There’s been a lot of debate lately about dolls that parents think are inappropriate for young children. While these discussions have raised both concern and ridicule, they seem to pale in comparison to 1970’s Growing Up Skipper Doll controversy.
Some Back Story
Back in August, Hasbro pulled their Trolls World Tour Poppy doll because some adults thought it promoted pedophilia. In that case, a button was on the doll’s bottom between its legs. It was originally designed to activate when the doll sat, causing it to giggle and say phrases like “Whee!” and “Oh!” Needless to say, kids found and pushed it in any position they wanted.
The other scandal involved alleged “Secret Lingerie” on L.O.L. Surprise Dolls. When submerged in cold water, patterns appear on the dolls’ bodies, which some parents said looked like hidden underwear. However, this was no secret — the feature is in the advertising. The dolls’ clothes should remain on, in which case it looks more like jewelry or tattoos. Parents claiming it revealed “lingerie” were handling nude dolls. In that case, creator MGA did nothing.
But the Growing Up Skipper Doll was a whole other story.
Growing Up Skipper Doll Controversy
For those who don’t know, Mattel introduced Skipper as Barbie’s kid sister in 1964. Then, in 1975, Mattel decided to let Skipper hit puberty — growing breasts and an inch taller.
By rotating Skipper’s left arm, her rubber chest would inflate and her torso would lengthen. If kids wanted to make her revert to a child, all they had to do was turn the arm back the other direction.
“This pretty blonde doll wore a red tricot bodysuit with a flat red button to which her blue suede collar would attach,” it says on Mattel’s Barbie site. “She had a short red and white houndstooth skirt with navy vinyl waistband, red tricot knee socks, and flats for the little girl. As a tall, curvy teen, she wore the bodysuit (without the collar) with a long houndstooth skirt, blue tricot neck scarf, and white platform sandals.”
Fortunately for Skipper, she didn’t have to go through puberty alone. Mattel soon released the brunette Growing Up Ginger in 1976. However, the dolls got a lot of negative press. And, according to My Vintage Barbies, “Mattel received numerous letters from women’s groups and parents complaining about the doll and her ability to grow breasts.”
“It is destructive to the image of women,” the Connecticut Feminist Committees for Media Reform stated in a request to Mattel to stop advertising the doll. They said it was “a grotesque caricature of the female body that invites ridicule” and “caters to psychotic preoccupation with instant culture and the instant sex object.”
Mattel disagreed. For a while. However, after 1976 Ginger disappeared from store shelves, never to return. Skipper has come back in different incarnations, but her breasts never grew bigger again.