The Trouble with “Natural Beauty”


An image from the Tree Change Dolls’ tumblr site

Today a friend sent me a link to a new trend that basically caused me to have a rage blackout: dolls that have been “made-under”. Labelled “Tree Change Dolls“, these are generally hyper-feminine styled dolls (such as Bratz) that have been found at op-shops and transformed through changing their hair, shoes, makeup styles and clothing, to look more normal and natural. In the words of their creator, Tree Change Dolls involve “swapping high-maintenance glitz ‘n’ glamour for down-to-earth style”.

But before you all rush off to procure a Tree Change Doll of your own, it’s worth unpacking what it means to “make-under” a doll. Is it more ethical (as the subtext of the Tree Change Dolls website would suggest) to have a doll adorned with the natural beauty look, rather than the hyper-feminine aesthetic more commonly seen? And why is a make-under really any different to a make-over?

Firstly, let’s look at one before and after image from the site and what a make-under involves:
tumblr_nianihXYdz1u8oyeuo1_12801. Reducing prominent and cartoonish features such as the eyes and lips
2. Removing signs of obvious makeup
3. Conditioning and relaxing the hair which is worn out rather than having it styled up
4. Starting with a naked doll and finishing with a clothed one
5. Maintaining a clear complexion one the face of the doll free of any abnormal markings

Here we can see that the effect of “stripping back” actually mimics a “putting on” of layers. Quite literally the features of the dolls are transformed to conform to a different standard, that of “down to earth style”. In effect, the dolls are not made-under, they are made-over, with the same dramatisation of before and after we would expect from any other visual representation of stylistic aesthetic change.

Another Tree Change Doll, so liberated

Another Tree Change Doll, so liberated

Rather than radically challenging or interrupting expectations of femininity, the Tree Change Dolls set up a new system of signifiers in hyper-femininity’s place: the end result being a set of dolls that all look remarkably similar. The dolls featured on the site all have similar “natural” faces, wear knitted jumpers and 50s-style feminine skirts or alternative-style dungarees, creating an overall effect that looks like the dolls have stepped right off the pages of an alternative women’s magazine (such as Australia’s Frankie), which fetishises the domestic, the home-styled and the “real”. This styling supports a fantasy that one can retreat into a more authentic world of natural beauty, eschewing the limits of oppressive gender norms and escaping the fakery epitomized by the glamour of the pre-made-under dolls.

The pre-made-under dolls have a striking resemblance to drag queens

The pre-made-under dolls have a striking resemblance to drag queens

But, I hear you ask, isn’t a “stripped-back” simple style a less problematic norm than the make-up caked faces of the pre-tree-hugged Bratz dolls and Barbies? Perhaps not. The idea that we might adopt styles of self-presentation as if in a cultural vacuum, supports the circulation of more insidious gender norms. It presents us with the idea that there is a way to look like a “real” girl: and it certainly doesn’t involve wearing visible makeup.

Me playing drag queen at home in my 20s

Me playing drag queen at home in my 20s

When I was a child one of my favourite party themes was “make-up”, and on three separate occasions I held parties where my friends were expected to do-over their own and other’s faces – the only thing being that it was about being crazy, drag-queenish and fun. On my eighth birthday I ended up with green sparkly leaves coming out of my nose, purple fangs and giant blue eyes. The point of this story is that make-up can be about repeating expected styles of beauty, but it can also be very fun. While Bratz dolls might present a beauty style that is over-the-top and homogenous across dolls, the Tree Change Dolls also opt for conformity over experimentation.

As I have written previously, Bratz dolls encapsulate a sheer excess of femininity that is an indulgence rather than a necessity to attract a male gaze. Indeed, with the cult of natural beauty comes a sense that you can’t play around with beauty products or clothing if you want to – you’d just be reinforcing an always-already-oppressive style.


Monster High Dolls: similar yes, but experimenting with the limits of acceptable presentation

The reason to be deeply concerned about these Tree Change Dolls is that they represent a broader trend toward securing a fixed sense of what a real girl looks like – rather than disrupting the normal when it comes to gender. In fact it seems that Bratz dolls have evolved in recent years – into the now popular “Monster High Dolls”, which, though shiny and long-haired and “pretty”, adopt quirky, strange, monstrous stylings, transforming previous limits around normal looks. While there could be a lot more diversity of styles of gender presentation in these kinds of toys, the worst thing we could do is try and offer a “stripped-back” look that returns us to some kind of original “natural” point. Sometimes the natural might actually be the most fake of all.

409 thoughts on “The Trouble with “Natural Beauty”

  1. Pingback: The Truth or Not the Truth? Conversation with Insider: What Really Happened to Bratz in 2015? What’s Influencing Bratz in 2018? | Generation Next

  2. “That is over-the-top and homogenous across dolls, the Tree Change Dolls also opt for conformity over experimentation.

    As I have written previously, Bratz dolls encapsulate a sheer excess of femininity that is an indulgence rather than a necessity to attract a male gaze. Indeed, with the cult of natural beauty comes a sense that you can’t play around with beauty products or clothing if you want to – you’d just be reinforcing an always-already-oppressive style.”

    I agree with your article mostly, however I feel like you really don’t know anything about Bratz dolls, especially because you even think they are “homogeneous” and “hyper feminine”. When Bratz first ARRIVED in 2001,they were anything BUT homogeneous. They were known as looking boyish and like THUGS (because that’s what people thought of ethnic girls who dressed in baggy pants, beanie caps, and sneakers). Further lines like Pretty N Punk, Midnight Dance, Bratz Rock Angelz and Space Angelz are anything BUT homogeneous, heteronormative, or fit in some box. Just because they don’t look like monsters doesn’t mean they were perpetuating some feminine norms.

    You can’t tell me these dolls are ultra feminine. No way.

    Monster High is unique, but they wouldn’t have been had Bratz not paved the way for dolls like them. In fact, they were designed to be competition for Bratz because Bratz had been doing the bold and edgy thing since 01. I don’t know what Bratz dolls you’ve seen, but you clearly haven’t seen many. It wasn’t until people started attacking their edgy appearance that they became more feminine. But again, Bratz never told girls they had to dress in one way or look one way. ALL of the girls looked different and had different styles from one another.

  3. Pingback: Queering and Queening Femininity | BINARYTHIS

  4. you might not get this since it has been a year since you posted, but I have a question for you. I like how this lady is recycling, I thought that was a great use for old unwanted dolls. Would you have so much of a problem with it if she was more diverse with her creations? Say some of the dolls were different races, even if she had to completely repaint, or even if there were freckles. maybe a couple of the dolls could have a little bit more lip colour. Or what if the dolls had a job, say an engineer, doctor, veterinarian, astronaut, social worker. Even if the only difference was that the dolls came with an alternative outfit that wasn’t a skirt. How would your response change? just interested 🙂

    • Hey randomkid, I think if there was more diversity in the dolls my response would be quite different. I guess one of the points I was trying to make was that one standard of beauty was simply being put in place of another. 🙂

  5. Hi BT,

    I just want to say how inspired I am by you – your fun, well-written articles but also your tireless, intelligent, and kind responses to the comments on this article in particular!

    I’m an Australian in London at the moment and, feeling homesick, I read your entire blog in one night. I felt challenged and excited and ready for more. I don’t usually make comments on blogs, but after returning and being quite astonished at the tone of many of these comments, I wanted to tell you this.

    I look forward to many more posts!

  6. This was a very thought provoking read.. I love the new perspective you gave to this idea of a “natural” look

  7. So, this is relatively old, but I stumbled across it just today. I was about to flip out on you, when I realized that you had a point. BUT, that doesn’t mean I agree with you. The Tree Change dolls are awesome and I wish that they existed when my daughters were young. They got Bratz dolls because that’s what they wanted. I always had a problem with overly-sexualized dolls. They really gave my daughters an unrealistic idea of the female body, with their tiny waists and big boobs (for the record, I fought my girls tooth and nail over Barbie dolls). The make up, well, I thought it clownish and ridiculous. The clothes, even more so. I don’t think we need to encourage young girls to conform to idealistic (men’s) standards. I’m not sure, but I believe that most of the toy industry is dominated by men. As a woman, I know that if I had the artistic inclination, the Tree Change dolls would be something I’d have developed (without the Barbi-esque, unrealistic figures). Young girls need to understand that there is nothing wrong with the way they are born, skin, hair, body type and all. They don’t need to strive to conform to hypersexualized standards. When they are older, they can choose to cover ‘flaws’ that they see in themselves, like birthmarks on their faces, freckles, etc. however they wish to. Make up is not good for women, anyway, unless they use naturally derived products (all the chemicals and crap are just not good for anyone, and I know that it creates hormonal imbalances that lead to endometriosis, etc.). *sigh* this debate will go on forever…. I’m just voicing my opinion. I love these dolls – despite the boobs and tiny waists, they are definitely more embracing of the natural ‘female’. She gets a high five from me for upcycling, too!

    • the fact that we the grown ups think with our sexually distorted minds that make up = high sexuality and no make up = modesty , that make up = the bimbo mistress and no make up = the good wife IS the problem kids usually like all dolls . dramaticlly painted , drag queens , goths , punks , with suple painting , tree change dolls etc … I remember myself as a kid and never thought that I had to have the body of barbie or to make up every day and especially for boys (which in the age of 10 found gross anyway lol) why parents who already have a completely sexualized view about almost anything try to project this to kids ? Kids I assure you don’t think this way don’t get it this way and If you say all those things writting here to an 8yr old kid you ‘ll make it less innocent you’ll teach it that this look is “a sexual fantasy” and the other “the natural choice” and this WILL make them feel less sexual without make up when they grow up cause mommy said that no make up is no sexual fantasy while make up is . Dolls can’tchange the psychology of kids but parents do every day so it’s better to ask a specialist before starting the “ethical lessons” to kids cause those usually are the root of any streess afterwards .

  8. Wow. Just Wow! You are so far off base, it is scary. Being a woman who grew up NEVER wearing maybe in my 55 years, I find your article so unbelievably naive. It is people like yourself who have looked down and judged women like me who are comfortable in their own skin and think we’re beautiful without all of that nasty paint on the face. And believe me, I have been at the nasty end of judgment by both men and women for choosing not to wear makeup. Shame on you!

