Banning Barbie

In 2003 Saudi Arabia banned the sale of Barbie Dolls.

They were banned because they were Jewish. (The authorities believed that Mattel – the makers of Barbie – were Jewish. For the record, Mattel is a publicly traded company and has been since the 60’s.)

They were banned because their clothes were ‘too revealing.’

They were banned because they had a woman’s figure, and therefore were not proper for ‘yet-to-develop’ young girls to play with.

(Of course here in America there are many feminists who object to Barbie for a similar reason, but in their case because the figre is disproportionately womanly – but I digress.)

Ten years later Iran also banned the sale of Barbie. In Iran’s case it was because Barbie is a ‘symbol of corrupt western culture.’

Last week, there was a terrible attack in France against a Jewish supermarket on the eve of the Sabbath, and the murder of twelve people at a newspaper in France.

I’m not saying that Islamic countries banning Barbie led to the slaughter in France. Of course not. How could one possibly take such a leap – Barbie representing everything evil about the west?

On the other hand, avalanches are made up of single snowflakes.

Just saying, is all.

Book Review: The Doll in the Garden

I truly treasure my collection of storybooks that have a ‘connection’ of some kind to a doll. I find that most of them fall into two different categories… the doll is the main character and the story is about their adventures, or the story is about a child, and their love for a doll.

The Doll in the Garden Book Cover

But of course there are always exceptions, and this week’s book review is one of those exceptions. This doll story is about a doll… who belongs to a ghost! And the ghost wants her doll back!

Moonlit nights, time travel and a magical cat are all elements in the story, but the basic plot revolves around the little girls in the present, who find the doll, discover the mystery of how it came to be buried in the garden, and are trying to give the doll back to it’s rightful owner, a little girl who lived and died seventy years in their past!

‘It’s china face was pale and smudged with dirt. One eye was half open and the other was closed, its nose was chipped, but it was still beautiful. I held it toward Kristi. “It’s an old doll,” I whispered.’

That’s the description in the book, but in my imagination, I’ve always thought she looked a little bit like the doll we sell at Pattycake Doll Company called Sarah Rose. (Maybe because she was found buried in the overgrown rose bushes?)

Written in 1989 by Mary Downing Hahn, The Doll in the Garden is a delightful ‘Happily Ever After’ charmer of a ghost story. But the story also sensitively touches on death and loss, as well as forgiveness. To tell you any more would spoil the story for you and your daughter or grandaughter, so I’ll just stop here and encourage you to get your own copy!

PS: Please be sure to check out our other ‘Doll’ Book reviews!

The difference between Barbie and Barbie®

If you ask a four year old African American girl to go get her Barbies, what do you think she’ll bring you?

A Christie doll – Barbie’s African American friend – or a Nikki, Christie’s sister?

Barbie® Entrepreneur African American

Barbie® Entrepreneur African American

Perhaps any one of the myriad of dolls with The Barbie name and ‘African American’ attached to it? Like ‘Barbie loves the Girl Scouts African-American’ or ‘Barbie Careers – Nurse – African American?’

Or perhaps one of the 1000’s of Barbie clones, not made by Mattel at all?

Actually, I think that that four year old might bring out all of her dolls… including Bratz, Monster High, Doc McStuffins and Disney Princesses or the new Prettie Girls by Stacey McBride.

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Why? Because I think that after over 50 years, Barbie has finally become the generic term for 11 inch dolls. Especially the all plastic – removable fashions dolls.

It’s like Kleenex® is what everybody calls facial tissues, Vaseline® for petroleum jelly and Velcro® for hook and latch fasteners. Especially in our children’s minds. Children don’t ‘get’ ®! And to be honest with you, I don’t think most adults differentiate much between what is really a Barbie® and what might be something else similar. I think we call them all Barbies too.

What do you think?

PS: To my readers who filter everything through a P.C. lens: This post is about the difference between Barbie®, and Barbie used as a generic term… not about race. Because Mattel has both African American Barbies® and Black dolls that are part of the Barbie line but are not named Barbie, it made my point easier to explain. Get over yourself.

