She looks like almost any 10-year-old you would see running around this world. If this was the image for a new cartoon with a smart and adventurous Latina as the lead, I think we'd have a party to celebrate. But it's not. It's our dear beloved Dora the Explorer.
Mattel & Nick are upset at us moms for attacking the tweening of Dora:
"I think there was just a misconception in terms of where we were going with this," Gina Sirard, vice president of marketing at Mattel, says. "Pretty much the moms who are petitioning aging Dora up certainly don't understand. ... I think they're going to be pleasantly happy once this is available in October, and once they understand this certainly isn't what they are conjuring up."
But even with a nice drawing of New Dora, I'm still not happy with this move.
First, New Dora will be computerized and one of the options will be to change her eye color. As the #1 Latina role model for girls, I think that it's inappropriate for the doll to be able to change its eye color. The dominant standard for beauty is still blond with blue eyes. There is a classic race experiment that was recreated in 2006 where black girls preferred white dolls. Is there a chance we are sending a message to the Latinas playing with New Dora that they should also want to change their eye color? (Yes, I know not all Latinas have cafe brown eyes, but Dora does.)
Second, Boots gets the boot. Dora has grown up and ditched her childhood friends for a gaggle of tween girls. Up until now most of Dora's friends have been boys - Boots, Tico, Bennie and even Swiper, who displays classic crush signs by always annoying Dora - but once she hits tweenage, she's all about the girls? Why couldn't Dora at least keep Boots as her BFF and add a few new girls to the picture? Why not Isa at least? I also admit that the first thought of Dora & gals is gossipy, mall-going-gals. Hopefully Dora & gang will be more Traveling Pants than Gossip Girl.
Third, the shoes. Yes, they are cute, but they are not adventurous shoes. Nancy Drew wore loafers. Sally Brown wore tennis shoes.
I freely admit that I'm making all these assumptions by taking in the world around our daughters and leaping. The same world that pushes our girls to rip out their pubic hair before it's fully grown in, the same world that is helping to push eating disorders from high school to grade school, the same world that says that 10 is the new 15, which is the new 22. The sexualization of our daughters can not be ignored. We must be on guard.
Nickelodeon and Mattel say that as part of unrelated research, they found parents wanted a way to keep Dora in their children's lives and have their daughters move on to a toy that was age appropriate.
What Mattel & Nick are doing is feeding our need to keep our girls as young as possible with the theory that our 6-year-olds will want an older Dora. I'm sure some will. Heck, I'm almost certain mine will.
But the real question is why do we want our kids to clutch to Dora until college? Well because we see what lurks in the other parts of the toy aisles. The dolls-we-don't-mention-and-walk-fast-past. We see how even girl clothes are snug and form fitting. That their clothes don't seem to be made for playing, rather posing.
And that's what Mattel and Nick don't get.
The outrage is not just about Dora, it is because we know that Dora is the safe one. The good girl. The toy and cartoon that we haven't had to monitor. Any tampering with our Dora rocks our world. If Dora isnt' safe, what the hell will we do?
The outrage is powered by pent up outrage over the sexualization of our daughters, of their dolls and their clothing.
The outrage is far more than just tween-ifying Dora. It is about all the other small things that inch our daughters closer to 90210 and further away from cuddling with us on the couch with the Backyardigans. It'll happen in its own time...if society let it happen in its own time.
Thanks to The Unexpected Twists & Turns, Feministing, Boston.com, Greg Laden's Blog, Alas, a blog & Metafilter for the linky love. Welcome new readers! I've also added a Dora tag to all my Dora posts for easy access to all my other Dora rantings.