My Twinn... or yours?
My Twinn is an online retailer selling-- oh, did you guess it, you clever thing?-- child-replica-type dolls. The website itself is pretty girly, hearts and flowers and that shade of pinky-purple that I never know what to do with... I didn't see a single photo of a boy paired with his doll, even though there is a boy-doll option.
Immediately, one is asked to choose between the boy doll and the girl doll. Their clothing, too, is immediately gendered. While little girl dolls can be flowery-pajamaed, street-clothed with rhinestones, or zipped into a fuchsia-accented track outfit, the only option for the boy doll is an athletic ensemble of neutral tones. Little boys must hold a soccer ball.
The rest of the "personalization process" is the same for both types of doll.
One of the first distinctions is to choose a hairstyle and texture for the doll. There are six textures to choose from, ranging from "Straight hair with a slight wave" to "African-American." It seems odd to say that the hair is segregated, but it is ordered from straightest (read: whitest) to... blackest? The last two hair options are of a "coarser texture," one with tight ringlet curls, the other "relaxed with a perm or heat." It seems odder the more I look at it. In fact, I only saw a photo of one little girl of color and her doll-- and no boys.
One is then asked to choose between five swatches of skin tone, looking for the one that "most closely matches your child's skin tone." Olive, and two light-to-dark variations each on "fair" and "brown." Aside from the pallor of the "very fair" option, the variety of tones isn't very great. They look like splashes of the same paint with a drop of blue or yellow added in. It appears to be possible, though, for the "artisans" at My Twinn to work a little more closely than this process suggests.
Upon completing an order, the parent is asked to upload a photo of the child. Then the "artisans" [I'm sorry, I just can't get over my amusement at that word] will mold the face to match the child. I find this idea really interesting. Aside from the creepiness factor involved in preserving a child in plastic-- there is a real possibility that giving a child a doll in his or her own image could help teach self-love at an early age.
But for whom is this available? The doll costs $139, before shipping and all that extra junk. It seems that their clientele would be limited to the wealthy.
So there's both a racial and a class division in their offering and the dolls are clearly gendered....I try to think of their appeal, and I imagine if there were a doll that I thought would help my little sister feel beautiful and learn to love herself, I'd buy it. But then I know that the real influences on her life are the people around her, and anyway, that little girl is so full of contradictions already that no doll can replicate her. She rarely responds to physical compliments, but grins like a diva whenever a camera is nearby. She digs on lipstick but doesn't usually bother to brush her hair. She can't find a beat to save her life and rides her pink bicycle through the mud. If I really wanted to make her feel good about herself, I should teach her how to do it herself, shouldn't I?