Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Lolita Effect

By:  Melissa K. Duffy (guest post)

So, I was walking through the isles in a Target store, looking for dish detergent, and I stumbled upon an opportunity for a blog post for class that seemed to be screaming to me from the shelf. I had so many opinions about it, that I felt I just had to take a picture of it with my phone for my post.

This Barbie doll reminded me of class discussions we had about the Lolita Effect (media's sexualization of young girls) and about pressure that the media puts on females to fit a one-size-fits-all definition of beauty. As you can see, like most Barbie dolls, this doll looks thin and tall, which is what the media presents as the definition of beauty. Moreover, this Barbie doll's main consumer is little girls (or the parents of little girls), which makes this Barbie doll a huge influence on the development of most girls. This is because these dolls are some of the first types of media exposure that many girls are exposed to. Young girls see commercials for these dolls that, like any format for an advertisement, do two things: 1) create a problem, and then 2) offer a solution for it. More specifically, an ad for these dolls might state something along the lines of "no one wants to play with an ugly doll", and then "we have a solution, this pretty, perfect doll". The message these girls receive is: "This doll is the definition of beauty". This process is what leads young girls to feel insecure and to believe that they are only worth as much as they are "beautiful".

Another issue I have with this Barbie doll, which stood out to me the most, was the way this Barbie doll is dressed. The outfit is not necessarily an issue, but the fact that this doll is dressed like this and is intended to be marketed to young girls is. What makes it a bigger issue is that it only accentuates the doll's "ideal" body and seems to be the main focus of the doll. That is, this Barbie has no theme to market (she is not "teacher Barbie" or "doctor Barbie" or even "actress Barbie"- which, one could argue, could be the reason for the dress if she was supposed to be at an award ceremony). It seems that this Barbie is nothing but "Barbie in a revealing dress". This operates under the assumption that it is in fact a positive thing to look "ideal" and to wear revealing clothing to accentuate it, and, therefore, no need be for a female to offer any other qualities (e.g.: personality, intelligence..).

Overall, I was surprised to see this doll so casually displayed in the isle in Target. I was aware that most Barbie dolls often reinforce the one-size-fits-all definition of beauty, but I was surprised to see it so obviously displayed and highlighted by the dolls revealing dress.


  1. Wow, Melissa! Thanks for your blog. I could not agree with you more that this doll represents an ideal of what a young girl should look like, and it is the wrong ideal. This message being sent to our children is appalling to me also. For example, the Lolita effect is about the media’s sexualization of young girls before they hit puberty. And you spotted it perfectly with the doll. However, this form of advertisement or media symbolism definitely creates more than two issues for the parent and the little girl. For instance, the parent of the young girl might tell her daughter that she cannot have that doll. As a result, the child more than likely will become upset and may ask, why…? And, the young girl might start crying and also make a big scène in the store. And we all know the moms’ answer to why the daughter can’t have that doll, it’s “because I said so.” In addition, the mother is protecting the child’s future self- esteem, because most young girls will not grow up to look like that doll. Finally, a small female child will not understand why her mom does not want to buy her that Barbie doll, and that it's a doll dressed up like a sexy woman going to a night club, or because it’s dressed up to promiscuously. In my opinion, that doll puts out a trampy image for all young women to see and it is distorted.

  2. The Lolita Effect caught my attention because I think it is the perfect example of one of the problems that little girls are having today, poor self esteem and self worth. Many little girls are living with the belief that they have to look like Victoria’s Secret models or a Barbie doll. To conform to society’s image of beauty, little girls starve themselves. It is true that we are all unique and we all have individuality; we are not robots that do everything that society says. But when we hear about a seven year old suffering from anorexia and bulimia we ask ourselves how society is influencing our children. I would say that society tells women every day how they should look and behave without measuring the influence that it is having on younger generations.

  3. To me not only is the Barbie dressed very inappropriately for children but it kinda scares me. The eyes and smile creep me out a bit. This is definitely young girls's first exposure to what they "should" look like. Pretty horrible.