      • the fact you never wore make up and ridiculled about it doesn’t mean that the ones who are wearing make up deserve to be bullied about it , the whole article as I get it doesn’t try to say that dolls with adult style but looking like they don’t wear make up should not be made , it spots on the artists tone about “natural beauty” and no-make up dolls that are ethically superior than the make-up wearing dolls , the problem is not that the artist repainter paints the dolls this way the problem is that in several parts of the video the artist acts like this is the ethical choise and the rest are unethical which is something anachronistic the least. Anyone should wear or not wear whatever likes and not be bullied about it . There is no ethical or unethical in that is how each one feels about self , unethical is bulliyng in any occation !!! But I really wonder also those “natural beauties” never have black circles arround eyes from overworking or rough skin spots on face and hands from hard work conditions or blisters and scars or wrinkles and at the end of the day how natural is an adult doll with adult body to not have all this and be the perfect upper class victorian soft skinned undertoned beauty (we know that victorian upper class ladies wore tons of make up to look like that just in less extravagant colors) ….. just some food for thought , I like all types of dolls both those of this artist and original bratz but I don’t like to be told what is ethical or not . and for the record I not often wear make up too nobody harassed me of the absence of make up most harassed me because they thought I should wear a ton of skin moisturizers to become a natural beauty instead of natural ugly , and as I said I don’t wear often make up I wear it on occations like parties going to certain goth clubs and when I do I don’t like to be bullied about it , and I get bullied cause it’s mostly goth styled and everyone thinks should have an opinion about it …..

  9. Why is it so wrong in your opinion for dolls to represent a choice of teens and young women to not wear make-up? As a teen (with very large boobs btw) I did not wear make-up. I did not like how it looked on me unless I desired to go dramatic (as your picture shows yourself doing). Your words here in your blog strike me as if you would be offended by my choice to go ‘au natural’. Is this the position you intended to come across?
    This woman redid 12 bratz dolls that would otherwise be thrown away to look more like real human girls, even the eyebrows on one of them are not perfectly matched. Do you honestly think this is going to affect the toy companies to dispose of all high fashion make-up dolls? She made it clear that she did not do this to make any kind of comment, or to change the world of toys, but it was an artistic work for her that suited her and her family and friends.
    Your article here leads me to believe that the choice of others to wear natural make-up or go sans make-up offends you when it is being reflected in a toy doll. Is that your intent?
    Also, wouldn’t these dolls not spark more creativity in using washable markers to apply ‘make-up’? That could be taken off and reapplied as desired, like a real girl would do, as opposed to having a doll that already has the make-up applied which a child cannot alter?
    Respectfully, I strongly disagree with your post on these dolls. I see them as holding much more potential for fun and creativity due to their looking au natural. They can be whatever the child wants them to be as opposed to a doll which is already made up in a manner which cannot be changed (without fingernail polish remover that is)

    • Hi Minxcomix,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. You certainly raise some good points, and I think that particularly the idea that more “natural” dolls could inspire creativity (with markers etc) is interesting. I wonder whether the way these dolls are presented though (as always involving a “before” and “after”) marks out the “before” as something that should be avoided – that’s the whole point of them after all.
      Also it was interesting hearing your personal experiences here, which differ from my own, thanks.

  10. The creator of the dolls themselves said she didn’t intend to make any statement. Her point to me seems to have been 1) to just have fun being artistic (while she was out of a job as you can research) and 2) to provide a different POV/interpretation of the dolls, but not to undermine the original way. It seems to me she’s making them more kid-appropriate.

    Your “review” seems to be criticizing the concept of natural beauty in general. These DOLLS are for CHILDREN, who don’t wear makeup, and I think it is healthy and important for them to be shown that they don’t have to, especially not at their age – regardless of whether or not they choose to in the future. It is always good to know your natural self is acceptable and beautiful, even if you do choose to wear makeup. These dolls look like the kids who play with them and that’s okay; in fact I think it’s better that way.

    • well sorry I post this again but fashion dolls 1st Barbie Bild Lily started as dolls that “look like grown up woman” or “dolls that look like mommy” and not “dolls that look like me and friends inage of 8” there are plenty childlike dolls baby dolls toddler dolls and childlike dolls but are not fashiondolls they have childen’s face and childlike body make a google search there are plenty of them in all sizes andlook like children really but they are not fashion dolls . Bratz is a fashion doll with BOOBS call this doll a child to me or make an 8year old think that this doll with those boobs is like me i not healthier than make a doll with heavy make up and say hay when you’ll grow up you’ll never forget make up…. So to me are grown ups or teen anime dolls with make up and tree change dolls grown up or teens without make up the thing showing she scorns fashion dolls is the whole set up marketing and video which in some point shows normal bratz dolls to kid and says “will we play with those'” and with her kid says naaaa we’ll go play with the other ones . I repainted a barbie to look like an old woman oncewith wrinkles white hair etc never said wow that’s a natural granny barbie grow natural see this cher limited by mattel naaaaa that’s just lame and not artistic . and in fact i like both original bratz and also i like those repaints but I’ll buy one of those when she starts tattooing them . to me those tree change faces are certainly not childlike I consider them grown up rockabilly style and those dolls need to be tattooed to be complete they cry desparatelly for a tattoo.

  11. Pingback: Making Up | freedomfreys

  12. they are good repaints in a certain style I’m not bothered by the tyle as I like too many and too different styles from dramatic,goth , punk , cchildish,fairie,zombie prom hute couture etc but the marketing …. it’s like a manifesto against too much make up lol as for some isrepression to put it on for others is repression the exact opposite lol as I repaint dolls my self I thought of making one doll with such 50’s womans face and full painted body with old school tattoos it will rocks I’ll give her motto “hyper-make-over the body not the head it’s already painted” and then everyone ends hating me like Moz ….(Morrissey from smiths for the ones who didn’t got it)

      • no and it’s nice to see them in fact I’ve also done dissabled dolls and have dissabled dolls in my collection old dolls which had some serious damage in legs hands face and many times full restoration wasn’t possible so they had an accident and they got a makeover which fits to help with this accident also done some horror dolls and my sister even more horror ones and some dissabled survivors but hers was more like a horror movie survivors dissabled dolls … Grown up people can’t understand what feelings has a kid for a toy doll cause they forget how it was when they were kids , when we were kids I had a doll given from a cousin which had legs that had been off the body but still I had the legs … and my sis had another which had only one leg and one hand the other was lost (from the same cousin) so I sew the vinyl dolls together and through the torso and then add some glue to the stitces and they couldn’t move properly so I made her sit all time and my dad helped me by making something like a weelchair from a simple barbie chair and weels from thick cardboard and with some wood sticks cotton and glue helped my sister to make a very primitive wooden leg and arm for her , we loved them as they were and in fact we loved the dissabled more than the rest cause we thought they needed us more . But beyond that I want also to add that barbie traditional concept is the same with the little girl trying to use mommys shoes and things etc and the things we think the kids think are just our thoughts about the matter , kids always see mommys boobs as huge even if they are the smallest and feet so taaaall even if they are not make up perfect even if it’s the simplest … that’s why it had gone so well with the kids from the beginning … in fact I think that in some way women who don’t want their kids to play with more fashionized,punkish ,rocky or whatever not domestic lookalike doll are usually women oppressed to a domestic life who by this oppression ended being jealous of the frivolous carefree want-whatever-I-like-no-responsibilities spirit that a doll has any doll from the fashion barbie to bratz to monster high and to tattooed or gothic repaints …. I personally think it’s more healthy for a kid to have a set of dolls like bratz or monster high or barbies and give roles and characters to them (and those series have also child dolls p.e. bratz babies whitch are extra abstract and cute kelly for barbie etc) than a huge baby doll which “pees” demands milk and to play dolls = play mom of this lillou and “maternity domestic responsibilities” for this plastic piece it’s creepy and this was the doll playing before fashion dolls . Fashion dolls saved the dolly playing and made it a characters theatrical game in eyes of kids helping kids to express self and fantasies (and nowarday with monster high or zombie princess etc even more) instead of pathetic victorian dolly playing which sadly still existing and was pretending the mommy of a plastic baby that pees cries and sucks it’s finger ….

    • Hi Bibo59,
      Well first up, I think that Sultana makes an excellent point above – do these dolls look like “real” girls? Should they? As I say above, I think that the Bratz dolls (or better, the Monster High dolls) at least provide fantasy figures that are extreme and quite unreal. While the Tree Change Dolls present a picture of more “natural” femininity that could in fact be more restrictive in the sense that it requires achieving “realness” that seems natural, even if it takes effort.

  13. You have got to be kidding me. These “made under” dolls are super cute and more natural than what they once were. I love that she upcycled these faddish dolls that would have otherwise ended up in the dump. Toy manufactures need to take heed to this outpouring of acceptance of the more natural faced dolls. These dolls remind me of a mini version of the ever famous and popular American Girl Dolls.

    • Hi SexyMoxieMama,
      Interesting point to raise about the “recycling” factor at play here. It’s also interesting that you mention the American Girl Dolls- certainly they are an extremely popular example of “normal” looking girl dolls that are already on the market. The difference between those dolls and the Tree Change Dolls however, is that AGDs are not subject to a makeover, a “before” and “after” that suggests how “girl” ought to be constructed.
      Thanks for your thoughts.

  14. As a natural mum, I found myself in the minority where I live. All the other mums were made up with makeup. Lots of friends were lesbian, or punk rock or into c sections by choice and hated bugs. Moms who show up at the playground in full makeup. The lesbian friends seemed to have more support for their “lifestyle” than I did for wanting to really get back to nature as I raised my little one. I am glad they had support! But…where was the support for what I was doing?
    I think…its so refreshing to have someone out there be a voice for returning to simple. To me…it is so telling to a young girl who might be getting mezmerized by make up, to…remember the her that is underneath the colors.
    The woman who made these…was not trying to say anything. She just…saw broken dolls and wanted to give them new life.What a loving act! I think its so potent and such a special prayer in action for any females in this world who overdo focusing on how their life looks and get a chance to return to focusing on just being.

