Words by Liz Coughlin
Following Target’s riddance of gender distinction in stores, one toy company is helping to encourage pride in femininity. The Lammily Doll, more commonly known as the “normal Barbie”, was created to help impressionable youngsters embrace their imperfections, where the original Barbie failed. In a quest to promote body acceptance, their Lammily doll now provides parents the opportunity to help teach girls about the most imperfect feminine quality of all: menstruation.
Lammily has taken steps in the past to create an accurate representation of the female body, with an extension pack that included freckles, acne, and even cellulite stickers, winning an award for their efforts to promote a positive societal body image. This year they’ve taken their mission a few steps further. Ten dollars for a Period Party extension kit will allow the Lammily doll a pair of underwear, eighteen reusable pads and liner stickers, one calendar with dot stickers to coincide, and an informational pamphlet. For children who are subject to a public school system severely lacking comprehensive sex education, this new learning tool has potential to be a more thorough and hands-on teaching method.
That isn’t to say that the new addition to the Lammily line hasn’t seen its fair share of criticism. Consumers have expressed concern over potential problem areas, one being its insensitivity in associating periods strictly with females, when periods are very much a reality for transgender boys. And with a name like “Period Party” that makes menstruation sound a little too much like a happy get together amongst friends, the doll may not do as good a job as insightful advice from parents and healthy conversation. It also raises the question of censorship: must we expose young girls to a traumatic experience so early on, before it’s truly necessary? Some parents prefer to avoid the subject altogether by letting nature take its course. But now girls with uncommunicative parents no longer have to tackle puberty alone.
In some countries, like India, women are isolated from sacred spaces and even their families during their menstrual cycle. They will often drop out of school for lack of access to sanitary products and to avoid ridicule. However, in other cultures, women are treated like queens. In Ghana, for example, women are showered with gifts and praise. This proves that it is not impossible for society to accept periods as a natural process of life. In America, girls are likely only to talk amongst friends about their experiences, if at all. For now the classic exchange of tampons between friends has to proceed under tables, in secret. But until it is socially acceptable to talk about periods, at least they now have a miniature friend to confide in.
Provided with a visual representation of proper hygiene techniques, they are more likely to execute this proper hygiene when the time comes to put it to practice. And while periods aren’t an easy subject to approach, the doll should help to make it easier. In an interview with Today.com, creator Nikolay Lamm made his intentions clear. “If a doll has pads, how can menstruation be taboo?” It is a stepping-stone for girls to feel comfortable starting a conversation with their parents and peers, so that periods aren’t something they feel embarrassed about. Periods may not be parties, but this doesn’t mean we have to ignore them completely.