interests makes her valuable, and on the contrary being a girlish boy makes one not only less valuable than average boy, but it puts him somewhere amongst freaks and laugh worthy. Which is completely heart breaking and wrong on so, so many levels. Yet still does this separation continue harming our future generations.

Being said all above, I enjoyed reading Living Dolls very much. The language used is easily understandable and I would even recommend this book for everyone interested in learning something about feminism, gender norms and how gender centered consumerism affects our lives. It explains a lot and calls for an action too – maybe one of the first ones should be to learn, understand and pass the knowledge so that next generations of girls won’t need to be labeled as living dolls, but as living women.

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