  15. Hi,
    I like these dolls, not because they’re ‘made under’ but because they offer an alternative to the over saturated doll market of ‘made up’ dolls. It’s nice to see dolls that look like children, because let’s face it is children who play with them and children who relate to them. Children should be allowed to choose what they like, what they want to play with instead of cramming one type of doll down their throats. So actually more options present more views and create broader minds that are more accepting of ALL styles. You chose make up parties, I chose cabbage patch dolls, point being: we CHOSE. Neither is wrong because we CHOSE. Choice is key and to slam these dolls is to slam choice. I don’t presume to tell anyone what to choose or what is right or wrong, made up or down, these dolls merely present a different demographic of people who have every right to be presented in society. Are you perhaps suggesting that the ‘natural look’ does not deserve to be represented, perhaps your own personal choice is clouding your views. Free choice, free will. I say open up dolls to each and every style so we may create a society that is accepting and open to all ethnicities, styles, belief, etc.

    • Hi Alexandra,
      The issue you raise about choice is an interesting one and is something a few people on here have brought up. I think there is definitely a discussion to be had about choice, and what kind of diversity is represented in children’s playthings. However, I don’t think that my critique of natural beauty is a denial of choice, though I take the point that I could have written my post differently to reflect this better. I was really trying to make the point that in championing one look over another, the Tree Change Dolls represent a different kind of conformity rather than diversity of expression.
      Thanks a bunch for your comment – it is good to highlight these kind of issues that are glossed over in the original post.

  16. When I first saw the Tree Change dolls, I thought they were fab – and I still do. But your article made me think about why, and it’s true – they come closer to my idea of beauty more than the Bratz dolls.

    However, I also think the TC dolls are more ‘realistic’. By that I mean, they more closely resemble what the children will see every day – especially for younger girls. The dolls look like their friends (one little girl in the video said just that).

    Also, it’s not the makeup on the Bratz dolls that particularly bothers me, but how exaggerated their features are. Their eyes are enormous – a feature that can’t be changed in real life, so it’s setting an impossible standard. Same with their tiny feet.

    While the artist has taken steps to change both of these with her ‘make-unders’ – other unrealistic aspects of the dolls’ physiology (itty-bitty waistlines, etc) haven’t been addressed. So, it seems the lesson to take from the TC dolls is that a more ‘natural’ face is beautiful, you still need to be impossibly thin, as well.

    I know that’s not the message the artist meant to make, though. To be honest, I don’t think I’ll find a doll that I think is perfect for my little girl – so I’m glad she prefers her stuffed animals right now. 🙂

    Thanks for a thought-provoking article – and your carefully considered responses to all the comments. I didn’t read them all, but it’s a breath of fresh air on the internet. 🙂

    • Hi there shannonagains, thanks for your comment and kind words.
      This idea that the Tree Change Dolls are simply closer to real girls is interesting, and I can definitely see from this perspective why parents might prefer their children to have dolls that look “realer”. I guess one point to raise here is that the made-under dolls are all very pretty and arguably normatively feminine (just without makeup!). In some ways then I wonder whether the exaggerated features of the original dolls aren’t better in some ways as an obvious fantasy object, in so far as they represent cartoonish and unrealistic femininity rather than a normatively pretty femininity that might be difficult to attain for some little girls. But perhaps I am wrong on this. What I imagine is most important is how children learn to interact with the world around them and the objects they encounter, and for this reason the Tree Change Dolls can provide a great basis for starting discussion.

  17. This is such an interesting discussion. I am all in favor of girls and women feeling secure enough to express their personalities and sexuality in any way they choose (for that matter people of any age, gender or orientation should have that freedom), but sadly our society just isn’t there yet. As a child I didn’t care for dolls of any kind; as a teenager in the 80s I took on a New Wave/Goth look that involved a lot of makeup, outlandish hairstyles and fashion, etc., that was neither conventional nor highly sexualized, and was meant to scorn rather than to court acceptance. Everybody growing up goes through an appropriate stage of exploring their own identity and how they want to present themselves to others. But there are two basic methods of presentation—one, finding a way to express your true self via your outward appearance, or two, hiding that true self and trying instead to conform to societal standards of beauty and/or normalcy (whether it be a “natural” or an “artificial” standard). As a mother, I can see that girls (in general) are drawn to makeup just as boys (in general) are to trucks, and they will experiment. But it is beyond heartbreaking to see little girls as young as seven or eight with such skewed self-images that they develop eating disorders and tart themselves up because they’ve internalized the ubiquitous message that being skinny and sexually available is the only way they can be loved and valued. I don’t see anything wrong with subverting this message in one small way to encourage little girls instead to learn to be happy with who they are, as they are; then, as they grow up, let them feel free to continue that exploration without fear of judgment, whatever form it takes.

    • Hi Queen Alice,
      Your point about subculture and your own gothic presentation as a teen is SO interesting! I would love to hear/read more about the experiences of people in these kind of groups who experiment with presentation but reject normative beauty standards.
      As to the question of self-image for young girls, I think this needs more discussion, specifically looking at how young girls do interact with and understand the media and items they’re presented with. It seems like in a lot of the studies that have been done, girls have unique ways of negotiating issues like body image, but other environmental factors such as dynamics at home and school play the largest role in mediating how girls self reflect.
      I definitely agree with your point about exploration, and perhaps these dolls make that more possible.
      Thanks for your comment!

  18. Hi — Looks like you have plenty to read….! I agree with the points made by Laurie James Duplesseis above (or below) – both about ‘natural’ as being quite literally natural, and about the definitions of femininity you use in your article. I also agree with some of the other commenters here: you are remarkably thoughtful and responsive in your replies to comments. It is much appreciated and makes the internet a better place.

    I think that so often we cultural critics write from a place of defense and of feeling offended, but that outrage is not always warranted. It does, though, get more readers. I think it’s interesting to think about how any look — “natural” or conservative (in clothing), or sexualized — can become a norm or an expectation about what is “right.” And that is useful to think about.

    In this case, though, I was struck by the tone of the video interview I saw with the creator of these dolls. For the children she made them for, apparently, they were more kin, presenting the natural look (akin to their own), as OK. And as others have said, it would be great to have a wonderful selection of dolls, so that all sorts of kids with all sorts of aesthetic senses to have dolls that are like and unlike them — but the selection seems to be sadly thin. And — more to your original point — we get to choose either hyper-sexualized dolls (but not in an interesting way, like the monster ones), or super-conservative dolls, complete with Laura Ashley-ish sweater sets. Neither is what is being created by this woman — and her mother who hand knits the sweaters.

    • Hi Nicole,

      Thanks for your thoughts! I think the question of natural as literally natural – as if there is some fundamental baseline of being gendered that we can simply access by “stripping back” – deserves further discussion. Obviously there is one sense in which taking off make up, etc, reveals the non-makeup-ed face underneath. But as you highlight in your comment, there are greater questions to be had around how the gendered body is shaped more generally by culture, and how a new norm of “natural” beauty might be just another standard to live up to.

      I take your point about offense and readership – though honestly I had no idea that so many people would read this post. I know that if I did I would have tempered it a LOT more!

      The video came out after I had written the post. I have seen the video and can definitely see the point that you and others raise about this woman and her mother not being out to promote some horrible new norm of femininity; but more to the point they are not big business. However if I could do all this over again, even though I would perhaps change my tone, I would still want to make the same point about the problems of seeing “natural” beauty as necessarily better, particularly as contrasted with a “before” which is presented as less acceptable.

      Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment.

  19. I think for me, the idea of these dolls is refreshing because every single doll I look at on the shelves has massive make up, hair dos and clothing of only ONE style. All of them. They all look the same. There is not one ‘au naturelle’ doll out there. So going to the store to choose a doll for my daughter is limited (just like Pink aisles of toys). There is no variety which is completely unfair to the wide range of consumers out there. Toy manufacturers have told me what to buy my daughter. I have no choice.
    I have nothing against women who style themselves in the same fashion as the “make up” dolls , some friends of mine do, they are smart and kind people. My 3yo daughter loves wearing dresses (so do I), of course I don’t stop her, that’s ridiculous.
    But when manufacturers limit their style of dolls I think they’re missing a very large group of people. This woman is filling that massive void.

    • It’s definitely an interesting point that you raise. But there are already a lot of girl dolls on the market that don’t look dissimilar to the Tree Change Dolls. They just don’t involve a “before” and “after” series. Take for example the American Girl doll range?

      • The American Girl dolls are over $100 though, which is totally inaccessible to working class and underprivileged folks. Plus, those are the “baby doll” variety, which I think sort of promotes the idea of “You’re a baby or you’re sexy and grown-up” when there is only that “binary”. I agree that we shouldn’t present hyper-femininity as bad, but I agree it shouldn’t be the only option for an adult, teen, or tween doll. You kind of have Skipper in the Barbie collection but what kid is going to get Skipper instead of Barbie? Skipper is something you get WITH Barbie and in comparison Skipper is not as “cool”. Also, for the record I believe the clothes for the tree change dolls are old fashioned because it is definitely her mother who makes the clothes, lol. What I would LOVE to see is some dolls with realistic and varied body types, who are multicultural, and who can put on a variety of kids clothes that include stuff that comes from lots of fashion influences, personal styles, and cultural styles. Barbie is heading this way but they still have their problematic physically impossible main body type.
        Also, I have no problem with some dolls being skinny (little kids can be skinny and so can women) or being curvacious, since women can be curvacious and children can wear larger sizes, but what I cannot stand is these actually physically impossible STANDARD body types on dolls that are skinny and curvy, fit but not “too” muscular, would snap a persons spine if reconstructed in reality (actually true of Barbies) and impossible without plastic surgery. I have no problem with people getting plastic surgery if that is what they want, but the dolls they play with should not make little girls (and the women they become) feel like they NEED it.

      • I would just like to point out that the tree change doll are made in Australia, and I don’t believe American girl dolls are available there. They aren’t in New Zealand, nor can they be shipped here from the American girl website. I live in New Zealand and have had great trouble finding any dolls that didn’t have lots of make up on for my daughter apart from baby dolls. While were you live might have a range of dolls, with and without make up, that might not be the case where the lady who makes tree change dolls live.

