We were both knocked out and deeply heartened by eleven-year-old Violette Sera Delfina Hiser Skilling’s letter in a recent New Yorker in response to Jill Lepore’s article about the legal and cultural battles over Barbie and Bratz dolls,
As an eleven-year-old girl, I thought that I would share my perspective. I never wanted a Barbie or a Bratz doll until I discovered doll reconstruction. What you do is erase the features of the doll with nail-polish remover, and then remove the hair and make other body modifications. Then you give the doll a new face, new hair, and new clothing. (My favorite part is ripping out the hair, which is very therapeutic.)
What I like about doll reconstruction is that I am in control. I can make them pretty, or not. The two dolls that I have reconstructed represent two parts of me: one nerdy and very unfashionable, and one strong and cool. I make up their stories, and they represent my passions, my hopes, and my feelings. When I rip out a regular Barbie or Bratz’s hair and wipe off its face, I am changing the stereotypical body type, clothing, and makeup. I give it tiny wire glasses, bright-blue hair, and foam armor—my response to the toys made for my demographic. You should check it out!
—Violette Sera Delfina Hiser Skilling, Honolulu, Hawaii
“Check it out” we did. We looked into “doll reconstruction” to discover that it is a growing, very interesting, development in contemporary feminism. Krstl Tyler’s How To Play With Barbies blog features all manner of “doll care and customization” including Make-Unders, Natty Locs, and Re-Bodying. She writes:
…when the slutty clothes and ridiculous platinum blonde hair is gone, what a feminist mom and her impressionable daughter are left with is whatever they want to be left with. The world of barbies becomes a clean slate again. Empty of values until you introduce your own.
Empty of values until you introduce your own.
Yes! The essential affirming premise of hacking, tailoring, reconstructing, re-imagining.
Top two images via DollRocket7 Etsy store.