The Klimt Barbie

Do me a favor, please. Without a lot of deep thought, finish this sentence:

“Barbie is ………”

Possible answers:

  • A fashion doll
  • A doll for little girls to play with
  • A politically correct doll – as in the hundreds of inspirational roles she plays, Lawyer Barbie, Scientist Barbie, Teacher Barbie, Doctor Barbie, Fire-fighter Barbie etc.etc.
  • A politically In-correct doll (especially her unrealistic breast to waist to hip proportions.)
  • A piece of history – There are now three generations who have grown up with Barbie. And she ‘stands’ in multiple museums.
  • A financial juggernaut – The number one selling doll of all time.

And I’m sure there are probably dozens more thoughts that come to your mind when trying to complete the sentence.

Today I’d like to offer one more:

“Barbie is… Art.”

klimt barbie

Barbie® Doll Inspired by Gustav Klimt from the Museum CollectionGustav_Klimt_Adele Bloch-Bauer IThis is the painting that inspired Mattel’s Museum Barbie. It is known as Portrait of Adele BlochBauer I.

OK, raise your hands… how many of you know who Gustav Klimt was? Or Adele Bloch-Bauer?

And the question I would really love to know the answer to: Out of the thousands and thousands of paintings made in the last thousand years of western art, why this one to inspire a Barbie?

If someone knows, I’d love to hear the answer, but until then, I’m just as happy to enjoy this beautiful Barbie for exactly what she is: A work of art.

A Tale of Two Dolls

I was surprised the first time I heard a ‘less-than-enthusiastic’ comment about American Girl’s® Addy doll. It’s not that I think American Girl walks on water or anything, but as a competitor in the doll business, I had to respect the tremendous success of the brand, the marketing and everything that goes into making American Girl such a huge success.

The Pattycake Doll company didn’t always carry 18 inch American Girl type dolls. We were geared more to the baby doll and rag doll market. But we kept getting requests, and finally I asked one of the mothers who had called me – once again – to find out if we carried 18″ Black Dolls: “If you want a Black 18 inch doll, why don’t you just buy American Girls’ Addy?”

The answer floored me. “I don’t want to give my daughter a slave doll.”

18 inch Doll Portraits -12-2

So gradually, Addie and I added 18″ dolls for children of color to our store. First we just had one Asian 18″ doll, one Black 18″ doll, and one Biracial/Multicultural/Hispanic skin tone 18 inch doll; but we quickly expanded as we discovered that there was a definite need and desire for these American Girl clones. And the more we looked, the more we found… Black American girl dolls with straight hair, and Black dolls with curly hair, eventually reaching 12+ different skin tone – hair style – hair color combinations. And because none of them were ‘Addy,’ there were no books, or ‘background stories.’  They were just dolls. Beautiful Dolls.

But this year we started carrying a new 18″ Black doll, from Madame Alexander, who comes dressed as a Ballerina. And she is simply stunning.

Ballerina 18in Doll Portrait

And for all those mothers who were reluctant to present their daughters with a ‘slave-girl story,’ we could suggest something different. Because in America today there are some really beautiful Black ballerinas with tremendously inspiring stories. Like Misty Copeland and Ashley Murphy and Ebony Williams.*

American Girl’s Addy has a wonderfully inspiring story – but as we learned, it’s not for everyone. Maybe a Black Ballerina Doll, and your daughter’s imagination, can create an alternative story more to your liking?

* Neither Madame Alexander nor Pattycake Doll are inferring that this beautiful 18″ doll is meant to represent any of the real Black ballerinas mentioned in this post.

How to Buy a Doll – 3 quick facts

First of all a disclaimer! Yes I do sell thousands of dolls as the Pattycake Doll Company, but I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression and assume that I’m all about the almighty dollar. The following suggestions apply to home made dolls too, and in fact, if you know how to make a peg doll, or an apple head doll, or a corn husk doll, or even just a simple stuffed sock doll… please do! Homemade dolls are sweet and personal.