  20. I appreciate what you’re saying here and I don’t think we should demonize makeup or traditional femininity or creative nonconforming expressions with makeup. My experience as a woman is that I feel a lot of pressure to buy into beauty product after beauty product to achieve a look that society deems “beautiful,” and I think there is value in teaching children that they don’t HAVE to make themselves up. I think the norm is much more TO wear makeup than not to wear it, and toys and dolls veer on the side of perpetuating a consumerist culture that tells women they are never good enough, but they will be if they buy x, y, or z skin product/mascara/juice cleanse. I think there is a place for the idea of “natural beauty,” and I don’t think it has anything to do with saying “this is a REAL woman.” I think it’s so much more about making sure the message that you don’t HAVE to conform to gender expectations surrounding beauty is also out there. Thanks again for the thought provoking post!

    • Thanks for your thoughts Jen. You raise some good points. I think there’s something to be said about the way the Tree Change Dolls have been promoted and responded to though, with the before and after series a key feature that makes the suggestion that the “after” is better. For example, a lot of people on here have been suggesting that the “after” dolls are better because they are “de-skankified”, etc. But I think your point about not demonising creative expressions of femininity is a great antidote to that, and I think your approach gives me hope that we can enjoy dolls like the Tree Change ones without introducing another insidious norm of how girls must be.

  21. Dear binarythis
    While I have no comments about your article, I was reading through the comments everyone else has made and your replies and I would like to say you are honestly one of the most kind people I could hope to encounter. Regardless off opinion, you seem to have taken a number of comments into consideration and responded politely. Kudos to that!

    • Thanks! Honestly there have been so many that I haven’t got the chance to reply to all of them yet. Plus I’m not even sure what I should say to some, short of reiterating my original post. I think a lot of people have raised good points though so it’s worth trying to promote a dialogue.

  22. “Un-made-up” is not the equivalent of “made-down.” That’s the basic flaw in the author’s argument. Wearing no make-up is being yourself and presenting your physical being in an un-adulterated form. It is doing nothing. It is letting things be, and being OK with it. Maybe there are people who wave “natural” around like a flag (and I’m equally offended by them)…..but seriously, can we really argue that NOT changing the way we appear (or worse yet, liking it) is imposing an ideology on others? That’s really seems a concocted premise.

    But there’s another logical flaw in this blog that I find much more problematic: equating putting on make-up to “feminizing” a person. That’s exactly the issue that the maker of these dolls inadvertently addressed: society’s understanding that a girl or a woman in her natural form is less feminine than one whose appearance is artificially enhanced. A person who blogs about gender surely must understand why that social standard has caused so many problems for women and their self-esteem! Fuss with make-up all you want, and that’s a perfectly fine choice……but please don’t tell girls they’re less feminine if they don’t. I want my daughter to understand that she has choices. She can choose to wear make-up, or girdles, or 4-inch heels, or push-up bras, and that’s fine if it’s how she wants to express or present herself — but that she’s at least as beautiful, and certainly as feminine, if she chooses not to, instead.

    • Hi Laurie – yes excellent point that ‘“Un-made-up” is not the equivalent of “made-down.”’! Because what we see with the Tree Change Dolls is explicitly about being made-down as a form of make over. I guess I would definitely argue against the idea that we can ever really just “be” normal and natural though, as we are shaped within a culture that has us eat, exercise and shape our bodies in all kinds of ways, so getting to what is real and natural is an impossible feat unless you are somehow outside of culture.

      With your point about “feminizing”..well I think I need to consider that more. I think you make a good point about how I am using the term femininity. What I was trying to suggest in my post, is that the Tree Change Dolls risk a new norm of femininity that might be very problematic because it presents itself as something we can easily obtain yet actually requires a lot of body work too (see my point above about culture).

      Thanks for your thoughts though- I will definitely think more about how I employ the term femininity just to be sure I’m not adding to the problem I’m trying to identify.

    • Hi twistedkilt, I definitely think there is something to be said about how your kind of evaluation plays into why people like the before and after shots of the Tree Change Dolls so much. But that’s part of what worries me – who are we to determine what is “hideous” and what is beautiful when it comes to girls expressing themselves? What a lot of people have rightly highlighted in the comments here is that the Bratz dolls are a concern for many parents because they feel like they teach children that there is only one way to be feminine. But similarly if we propose that the Tree Change Dolls are the “better” way to be feminine we are imposing yet another norm, and teaching children that there is definitely a bad and “hideous” way to look. Doesn’t that just out the brakes on how we might express ourselves?

      • I like your sentiments, honestly and I get it – reality is, if you have little girls – you don’t want them sexing up like Kardashians or Beyonce.

  23. The fun thing with these “made-under dolls” is that they will still fit into the Barbie and Bratz clothes and now the kids can have fun “making” them up themselves with make up, etc… They can see that you can be natually beautiful and get dolled up when you want to. Maybe the toy companies will take this idea and create something like that.

  24. I think Tree Change Dolls are interesting because they are not mass-produced. They are the artwork of just this one woman in Tasmania and her mother. If Monster High Dolls represent a more-extreme version of Bratz, and Bratz themselves are a more extreme version of Barbie, I don’t see anything bad about creating a doll that goes one level further in the opposite extreme away from glamour too. And if these Tree Change Dolls were mass-produced, they’d represent that. They aren’t mass-produced though, so all the attention this one lady is getting obviously represents some sort of yearning. She’s tapped into the fact that different kinds of people want different choices. While some children will crave Monster High, others may want a Tree Change type of doll (if they are ever, in fact, sold anywhere.) There will probably even be some children who will want to play with all of the different kinds of dolls too, depending on their mood at the time.

  25. I’m having trouble understanding this. The basic thesis I extracted from the above article was that girls can’t look good without makeup and actually wearing clothes, as opposed to spending a crap ton on makeup that makes your face look fake, and exposing all of their skin. While I respect that if you enjoy putting on lots of makeup and wearing more, for lack of a better word ‘scandalous’ clothing, then that’s you and no one should be allowed to take that away. However no little girl should be taught that that is the only way to be beautiful. Beauty doesn’t have to come from a makeup jar and there’s no harm in teaching a child that they are beautiful no matter what. I think the media and our so called ‘role models’ have enough of an influence to show that you can also use makeup to look beautiful, but there is nothing teaching girls the other side of it either. As I said there is nothing wrong with either style, but you can’t teach one and not the other without having harmful affects on a child view of herself.

    • I agree. It seems that the author was seeking to find something wrong with women being who they are. I love this concept. Letting young girls take the basic doll and interpret them in their own ways.

    • Short of reiterating my original point that “natural” (though constructed here) beauty is another potential norm of femininity, I can only say that the broad point you raise that “there is nothing wrong with either style” is important here. This seems somewhat forgotten when people (not you, others) refer to the original dolls as unacceptable “skanks” and the new ones as eminently better. I think that “teaching a child that they are beautiful no matter what” isn’t necessarily the lesson we learn from Tree Change Dolls, which so heavily rely on being no longer a particular way (as the before/after pictures emphasise)

  26. I see your points; however, feel they are a bit dramatic. But you have your opinion, as I have mine; which is simple. Dare I say, I do not believe a single child playing with one of these Tree Change Dolls would be brainwashed into the conformity of something Quaker-esque. Rather, I am most certain their curiosity would still thrive, if not more, and give the desire to experiment accordingly. Kids will be kids, regardless of which toy you put in front of their face. I do agree, with some of the comments, that it seems a much healthier solution to begin younger children with these “made-down” dolls than to jump start them in the traditional [if that’s what Bratz have become], made up way. There is nothing wrong with showing young’ns that they are beautiful without makeup; they’re still going to want to play in mommy’s makeup anyway, but at least they wouldn’t be constantly surrounded by the notion [media] that they are only beautiful once they have their “face” on.

    • Hi Syrah,
      Thank you for this considered response – I think it’s good to have a dialogue on this topic. I think that my “drama” has put some people off from wanting to engage in a conversational way (as my anger has stirred much more). Not that I don’t defend women being angry. Thanks for your points.

  27. You might want to watch the SBS report where they actually went and interviewed the maker of these dolls. She stated that she was never trying to make a political statement with the toys, she just made them for herself as a hobby. When she shared them on Facebook, so many of her friends liked and shared the post that it went viral and people from all over were asking to buy the dolls. THAT is when she was almost forced into the commercial market (because this hobby was taking place after she was made redundant by CSIRO, so she had to replace her income somehow, and this seemingly fell into her lap).

    The reason that the dolls all have the same clothing style is because they were all made by her elderly mother. They do cater to an older era, a different aesthetic, because they were made by a woman and her mother as a hobby activity that went viral. Nobody’s trying to force this style on you or yours. If you don’t want them, don’t buy them. Those who do enjoy this aesthetic, and do think they look more realistic and like people kids are likely to see on the street (another point made in the video when the kids were able to say the dolls looked like friends from school), will buy them instead. I think it’s clear based on what your readership have said that they will be doing so.

    The interview, for your viewing pleasure:

  28. From a mother of a 3 year old daughter, i would much rather choose the “made-down” version of the Bratz doll than one of the over made up and sexed up store bought versions. I let my daughter play with make-up, both by doing her own and doing mommy’s. I prefer the all natural look myself, but if my daughter wants to experiment with make-up, by all means play. I believe however that all children need to have dolls that they can relate to. My daughter even at the age of 3 will choose a baby doll over a barbie. She looks at the barbie’s like “what am i supposed to do with this thing”. While when playing with a baby doll, she sets up tea parties, wraps it in blanket, rocks it, and puts it in time out. She does everything with her baby doll that mommy does with her. So to me this illustrates that even at 3 years old, a little girl can show you that she prefers a doll that she can relate to instead of one that looks like just another adult/teenager.

