Shaping Youth is in the Philadelphia Inquirer Today

glotonSept. 2, 2009 For a media shy writer wonk who likes to fly under the radar, you might say I’m a ‘glutton’ for punishment each time I agree to making a comment to the press.

The Bebé Glotón toy story originated at Thingamababy about the Spanish breastfeeding doll with slurpy sounds and strap-on-bib; human not included.

Since then, it’s taken off into controversy land and Jezebel’s covered it, as has Fox News, the Daily Mail, EcoChild’s Play and a host of others, including an update from Thingamababy who had to close comments the first round due to incivility. I didn’t cover it here, because frankly it seemed like an obvious ‘marketing gaffe’ that would self-correct, due to a lousy assessment of market expansion into the U.S.; plus it felt ‘media-fueled’ so I chose not to fan the flames. But when reporter Lini Kadaba of the Philadelphia Inquirer called and asked my opinion, I gave it:

I’ve never been a fan of ANY of the ‘realism’ that complicates toys and thwarts a child’s natural imaginative play, whether it’s belching, peeing, talking, singing, crying, whatever…I’m heartily in the camp of Dr. Susan Linn who authored The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World because we’ve proven time and again that developmentally, there’s huge value in unstructured play.

Much like my Miley Cyrus/Teen’s Choice pole dancing quote in the L.A.Times, the sound bite always wins…so even though BOTH journalists did a great job with their balance, I’ll rely on this blog as my ‘mother ship’ for clarity, context, and edification with a heartfelt HURRAY for social media once again enabling ‘the full story’ to reign!

bebe glotonIt’s not that I’m ever MISquoted, (yep, I even said ‘boobs’ off the cuff) but since articles get truncated to save space, I come off sounding more ‘prude than pragmatic’ and I start getting trolls on my tail or morality police who want to come along for a ride…(bleh to either one).

So here are some of the verbatim transcripts and outtakes of dialog from important voices within Shaping Youth to not only frame but shape the TOTAL conversation on the Bebé Glotón doll.

For example…we’re fortunate to have Latina Health Education specialist and bilingual research assistant Rebeca Montealegre Boyte lending a hand, and she hails from Costa Rica. She not only brings cultural context in Spanish speaking countries to the discussion, but a global worldview of the brand name, insights, and colloquialisms which help frame a larger media context. If I were to write a piece on it, I’d have the ammo to make sense of it all. That’s important to me.

I forwarded Rebeca’s comments to the Philly Inquirer, as important analysis worth understanding to get out of the America-centric focus of media myopia, and the reporter, Lini Kadaba said it in fact DID inform her writing…

So here’s my take on Bebé Glotón…

But first…Got a minute?

Here’s the :55 clip to show you what all the fuss is about…

I’ve never seen a better “Case for Make Believe”…

case for make believe paperback

Pretend play is FREE, uses the natural imagination, inquisitiveness, and role modeling of a child and doesn’t cost $55+ for a gizmo with nipple daisies and a suckling doll with creepy eyelashes that makes people squirm over-thinking.

As I just wrote on the Philadelphia Inquirer blog to clarify:

“Since I was quoted in the piece, I’m going to clarify a tad to keep the trolls at bay firing up the ‘prude vs. pragmatic’ debate cycle.

The whole brouhaha is based on our U.S. hypersexed context of breasts versus the very natural act of breastfeeding…cultural context is huge.

Developmentally, make believe/pretend play trumps all the belching, peeing, crying, ‘do it all for you’ dolls that can diminish a child’s imagination…The environment created by the torrent of other messages and ads needs to be factored in to cultural context to understand why people recoil w/this heightened realism.”

Is the toy itself ‘sexualization’? Nope– But we have to remember we’re living in a country where girls are constantly ‘commodified’ and ‘objectified’ at ever younger ages, narrowcasting tweens and teens into pole-dancing hoochie-mamas and given appearance-based cues.

Just like the whole  Target’s ‘snow angel vs. spread eagle’ absurd debate, they missed the point that unfortunately in the U.S. we have a highly objectified, pornified context of girls and women in media portrayals which elicits that ‘omg’ response to a natural act like breastfeeding…particularly with a child toting a ‘strap-on’ bib.

minimama

As for the issue of normalizing breastfeeding over bottle (it’s true, if you go down the toy aisle the baby accessories all come with bottles)…I agree that breastfeeding SHOULD get ‘equal time’ to bottle cues…

I said,

“Marketing DOES play a role in normative behavioral cues early on…so if I were marketing a ‘natural doll’ in the U.S.  I’d go with something more like the mini-mama magnet dolls over the realism depicted by Bebe Gloton…

“…It wasn’t too many years ago that hospitals gave out ‘freebie formula’ to new moms and now are giving out lactation pads and coupons for pumps. So marketing DOES influence default behaviors…”

But again, to expound upon this…

I don’t think we need to commercialize every natural bodily function known to mankind, ya know? What’s next, puberty breakouts and period menstruation dolls squirting red dye? That’s natural too…right?

Finally, here are the other relevant voices of Shaping Youth on this topic, first, our body image correspondent, Dr. Robyn Silverman, who said,

“As the body image consultant for Shaping Youth and a child development
specialist, I talked about this issue in my own article…This is just not a black and white issue. It’s not a choice of: “breast-feeding is beautiful so we love the doll” or “breasts and breast-feeding is private and for adults so I hate the doll.”

The issue is that many Americans, while proponents of breast-feeding and women’s rights to breast-feed, are expressing discomfort about babies simulating suckling babies.

Yes, that’s where you see the nerves around sexualization of children. Of course, the children do this with dolls that don’t breast-feed on command. No, it’s not gross– and it’s not wrong when they do that. I have no doubt that many moms who breast-feed their children, have seen their baby’s older sibling pretend to breast-feed their dolls, just like Mommy. But in America, where the thought of “nipples,” “breasts,” and “dolls that suckle” make people squirm when paired with children-(even when pretending)– the doll would simply be a tough sell in the main stream.” –Dr. Robyn Silverman

And here’s S.Y. research assistant Rebeca M. Boyt with her views on the controversy of the name ‘Gloton’ and gluttony…

“Gloton” means gluttonous, but it’s not a derogatory term if you’re referring to a baby. That’s because Latin mothers want their babies to be good eaters. A more “neutral” word may have been “comelón” (“eater”) but “gloton” is acceptable, too…

“While I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding, I agree with you in that I prefer that children use their own imagination to play. Dolls/toys now come with too many accessories. Where’s the creativity when you know how you’re supposed to play with something? My favorite game as a child was to “make believe” with palmtree leaves using them to fuel “our cars” (bikes) or using them as “stop signs”. –Rebeca M. Boyte, Research Asst., Child Dev/Maternal Nutrition; Latino Health Ed

Finally…as I summed to the reporter in Philly on the Bebe Gloton bit;  it’s not just a media literacy or commercialism issue…

“The power and impact of media and marketing to trigger, persuade, and alter human beings’ worldviews is profound…WITH that power comes an inherent responsibility for the messages being put out there. That goes for context, too.”

‘Nuff said. Hopefully I’ve made a first strike attempt to keep trolls at bay exhibiting rational thought versus polarization…

As one Twitterer said responding to the Miley quote sans full context, “oops, so sorry, didn’t see your site; thought you were one of those extremist wingnuts!”—

She didn’t say whether she meant ‘left or right’ but since we’re “neither” I suppose it’s all in the ‘context’ of how she was spinning it.

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Comments

  1. Bebe Gloton ( the doll that imitates breastfeeding) is on sale on eBay and Amazon

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