It never ceases to amaze me how here, in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, how many people there are who don’t seem to appreciate precious freedoms. I am not talking about immigrants still learning our history, culture and customs, I am talking about people who were born and raised, here in the USA, who have, presumably, been through our education system, read the constitution, and understand the rights that were earned by the Founding Fathers via the American Revolution.
Or do they?
Perhaps I have a different perspective, since I grew up with my father as a role model. He was originally from Czechoslovakia, a small country in Eastern Europe to which history has been most unkind. Dad barely managed to survive two brutal, absolute dictatorships, first Hitler, then Stalin. When he arrived in the US in the 1950s, well, let’s just say my dad discovered “Freedom of Speech” and made it all his own. He was a very opinionated soul, and was, perhaps by definition, what one could call highly conservative.
Except in one instance.
Maybe it was due to the regimes he lived under, but my dad had an absolute loathing of censorship. What really surprised him, coming from the background he did, to a country where freedom was the rule and not the exception, was finding so many people who wanted to take away the freedom of others to choose, because the naysayers found something offensive. To best sum up how my dad felt about this, I’ll even use his own words:
If that book or magazine offends you, don’t read it. If you don’t like that song or TV Show, either change the channel or turn off the player. If you don’t like the movie, don’t buy tickets to it. No one is holding a gun to your head!
Yes, I am aware this is a blog about dolls, and yes, I do have a point. Today’s target is the latest (yawn) controversy over a Barbie doll, specifically the Tokidoki Barbie, which Fashion Doll Review's own Alison reviewed only a few posts ago.
What amuses me the most about the scandals that keep coming up about Barbie – which, sadly, don’t seem to be slowing down in the slightest – is how hysterical some of the alleged consumers get to be, as if there actually was a gun, held up to their heads, forcing them to fork over their hard earned money for these dolls.
The scandal specifically focuses on Tokidoki’s tattoos. Hand wringing, hair pulling adults, this time led by a woman named Marianne Szymanski, founder of Toy Tips, an independent toy researcher, who was interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor, which can be found here.
I am not belittling the Ms. Szymanski for being concerned about the toys her children and other children play with – though I am not a parent, I know I would be concerned with how age-appropriate a toy would be, and even more importantly, how safe the object would be for a young child. There are legitimate concerns – small pieces a child could choke on, lead paint, toxic materials, age appropriateness, and so forth.
But Ms. Szymanski is defeating her own self-appointed mission, namely the protection of her own and other children and risks making herself a laughing stock by her own words. She notes that Mattel points out that this doll is meant for adult collectors only, not children, which is stated on Mattel’s website, and is sold, not in brick and mortar stores that are easily accessible to children, but online, at select retailers who cater to adult collectors. Tokidoki is not available to collectors at the regular Mattel site which is frequented by children, but rather at Barbiecollector.com, which is geared for adults.
How does she manage this?
“It doesn’t matter if it’s not for kids. It’s out there.”
“The argument that you’ll get from the toy companies is: ‘Oh, it’s for adults.’ But those companies need to know what parents’ concerns are.”
I really don’t understand this mindset. She has already defeated herself and her concerns. The item is clearly an adult collectible, she, herself says that is Mattel's official statement on the subject. Yet Ms. Szymanski, someone who is allegedly a parent, and the founder of what otherwise seems to be a very helpful organization for fellow parents, sounds incredibly naïve. Is someone holding a gun to Ms. Szymanski’s head, forcing her to purchase this doll? I find that highly doubtful.
There is a pattern at work here, which makes me wonder about a segment of "alleged modern parents." I say alleged, because I don’t want to demean genuinely good mothers and fathers who do their best for their children.
"Alleged modern parents" are people who do not stand up to their little darlings and being a parent, saying to their little darlings, “No, you can’t have that.” This variety of "parent" usually caves in to a carefully waged whining and/or tantrum campaign by said little darlings. Most times, they will finally buy the item just to get some peace; or so their children, “Won’t hate me,” or “View me as the bad guy.”
Instead of reflecting on how to actually be the adult in the relationship with their children, these "alleged modern parents" will create an uproar in the media, and/or file lawsuits against a toy company for an inappropriate item, such as a doll that is clearly not for children.
Perhaps the size of Mattel's bank account, real or imagined, is too much temptation for these "alleged modern parents."
I am not in the habit of defending a doll company or other large corporation, because these folks have their own legal departments who can do that for them; as well as publicity departments for handling inquiries from the media and other concerns. But the fact of the matter is, Mattel is clearly aware of "parental concerns," since they are marketing the item for adults only, and not placing these dolls in venues where children will see – and possibly covet them – such as regular brick and mortar stores, Mattel’s Barbie website which is frequented by children, or online stores where they can be seen and purchased by children.
Perhaps Ms. Szymanski’s energies would be better focused on finding toys she finds appropriate for her children. After all, a $200,000 plus Ferrari, which is also an adult collectible, is inappropriate for children, yet she is not calling for a ban on those, is she?