    • Hi Kearaney,
      Thanks for your comments. I think it’s always great to hear from parents in these debates. It’s so fantastic to hear how you encourage your daughter to experiment and play and it sounds like you’re a great role model when it comes to showing her different ways to be feminine.
      It would be great to see more discussions on what girls actually want to play with when it comes to dolls. I know myself that I loved playing with Barbies but I would cut their hair and do all kinds of wacky things with them. Kids are pretty cool like that with their dynamic ways of interacting with things.

  29. Well, the only thing I could offer as advice in terms of writing style is to try to come across more neutral with your argument. People sure do get angry and jump the gun quickly… Everyone thinks you are really really angry, selfish and hurtful. Are you? I don’t believe so, but I have had practice in university with reading many articles and texts. From your article I believe that your point was about not having yet another facet that corners girls into an aesthetic ‘ideal’, regardless of what it is, natural or not. You support diversity and freedom of choice – I’m with that. Next time, maybe have two sides to every article, come across neutral, support all arguments and emphasise the underlying issue more, rather than your own opinion. This way, readers will feel like they can make up their own minds, and then comment threads will be a much more educational place to share open discussion about what really is at issue, rather than getting distracted by the misunderstanding that you are somehow being arrogant and stupid. Don’t assume people will get it! They need a lot more than you think. For some reason, people almost always approach articles with a defensive barrier in the very first instance. I hope you received some good comments however, and I enjoyed your article. That’s all from me, keep it up. 🙂

  30. I think, pertinently — the blogger is not a girl. He has no reason to comment. Bratz dolls and Barbie dolls have negatively impacted young girls into feeling that they must achieve an impossible standard of beauty. While I agree the clothing is a little granola bar and Volvo conservative — I think it’s preferable to the call girl attire that some of the over-done dolls are wearing. Body image problems (dysmorphia) abound because girls want to achieve a doll-like ‘perfection’ in order to be considered attractive. I think the tree change dolls are great because it’s more about being WHO YOU ARE than a bimbo. It makes it okay for kids to identify with their playthings. Look at that insane Russian woman Valeria Lukyanova who has undergone plastic surgeries to obtain a plastic human barbie doll look. She herself states that she always held Barbie as ‘the ideal of feminine perfection’ — Time for a new status quo. Is this what you want your daughters to emulate? I know I don’t.

      • LOL! You special snowflake, you. Your problem isn’t with “natural beauty” it’s with nature itself. I’m sorry that nature made us sexually dimorphic but that is our biological reality and it’s how we reproduce. You were “assigned female” at birth because you have two X chromosomes and a vagina. That’s what sex is. Sex isn’t gender. You don’t “identify” as your sex, just like you don’t identify as human. Gender on the other hand is the lie that is imposed on us. Gender exists only to enslave and dehumanize women. It’s not a binary it’s a HIERARCHY with women at the bottom. Gender needs to be abolished not celebrated. There’s is no empowering re-appropriation of this shit.

      • Hey Erin,

        Afraid we’ll have to disagree on this one – I think it’s important to talk about “assigned gender” and the complexities of sex and gender generally. For example, determining sex is actually much more fraught than just identifying chromosomes. I’ve written a little bit on it here:

        Anne Fausto Sterling has also written on the topic:

        In terms of gender, this is another discussion altogether, but I definitely don’t think gender should or can be “abolished”. Gender is about how people are identified and identify in the world. Yes we should fight sexism and discrimination based on gender (i.e. smash gender hierarchies), but I don’t think that means we need to imagine we could or should all be gender-neutral.

        I’ll try and find some time in the future to write more about this in detail. Thanks for reading the blog. I hope we can have more dialogue about these important questions.


      • In response to BT’s comment below: Your appropriation of the experience of people with intersex conditions (a small population) is offensive, especially because you are using it to prove a bunch of faulty theory. The foundations of gender theory can be credited to Dr. John Money, who also lied to prove an untenable assumption about the nature of biological sex. He mutilated, tortured, hormonally poisoned and abused a boy who’d had the misfortune of loosing his penis in a botched circumcision. He lied to this child in order to experiment on the boy and his twin brother. Now both men are dead (both to suicide). This child abuser–who should be compared to Mengele and such monsters of medicine– is responsible for much of the theory around the supposed malleability of sex and gender. What’s worse is that Money acted in the interests of binary gender conformity, not some sort of individual liberation of the self. Your uncritical, historically uninformed (confused and muddied) views on the subject are staggering, really. Also, men impersonating women or being hormonally enhanced to win medals happens often enough to warrant testing. The conclusions of such tests must be handled carefully and respectfully (in the case of east German swimmers, they were being unwittingly fed male hormones) but they are still necessary.
        See Dora the Nazi Olympian:

        Victims of the East German doping scandal still suffering:

        I’m not surprised to hear you defend gender as innate and natural. You are a symptom of the institutionalized backlash against feminism, the edging out of universities of the very word “woman,” and the disappearing of the violent power structure that is fundamental to women’s inequality: gender. Do you think race is somehow inherent? What if I want to identify as a disabled asian woman, is that my right? No. Do you think this woman was just “performing gender”?

        Do you want to tell me that gender isn’t the mechanism of our oppression now?

        I hope you learn to temper your insulated dogma with criticism and a more global perspective. If a handful of hand made dolls are the battles you choose when women around the world are exploited and abused then you are seriously on the wrong track.

      • Hey again Erin,
        I feel like we’re on different pages here, and I’m sorry to see that.
        My intention was not to “appropriate” the condition of intersex, I was merely trying to demonstrate the complexities of sex, to suggest that it is not easily fixed along a binary male/female. As to gender – in the field of psychology approaches to gender certainly do have their basis in Dr Money’s work, though this has been seriously revised in recent years, for exactly the reasons you point out. However outside of psychology, within gender and cultural studies, ideas of sex and gender have historically emerged from feminist and queer analyses. So while the 2nd wave feminists in the 1960s highlighted the difference between sex and gender to make the point that one need not “become” the woman society expected them to be (following Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘Second Sex’), later in the 1990s queer theory (particularly the work of Judith Butler) suggested that sex was often socially discussed in such a way that it was already collapsed into gender. In other words, the queer theorists pointed to the strong normative connection between sex (e.g. female), gender (e.g. woman) and gender presentation (e.g. feminine), that warranted further attention in order to defend against some biologistic essentialist arguments that had arisen within some 2nd wave feminist strands of thought.
        I hope that helps to clarify that I certainly do not argue that gender is essentially natural, in fact quite the opposite. Yet in pointing to the embodied social aspects that may help to form sex and gender, this doesn’t mean that I think gender isn’t “real”. I have all the time in the world to hear from people who identify as transgender and have their own unique insights into not only the complex dynamics of nature versus nurture, but who have lived on multiple sides of gender sociality.
        So maybe we’re not on totally different sides then? I’d like to think not. I was attempting to highlight that normative expectations on gender expression can be limiting, whether that norm be about beauty as “excessive” or beauty as “natural”. However, I get why this post and my ireful tone may have upset you, as it has done a great deal of people commenting here.
        As to the worth of the discussion altogether…I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive to consider this phenomenon and to care about other issues relating to women and gender more broadly. Indeed, I am dedicating my career to it.
        Thanks again for your thoughts.
        BT 🙂

      • We do differ very much in our analysis because yours is completely detached from a political analysis of gender as a power structure that harms women and privileges men. Please explain what you mean exactly by the “biologistic essentialist arguments that had arisen within some 2nd wave feminist strands of thought.”

      • Hi Erin,
        To clarify – Judith Butler’s argument that sex is “always already gender,” highlights how the 2nd wave formulation of sex as distinct from gender collapses sex *entirely* into the realm of the “natural” and gender *entirely* into the realm of the “social.” Butler wanted to show that “natural” sex is also shaped by social forces – in very concrete ways such as the surgery forced upon intersex babies, but also in more subtle ways through enforced expectations placed on the child once they are identified via their genitalia (the “it’s a girl!” moment).
        In terms of what I think about power and how this effects gender relations – I of course acknowledge that there is systematic and institutionalised sexism within society. Here’s an old post of mine that alludes to some thoughts on the gender binary and patriarchy:
        I don’t think an overarching structural analysis of the sexism faced by women in society precludes interrogating myths and norms of “natural beauty,” rather, it necessitates it

  31. I think the point here is that the dolls are made to look like the 6 – 10 year olds they’re intended to appeal to. Whether someone dresses as a drag queen in their teens is not really relevant. You start experimenting with make up and so on after you finish playing with dolls. Let children be children for just a little while. These dolls aren’t made over any more than your average 8 year old is.

    • Thank you Vida! You are a genius compared to the earlier emotive and overly dramatic outpouring about a woman who dared to interpret dolls in her own way! What was she thinking! Hahahahaha

    • Vida, I think you have an excellent point.

      I appreciate the sentiments of the original article. What I took from it is that the author feels that pushing girls into yet another box, is simply pushing girls into yet another box.

      But I also feel strongly that in today’s culture we tell our girls you can be anything you want (as long as you’re pretty and sexy) – and that needs to go away, too, especially for pre-teens.

    • Extremely well said, Vida Bailey! Thank you for putting into words what I was thinking. Besides no one is saying to remove all other dolls from the market. Surely there is room in the market for another option. If you want your child to play with dolls that are plied with makeup, you have many to chose from. But this gives mother’s and their daughters an option that little girls can relate to more. Maybe even one that looks like them or their best friends. What’s wrong with that? Like Vida said girls are not generaly wearing makeup at the age that they are playing with dolls. If they are then they are grow u way to fast and need to slow down and enjoy being a little girl. Once they are grown they will wish they could have stay young a bit longer.

    • Hi Vida,
      Interesting point, which I have seen raised a few times on here. Though others have pointed out that even very young love to experiment. However as others have also suggested, perhaps these dolls provide a better “base” for which children might be able to unleash their creativity.
      Thanks for your thoughts!

  32. Its really interesting to find why so many of the BRATZ dolls are found in second hand stores, tossed aside or become throw away’s to begin with! Well, firstly, is obvious, they need a makeover. I have a three year old granddaughter and would never think of buying her a doll made to look far more mature then it needs to be. We as adults know full well, we do not wish our children to grow up faster then they need to, and their play time needs to be enjoyable. Every time i see those Bratz in the store, on the shelves, i think why would anyone buy that for their child? Grand child? I for one, do not feel a BRATZ doll would even hit my grand daughters play room, but the Tree Change doll, made to look more child like would be perfect. The pure fact that the Tree Change Dolls Facebook page has over 330,000 likes goes to prove there are many more people then YOU, who believe changes need to be made with it comes to the toys our children play with.