But if you do want to buy a doll for a child, here is what you should consider:

  1. Most important, and the place everyone should start is age. How old is the child? Is the doll you’re thinking about appropriate for that age? Dolls are tested and rated for safety. Pay attention to that. If a doll says ages three and up, there is a reason! Babies don’t see well for the first six months, but their sense of touch is great – so dolls with lots of different finger-friendly textures are the way to go. Especially dolls ‘made’ for touch… like loveys with satin tags or edges.
    WARNING! Choking hazard: May contain small parts, not for children under 3 years.
  2. What do you want the child to do with the doll, and when do you want her to play with it? Do you want her to cuddle it on the couch and sleep with it at night? Do you want her to play with it like it’s her sister or maybe nurture it and play Mommy? Or do you want her to have dozens of outfits and shoes and hairstyles to work with? I’ve just described the differences between a rag doll, a baby doll and a fashion doll. There are many more, but you get the drift.
  3. Finally, try to remember who you’re buying the doll for. You’re not buying it for yourself, you’re not buying it for her parents, you are buying it for her. She is not going to be impressed with how much you spent, or if it’s from a famous doll company, or how big it is. It’s a doll. So if you spend $100 on a life sized doll that you love and that is sure as heck going to impress her mama, you may be shortchanging a sweet little girl who just wanted a pretty new doll to love.

Pattycake Doll explains Cyber Monday (plus 15% off!)

Pattycake Doll Coupon

What is Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday got its start back in the day when everybody’s home computers were so slow, what with dial-up and all, that people waited until they came to work on the Monday after Thanksgiving/Black Friday to use their much faster work computers to buy their gifts.

To encourage those online shoppers to come to their stores first, retailers started advertising special deals on that Monday, and they still do.

But for us at The Pattycake Doll Company, Cyber Monday was never the biggest day of the year. For us the Sunday 2 weeks before Christmas has always been best.

But so many people shop before that, that Addie and I really don’t think it’s fair to reward only the last minute shoppers… especially since some of our most popular dolls will be sold out by then.

So in addition to our everyday Free With Purchase Coupon offers (here’s that page if you’ve never checked it out) we’re offering a four day special coupon sale of 15% off your entire order for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

Enjoy, and thanks, from Addie and Peter and The Pattycake Doll Company.

PS: All you need to do is drop the word CYBER into the coupon code box at checkout, and you’ll get the 15% off.

Why Dolls Still Matter

If somebody tells a lie, and it gets repeated enough times so that everybody starts to believe it, does it make the lie true?

I’m in the doll business, I sell dolls for children at The Pattycake Doll Company’s website.

The big ‘lie’ that ‘s troubling me is this:

“Traditional toys are dead. Children today want electronic toys.” Over and over and over again – in many different variations – this is what my industry is talking about.

Apps, Laps and Tablets. Mobile games, Interactive this and interactive that. I can’t begin to tell you how many toy companies make toys that they hope will appeal to today’s kids by trying desperately to find a way to ‘get them to a website,’ where they can register a name, or join a club etc etc.

The funny thing is, that when we were raising my kids the lie was T.V. Kids weren’t ‘playing,’ because they were stuck to the T.V.

Today kids aren’t ‘playing’ because they are too busy with apps and games on the internet.

But here’s the truth:
You can’t hug a laptop.

LittleGirl with doll

 Apps are not very cuddly.

And as far as I know,

No baby wants to sleep with their arms around a cell phone.


“William’s Doll” Every cliché in a book

William's Doll Cover

“William’s Doll” by Charlotte Zolotow is basically a book of cliches.

But that’s because it was written in 1972. In 1972 they weren’t cliches, they were a new kind of wisdom. Too bad it didn’t take.

The Pattycake Doll Company sells a lot of boy dolls, and dolls for boys. But not as many as we should, considering the population of boys in America. Too many people still believe the cliches:

If you give a boy a doll he’ll be a sissy. If he doesn’t become a sissy, he’ll be called a sissy (bullied).

Dolls are for girls. Not boys. Train sets and basketballs are for boys.

Boys don’t have the urge to protect and nurture.

Almost as much of a cliche in the book is that it’s ‘Fathers’ who don’t want their sons to play with dolls.

That’s still true. There are a lot of guys who worry about that stuff. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of Mommies  who worry about that stuff too.

At the end of the book William’s Dad – outraged that Grandmother has bought William a doll says: “He’s a boy!…He has a basketball and an electric train and a workbench to build things with. Why does he need a doll?”

William’s Grandmother answers with a smile: So that he can practice being a father.”

If you’re reading this blog, the odds are pretty good that I’m preaching to the choir. But the message hasn’t changed.

Should boys be allowed to play with dolls?

Of course!

It’s one way they can learn to become good fathers.