Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is the New "Tween Dora" a Sell-Out?

Like many moms, I was a bit concerned when I read a few weeks ago that Mattel was going to be introducing a middle school aged version of Dora the Explorer. My 6 year old, Miss Scarlet, is a big Dora fan (though since we do not have cable/satellite her exposure is limited to books and the occasional DVD). As far as kids' entertainment goes, Dora is one of the better options in my book. She's kind, resourceful, brave, encourages kids to explore nature, and even teaches a few words of Spanish.

When I first heard of the "Tween Dora", I was afraid that she might resemble those awful Bratz dolls with too much makeup and too little clothing. A sexually provocative Dora would be about as welcome at our house as the infestation of 50,000 Africanized honeybees we heard about on NPR last week.

Today, I received an email from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood asking me to sign a petition to Mattel against "Tween Dora". This petition reads in part:

"We know that if the original Dora grew up, she wouldn't be a fashion icon or a shopaholic. She'd develop her map reading skills and imagine the places she could go. She'd capitalize on those problem solving skills to design new ways to bring fresh water to communities in need around the world. Maybe she'd become a world class runner or follow her love of animals and become a wildlife preservationist or biologist. We'll never know because the only way a girl can grow up in tween town, is to narrow that symphony of choices to one note. It's such a sell out of Dora, of all girls. "

I agree that the original Dora would grow up to be clever, imaginative, and want to use her talents to solve problems and give back to the community. But why does that mean she can't also enjoy fun girlie-girl stuff like fashion? Why does she need to be androgynous to be smart and successful in a career? Why can't "Tween Dora" like exploring AND shopping? Why, four decades after feminism was supposed to free women from gender-based stereotypes to make their own decisions are we still perpetuating the false dichotomy between brains & beauty?

Now that the look of "Tween Dora" has been revealed, I'm relieved to see that it's fairly innocuous. I'm not thrilled about the pierced ears and makeup, but they're on the subtle side. Her figure is slender, but not anorexic-looking nor Barbie's extreme hourglass. Her outfit is age-appropriate and I personally think it's cute.
I don't see this new "Tween Dora" as necessarily being a sell-out of everything that the original Dora stood for. She does have a more overtly feminine appearance than her preschool counterpart, but so what?

I had a pixie cut & tomboyish clothes as a preschooler and then wore my hair long and cute feminine-looking outfits when I got older and more into fashion. But I still was into science and speaking my mind and wanting to make this world a better place. The outside might look a bit different, but inside I was still the same person. I liked going to the mall to pick out a new lip gloss one day and playing hockey with my brothers the next.

Why can't "Tween Dora" be similarly multifaceted?


Cate said...

My Dear,
I so appreciate how articulate you are about the early stages of feminism. Thank you.

Kirsten said...

She looks like a younger version of Diego's friend/sister.