    • Hi Karan,
      Hmmn I’m not sure that there is an overabundance of Bratz dolls being thrown out more than any other dolls that are also past their “trend” date. But you raise a really interesting issue about attending to the kinds of things children actually want to play with. I really liked Barbie as a child but I remember being frustrated by her immovable limbs and funnily shaped feet. But I really liked her in other ways and I was creative with her. This is one really big thing missing from my original post – just as children have always done interesting things when playing with Barbie, so too should we expect them to be creative with Tree Change Dolls or any other dolls for that matter. I think as long as we’re not trying to replace one distinct way of being feminine with a whole new expectation, then there’s not a huge problem.

      • The video was released some time after the Tree Change Dolls were first discussed and after I had written my post. Seeing my initial rage as a response to the “before/after” moralism of the original photographs (as included on the post) rather than directed toward the individual creator of the dolls is helpful here. There is nothing wrong with angry women, and my anger was directed toward a broader cultural trend, where this instance is but one example (for another, see: Snog, Marry, Avoid).

  33. I haven’t read all the comments so apologies if it has already been said. While I agree that experimentation should always be encouraged, I also think that drawing young children’s attention to their appearance from a young age is a negative thing. These Tree Change dolls look ‘natural’, as in, yes, no makeup. Children play with dolls, I don’t think children should have to worry about putting makeup on. Dressing up is fun, yes, but I think Bratz clearly look like teenagers and I think giving such dolls to children aged like 5 or whatever might draw their attention to body image in a negative way, rather than focusing on imaginative scenarios and adventures that the Tree Change dolls might be going on. Yes, they could do that with Bratz, but as the TC dolls look more similar there’s less focus on appearance. As young teenage girls have such issues with self-esteem and body image, it’s a good thing to draw less attention to it in just one small facet of life in their slightly earlier years.

    • Hi Isabelviolet,
      Yes, interesting perspective! I”d also say though that it’s so great how children play dress ups and do all kinds of experimenting with their presentation and identity, but it’s good to remember in this that you don’t want to emphasise “good” or “bad” ways of doing this. I agree that children shouldn’t have to worry about “correct” ways to wear makeup, but they should perhaps be allowed to play around with all kinds of things like makeup, face paint, costumes and other clothing. I think you raise some interesting issues with the extent to which Bratz versus TCD’s make children reflect on normative appearance.
      Thanks for your points.

  34. Hi “Binary This!”

    This post would be a fine essay or lecture for a sociology class – it’s important to remind people that changing signifiers doesn’t mean there are no longer any signifiers and we’ve gotten down to the “pure meaning” of “doll-ness” or “girl-ness” or “nature.” I hope you share these ideas with your students!

    It just seems a little harsh to be “deeply troubled” about a home-based business whose intent is to recycle discarded dolls, and re-make them into something the designer likes, dolls outfitted to look like they enjoy playing outdoors – not a horribly negative message as long as there is still a safe outdoors in which to play.

    • It’s interesting that I had such a strong reaction isn’t it!…I guess I get so much femmephobia all of the time, that I just read it along those lines. You make an interesting point of course, but it is interesting to see how many people on here are deeply troubled by my being deeply troubled! I think it perhaps says something about how and when women are allowed to be angry – which I have written about here

      Thanks for your thoughts 🙂

      • I don’t think people want to stop the expression of female anger here; they just don’t really understand (as do I) how you could be angry at something so inoffensive or even anti-offensive. I agree with your points about lettingbpeople do drag, or wear makeup, or whatever–it’s just that project was never opposed to them. In fact, it looks like a lot of the people upset with you have stereotypically female first names, or even female profile pictures, so…

      • Thanks for reading, Retha! It certainly is true that the passionate nature of this writing has sparked a lot of comments.

  35. You are a gender fundamentalist and attention needy narcissist. I wonder how many years you wasted in university learning how to parrot hackneyed pomo nonsense onto a page. This is about children having access to toys they can relate to, that they might be able to imagine could be something other than strippers and drag queens.

    • Even though there’s nothing inherently wrong with being a stripper or a drag queen, I do wholeheartedly agree with the point about having dolls that little girls can relate to right now. Cradle to the Grave marketing intends to capture little girls attention at an early age, programming them to consume an eventual lifetime of unnecessary beauty products habitually. What struck me about the little girls playing with the Tree Change Dolls is that they loved them because they looked just like their friends. That’s wonderful. More power to her for turning her wonderful hobby into a meaningful product.

  36. I think the real issue is this author enjoyed putting on makeup when she was young, and she resents people making some sort of a statement that wearing lots of makeup was wrong whereas a person is more right to go natural. I find that amusing and ironic. I guess it has been argued, to some degree, over the years that as go the dolls, so goes the world. People have been concerned for years that the dolls with the styled hair, very thin bodies, and very made-up faces present an unrealisic role model for children. Now we have someone actually concerned that these “made-under” dolls are going to hurt children just as much. It’s going to cause children to think that “going natural” or “conforming” is better. Oh no! Children may actually start thinking it’s not important to follow the current fads and fashions. It will ruin their lives! I’m sorry. I’m over dramatizing, but I find that amusing. In reality, unfortunately, children who play with these lovely, natural-looking dolls will still succumb to peer pressure soon enough. Why must they begin, at ages below 10, just wishing, and hoping, and praying, and dreaming of a time when they, too, can have pouty lips, penciled eyebrows, and half-inch long eyelashes, not to mention short shorts and high heels? The bottom line is, no matter what the dolls look like, young girls are still going to look at the older, living females in their lives and choose, based on them, whether they want to dress, act, and make themselves up. But that will come soon enough. I think it’s great that the parents of very young girls have the option of giving them more natural-looking, beautiful dolls to play with for just a little while longer. I imagine it would be too much to ask that they choose to play with overweight, unattractive, or even handicapped dolls, but wouldn’t that be a great way to teach them about compassion at an early age? Yeah, probably too much to ask.

    • Hi Pamela,
      You raise some interesting points, and I particularly love your point that: “no matter what the dolls look like, young girls are still going to look at the older, living females in their lives and choose, based on them, whether they want to dress, act, and make themselves up”. It’s a great point and really raises the broader social issues about role modelling for girls. You’re right that I did take this as a personal affront, and I’m sure I could have made my cultural critique much more successfully if I hadn’t let my personal feelings show through (though I truly did not expect so many people to read this post!). I also agree that the TCDs are probably a good starting point for talking to girls about body image. However I worry about some of the reactions people have had that suggest the “before” dolls were “skanks” and “awful” etc, because I think that is really limiting too. This is largely a function of the TCDs not just coming into the world as “dolls that look like young children” but specifically “dolls that look better than they did before”.
      Anyway I hope I have addressed some of your points. Thanks for commenting.

  37. Feeling threatened, are you? Natural can never be fake, it’s the core of who we are. No one is saying you can’t make yourself up until you’re unrecognizable. But you’re an adult and these dolls are for children. Frankly, I’d much rather have my daughter, if I had one, be able to relate to her dolls as characters that are like her rather than seeing dolls that look like strippers and thinking that she needs to look like that.

    • Hi Mary Kaye,
      Thanks for your comment, and certainly a lot of people have raised the issue that TCDs are for children. I think it’s sad though if girls are told there is only one way to be. Certainly people on here have argued that the Bratz dolls teach girls “one” way to be, but aren’t the TCDs an inversion of this? Plus what the subtle femininity of the TCDs represents is also a version of femininity that many girls will not be able to obtain – and while the Bratz look is far more cartoonish and obviously unrealistic, this is not necessarily so obvious with the TCDs.
      Thanks for your thoughts MK.

  38. You make a good point my friend. People are as different, well, as the leaves on the trees. Great reminder that perhaps neither is better than the other. Children and adults should be who they are and not feel pressured to be who they are not. Seems like a no- brainer.

  39. I watched the video of how a very simple Mom from Tasmania started the idea of recycling the second hand dolls. I personally think it’s a humbling experience and it’s simply going back to “basics”. Little girls should be made to play with simple dolls in which they see themselves and relating with the same age as theirs. Enough of the dark make-ups, big lips and big butt dolls.
    Just saying …..

    • “Enough of the …., big lips and big butt dolls”? I understand your point about the extreme makeup but you do know that people are proportioned differently and within my “race” we DO tend to have a fuller bottom and ample lips? Personally, I find that the flat bottoms and thin lipped dolls are disproportionate and not befitting the mass majority of the world’s population which happen to be people of color.

    • My Dear Emma Jocelyn Benipayo-Villadelgado bless your HEART this should be a wake-up call to all of us. You my dear are for real and I think you are able to see beyond your years. Thank you for sharing such Love, For All Of US !

    • Yeah, I agree. But these “natural” dolls shouldn’t be the only toys the kids play with. They should be given dolls that all look totally different and special. Some might have makeup or crazy outfits, others might be more simple.

    • Hi Emma,
      Yes emphasising the small-scale nature of this enterprise is important and something missed in my original post. Though I wonder whether girls being able to “see themselves” in dolls is the best thing – sure, role models in entertainment, politics and life, but dolls? I wonder if maybe toys are better promoted as fantasy objects rather than things girls should seek to emulate. Though I don’t doubt that there are aspirations reflected in the cultures around these dolls, and for Bratz this is arguably about preoccupation with presentation. With the TCDs it is perhaps also presentation though…just a more “natural” (though arguably still unattainable) one, especially because of the emphasis on TCD “before” and “after” shots.

  40. Well it’s clear you like to be the devils advocate on issues you feel have substance…and I recognize from your pic that you like to be unique in your appearance if for no other reason because doing so empowers you in ways I don’t fully understand but also don’t have an opinion about. I care about who people are as individuals and outward appearance has nothing to do with who you really are as a person. Your rant however is a reflection of who you are as a person and to me you’re telling the world that abuse of animals to test mainstream beauty products is Ok, the objectification of women as these Bratz dolls encourage by their appearance is Ok, that it’s Ok for young boys to learn from the Bratz dolls that this is what women should look like and that’s what they should expect and that its Ok to objectify women by this standard and expect them to be in real life the reflection of what these dolls look like. You’re basically telling your loyal audience that you are better than this woman who takes what would otherwise be garbage and unwanted and turns trash into something desirable and useful that such actions are not acceptable to you and so shouldn’t be acceptable to your readers. You’re also saying to your faithful readers that it’s Ok to speak poorly of anyone who is making an effort to better their small part of the world when in reality if you are not part of the solution to the issues in your small part of the world, then you are what’s wrong with the world as a whole. Clearly your mother never taught you that if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, keep your mouth shut. Your article is just pissing and moaning about someone you’ve not net, have only heard about second hand from friends or online references of others and you have not taken the time to consider how hurtful and basically mean you’re being to another person who didn’t deserve it. You may be a good person and an otherwise respected writer but you absolutely dropped the ball on this one from every angle that would have supported your argument. Instead you made a conscious choice of free will and by that choice you made someone doing something positive in a world chuck full of negative feel bad about themselves and sent an impression to your loyal audience that doing such is Ok. You should be ashamed of yourself. What kind of person would say any of this about someone they don’t even know and have clearly never met? How dare you! How dare you set yourself above another individual for any reason let alone gender! And the real problem with gender is that on sex or another does try to elevate themselves over the other or push the other down. You are an embarrassment to the human race and should write an apology letter to everyone who read this bile and the first letter should go to the person whose small effort to at very least try something / anything you have belittled and insulted. Did you even consider how this might make this woman’s child feel if she had read this? What message would you be sending to her? That her mother is an obtuse idiot having no redeemable qualities because she feels comfortable being the obviously good person? You may not like what she does or what you think the dolls she refurbishes represent but when the actions of an individual are positive, or at very least other than negative (she’s not a member of ISIS beheadings people), you don’t have the moral right to voice such opinion in such a hurtful and selfish way and think that doing so is acceptable and honestly reflects a gender observation worth exploring. Obviously this woman’s family and little girl support her in her efforts and clearly all this attention came from other people and is probably unwanted and certainly unsolicited. For all appearances, unlike yourself, the maker of these refurbished dolls that she has taken from the trash or bought in second hand stores, reflects a humility and substance of character and a set of values that you are absolutely devoid of yourself. You could learn a lot by actually spending time with this person. If spewing the garbage you have in this article was a crime and I were the judge presiding over your hearing, I’d find you guilty of harassment and order you to spend two years as her servant making these dolls and once that part of your sentence was satisfied you’d be going to a maximum security prison for 10 years. Your life requires some serious rethinking, your life, not your appearance, that I get and commented on, your life though is clearly empty of any redeeming qualities if you think writing this article accurately addressed any gender issue or has added any depth or substance to the human experience as a whole. You are to blogging about gender or any real issue relating to the big picture of gender inequality what Fox News is to facts and fairness.

    • You do realize that you’re doing the exact same thing you’re accusing the writer of this article of doing right? You’re sitting here insulting this person that you’ve never met, saying they’re a horrible person. Also, the writer isn’t saying these dolls are a bad thing, they’re just using the dolls as a starting point and reference point for the entire “natural beauty” conversation. All the writer is saying is that telling girls they have to look a certain way to be pretty is a bad thing. There is no difference between telling girls they have to look natural and that they have to look made up. Those two things are just opposite sides of the same coin.

    • Weeel, this is a wee bit extreme. I used to make dolls that had a molded but unpainted face, from felt, since I was so impressed by the Italian Lenci dolls of many years ago. I gave them puffy almost clowny bodies, hair and made them to hang for the ceiling, calling them “Flying Wallendas”. I have made different sorts of dolls, re pursosed from exisxtant commercial ones, and I have come across a couple or two in thrift stores. It does take artistry to do the lovely job that has been done on these re purposed and saved dolls. I think that they are pretty nice myself. Back in the day, two extremely nice gay men I knew- well connected, as if that matters would buy every forlorn Barbie I had in stock because they enjoyed the challenge of rerooting their hair and creating one off creations in a very odd and volatile market. They were collectors of boxed dolls,(Which by the way is a challenge, since boxed and sealed dolls can easily grow green mold and infect a collection. There are ways to treat this, but none of these dolls look less than perfect. (Any place with metal bits are give aways. Early Barbies often had metal earring studs and this seemed to cause a problem in packaged dolls, perhaps because of the sealed packaging. Who knows?
      I really cant see why anyone would object to the years long popular past time of rehabbing popular dolls. It is hardly worth a complaint, and really not a rant.

    • “your rant”… are you sure you aren’t ranting too? Don’t be hypocritical now… I suggest you take a breath, go back, and carefully read through her article again. You have missed her point. She does not support Bratz Dolls with all the make up, she supports diversity and freedom of choice for girls. Making another set of similar looking dolls that appeal to a type of aesthetic (the “natural” look) is in some way also another facet that corners girls into an ‘ideal’. That’s all. I mean, I still prefer the natural one anyway, especially for kids. But really, about how you think this article is written hurtfully and selfishly – that is more a reflection of yourself and how you read it, full of past experiences, baggage, and expectations. Everyone is different and I certainly did not interpret it that way… And I hope you don’t interpret my response (if you ever read this) in a negative way either. In the calmest way possible, please reconsider your response to this individual. Focus on the issues she brings up and be open.

    • Hi Boulder PC,

      This is actually the most lengthy and truly quote-worthy comment anyone has ever left me. It must have taken some time to write. I want to be angry and upset because you said a lot of cruel things, but truly they are so spectacularly worded that my only real response is to desire writing a book so that I can put some of your commendations on my back cover. Namely:

      “You are to blogging about gender or any real issue relating to the big picture of gender inequality what Fox News is to facts and fairness.”



    • You’re right. There’s a great interview with the artist where she admits she wasn’t making a statement. She bought old busted dolls at a thrift shop and needed to remake them for her daughter to play with, her mother knits the outfits because she’s good at it and likes doing it (not to make a statement that femininity involves a particular style). And the new face just gives her daughter something to relate to, and frankly whiles she’s at it, why not give it a more personalized style. i think it’s about options. No one is saying your make up is not feminine. But that is all that girls see and some girls don’t see themselves in Brat dollz, or feel forced to be more like a Brat doll. I think it’s nice as a parent to give your child more of a blank slate to start with, or at least something that looks more like her, and if she grows up and starts putting on pounds of makeup at least you know she’s expressing herself and not trying to meet anyone’s expectations.

    • Hi Tanya,
      Is this a troll-y post? I feel like your bluntness in calling them “hookers” suggests trolling. Correct me if I’m wrong.
      Binary “Knucklehead” This 🙂

  41. Playing around with makeup is fine and fun….it’s a part of learning to…..these dolls aren’t suggesting children don’t do that…..but as a mother to a teen girl I’ve seen her fb page and profile pics of some of the girls….duck faces galore….skimpy clothes….the majority so over sexualised it’s crazy….and why not they’ve been subjected to over sexualised dolls from such a early age it’s just the norm…….

    • What’s a duck face? (This is a serious question, I’d just like to understand what is meant by the phrase ‘duck face’)

      One of my daughter’s friends is a really pretty girl, and always was from when they first met at the age of about 8. But as she’s got older she started posting photos of herself on Facebook ‘prettied up’, with too much make up (although I get that girls have to experiment to find out what works, and part of that experimentation will almost inevitably mean overdoing it) but also putting on this ridiculous looking lips-pout for almost every photo. Result: She looks worse than she does when she’s not trying. That kind of thing troubles me.

    • Hi Peta,
      How Bratz fit into questions about sexualisation in culture is certainly interesting and definitely deserves more consideration. The connections between these kinds of objects and what they “cause” versus what is just a “reflection” of trends in society needs more thought, but is certainly tricky to ever come to a clear conclusion on this kind of thing. For example, many studies of young girls find that they interact with their toys and other cultural materials in dynamic ways, but that this is largely influenced by the environments and how they are taught to critically interact. So whether Bratz are really in part the “cause” of sexualisation is up for debate. Thanks for bringing the issue up though, I hope to write more on “raunch” culture and these issues soon.

    • I agree with you! Over sexuallizing has gotten so out of hand. Im done with the immoral standards they have placed on our girls in this God-forsaken Country. Our society has been brainwashed to believe it is okay to have less than self dignified values and Im so happy to see a good woman with ethical moral take charge of a long passing over done subject of exploiting our girls as sexual objects.

  42. I have to say that I’m deeply concerned that someone would be “deeply concerned” about dolls that are crafted to look like girls without makeup. Seriously. I think you’ve written far too many academic papers to analyze the world sensibly anymore.

    Does anyone think a craftsperson can “gone too far” when they rehab 12 dolls to look the way they prefer and lets their mother knit some clothing for them? Really?

  43. “Sometimes the natural might actually be the most fake of all.” This is one of the most ridiculously idiotic statements I have ever read. This entire article is babble that makes no sense written by someone who obviously has too much time on her hands and doesn’t know what to do with it constructively. Find another hobby lady! And certainly, there are many more relevant things to get angry about! Seriously???

    • I totally agree with you. The dolls she made over look like the little girls i know and love, and maybe that’s why i liked the story enough to follow it this far. The person that wrote this article must have not only an alternate lifestyle, but also an alternate reality. I’ve tried no make up, heavy make up, more natural looking make up and i believe that each woman needs to find her comfort level with her look, one that pleases her and her husband, but if the only versions they see in media, (and we see sooooo much media these days) is the glam, freaky, and impossibly unattainable then they may not be aware of these other options until later in life. And besides the make up issue, there are also girls and women where i live that still wear skirts, dresses, shirts with sleeves, non translucent, cleavage covering clothing. I’ve noticed when i travel that women in other places also do this. And why does an 8 year old need to explore transgender make up styles, seriously?

    • Hi Sarah,
      Honestly I would love to hear about what makes you angry when it comes to issues of gender and sexuality and gender expression. Let me know and I’ll have a think about it and we can have a discussion! Genuinely interested.
      If not, I’m also taking hobby suggestions for sure.

  44. So, the market is saturated with literally millions of Barbie and Bratz dolls. aggressively marketed to little girls by multinational corporations to the exclusion of a wide variety of alternative presentations. These dolls are completely unrealistic representations of what any woman could ever look like – Barbie can’t even stand upright. A range of emerging research shows that exposure to these dolls *is* harmful to girls’ self-image, and negatively affects their ratings of their own competency. But one mother upcycles a dozen dolls in a more natural fashion, and THAT is what sends you into a “rage spiral”? Seriously?

    • Hey Thea,
      This point about mass marketing versus the Tasmania TCD woman is a good one, and has been raised a few times here. I’ll definitely take it on board for the future. I think my point about norms of femininity stands on its own separate from that, though it will be super interesting to see how it is (or isn’t) taken up commercially. Also note two things though: there are a lot of “natural” girl dolls already on the market (such as American Girl dolls) that dominate. But in defence of Barbie studies have also shown that because of her amazing diversity of careers this has had some positive impact on role modelling career opportunities for girls (she has been an astronaut, a politician, a veterinarian and so on!).
      As for my rage blackout, well everyone on here has cautioned me on that one.

  45. I’ve seen perfectly acceptable kids clothing at Walmart that’s way more interesting than what those dolls are wearing! Natural doesn’t have to mean bland…sure, take away the pancake makeup, but my 3 year old dresses cooler than those dolls!

  46. Children are children. Innocent to all the complaining and raging of adults. Let them play. Play with Bratz. Play with made under dolls. With trucks and cars. They need to play more. Not sitting in front of a screen. Let boys play with dolls and girls play with trucks. Let them play with guns. Let them ride scooters and bikes. Teach them to play hide and seek, tag, tug of war. We did when we were kids and we turned out pretty good I think.

  47. WONDERFUL PERSPECTIVE! Personally, I don’t see how Barbie dolls negatively impact little girls…I think it’s a myth in the minds of ultra conservative adults because, let’s face it, with the raging obesity in the US that is catching up around the world as well, it sure the heck doesn’t seem like little girls are growing up to be thin. And surely, based on what I see as I walk around in the real world, they aren’t layering on the makeup and looking like whores…HOW CAN THEY when 2/3 of them don’t fit into anything but giant mumu’s? Perhaps people should stop blaming Mattel and instead realize that society in general – tv, musicians, etc – are promoting bigger negative role models than dolls do. Ever watch a Katy Perry video? Ever watch one of the plethora of vampire tv shows? How about parents actually teaching their kids something instead of throwing them a bunch of toys or plopping them in front of the tv or an ipad or a cell phone (since when does a little freakin’ KID need a phone that isn’t attached to the wall in their house?!?!?!) .But let’s blame the dolls….Barbie has been around since 1959, yet the population has gotten fatter, more white trashy, and dumber in the decades since. Barbie was a doctor, an astronaut, a politician, etc. Seems like she was smart enough to take care of her body and get an education. Yah…that’s such a crappy role model to have…
    2 mins · Like

    • Eating disorders don’t always result in a thin physique. In fact, the opposite of the intended often happens. I.e.: When a person starves his/herself, the body goes into starvation mode which causes he body to store calories instead of burn.
      I’m making this reference because of your statement about raging obesity. Also, compare 12-year-old girls these days with 12-year-olds of 1990’s. Today’s 12-year-olds absolutely look like street-walkers with unneeded makeup caked on by the pound and less and less clothing. Not saying I blame the dolls, but rather the hyper-sexualization of toys, books, films & entertainment as well as pop culture’s negative influence on society as a whole.

      • When people don’t experience things personally it ‘doesn’t REALLY happen’ right? I had anorexia throughout my teenage years and early twenties. Guess what…because of this it activated my likeliness for developing a hormonal disorder that causes me to gain weight and stay big. When it comes down to it, it is up to parents. Maybe playing with my barbie dolls as a kid didnt have a direct affect on me but it certainly contributed to the many things in my life growing up on what I was suppose to look like.

      • I know! I hate when people make such assumptions! I was anorexic and bulimic throughout high school and still struggled with both today… and I’m 33. Guess what… because of this I am now learning the importance of self control, going back to school for Nutrition and Dietetics, and learning how NOT to blame my own insecurities on inanimate objects. It’s amazing how much happier of a person I’ve become since I’ve taken responsibility for my own self destructive choices.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Nancy, particularly your points on Barbie. There is diverse research on this but I think one point to take from the question of “how does Barbie influence children?” is that it is in different ways and often depends on environmental factors and how parents and schools, etc, address issues of gender.

  48. This sounds like a classic case of putting much more meaning into a toy than it can hold. It’s nice to have toys that reflect different personalities and lifestyles, so our kids can explore and express themselves. There are ungendered dolls out there, too. The fact that Tree Change dolls happen to be girly doesn’t make them bad, any more than a dump truck is bad because it’s not a sportscar. Tree Change gives earthy feminine people a doll they can relate to. Children who relate better to glam, androgynous, or macho dolls will play with them. Calling Bratz dolls bad because they are glitzy and calling Tree Change dolls bad because they are girly, are just two examples of the same mistake. To help our children grow up healthy, we need to give them freedom to discover and express who they are, and dolls in a variety of gender and personality types can help them do that.

    • Great points Jae! I definitely take your point about putting too much meaning into toys, and I have certainly been subject to that fault here. It’s been a good medium through which to have a discussion about “natural” beauty as a possible normative standard though. 🙂

  49. Hi–just found this months after it was posted, but I wanted to thank you for writing about this–I feel frustrated with a lot of the commenters here who don’t understand what you mean about “natural” beauty as a construction, but it’s just evidence that we need to keep talking about this stuff!

  50. I tried to see where you are coming from, but I simply can’t. I understand the concept of your argument but I can’t fathom being a mother and preferring my child to play with Bratz dolls. They may have more “diverse” dolls, but the “natural” dolls look more like children. I want my children to play with toys, kids stuff, children; not made-up insanely dressed adults with stilettos. And that INCLUDES Barbies, but Bratz dolls are better examples of how trying to make an adult out of a child. Sickening.

    For future blogs, the comma or punctuation mark goes INSIDE the quotations marks.

  51. The Tree change dolls started off not made or marketed for a wide audience. She just made them for herself and her family. They look a like because the woman is a first time doll artist with limited skills in the art. I’m sure she would embrace diversity and uniqueness given more time and experience. Also, artists generally create in their own likeness or image. What is more normal or natural is just that. People are not born with makeup. Little 5-10 year old girls who play with dolls generally do not wear makeup. Dolls are all about relating and I feel a child can relate more to a simplified image. Waldorf dolls are made simple so that the child can project their own imagination and storyline on the doll.

    • I agree with all of the above; I’ll add that little girls are bombarded with the unrealistic beauty standards so much, and have been for so long, that what they need is to be shown an alternative – not told, for the fifty thousandth time, that they have the right to wear make-up. They know it; they really do. Let’s start telling them, instead, that they can be natural, and still beautiful. It really doesn’t mean putting down the girls who want to wear make-up, and it doesn’t mean discriminating against styles other than “natural”. It just means letting little girls grow up with a choice.

    • Hi Rhiannon,
      Interesting point about projection and Waldorf dolls! I wonder if they are not another kettle of fish though because they do not involve a “before” and “after” that presents a doll as “healed” from its previous mode of expression.

  52. I appreciate your critique, you really made me think hard on this topic. The ‘made up’ style can be authentic and the ‘natural’ style can be unauthentic. I do think it is out of context however; this isn’t a massive toy company producing dolls and competing with Bratz. This is one woman who took 12 thrift store dolls that were already manufactured and changed their styling. The argument about complexion makes no sense, one because she is clearly painting on freckles in the video, but also because she didn’t create the dolls from scratch. She used discarded Bratz dolls and the complexions they had created. The focus of your argument should be that experimenting with hair and makeup is never a reflection of someone’s worth(classy/trashy).

    • Hi Karley, great points and I think your suggestion for focusing the argument on experimenting as “never a reflection of someone’s worth” is a blog post I’d love to read. Totally get what you’re saying about the small scale nature of this though – but I wonder with all the worldwide attention whether it won’t become something bigger? I hope that if it does, it doesn’t emphasise the “before” and “after” in the same way, which really presents the idea that the TCDs are a better kind of beautiful. 🙂

  53. Seriously? Wow, talk about creating a mountain out of a molehill. What skin is it off your nose that there are people that would enjoy dolls for their children that actually looked like a child or pre-teen? If you buying up discarded dolls and enjoying adding make-up, tattoos, etc. of your own liking and you were being criticized I would have the exact some comment. Get a freaking life.

    • Yay…exactly. What is all the fuss? I redid thrift store dolls of the softer nature…Cabbage Patch..I cleaned them repaired them and sewed clothes for them…why? My daughter had them as a child and although she is grown and raising a daughter of her own, it was in her honor that I did it…lol After complete, I boxed them and redonated to the thrift store for them to resell. Just the thought that some little girl would find the refreshed doll and fall in love and want to take her home was payment in spades for my labor. Dolls should be images of children the same age or smaller…not oversexed and glamourized. The idea of dolls is to allow the child to play out scenarios they might encounter as they mature and become mothers themselves. Let the kids be kids…they grow up too fast as it is.

  54. We all get that “playing” with dolls and “playing dress-up” is about “play” and expanding the imagination but when the “made-up” version of the face is permanently painted on the doll rather than part of the “let’s play dress-up” phase of playing, than to the preteen it can easily become the norm or the the expected normal look.

    • Hi Lorie, great GREAT point about not being able to take the makeup off the Bratz! I think there’s a big problem with the before/after shots involved with the TCDs, but if they end up being a surface on which kids can experiment and play, then great.

  55. I get what this article says, but… I bet you a nickel that if enough kids have tree change dolls, some of them will end up experimenting by putting makeup on them and giving them outlandish hair styles. Thing is, though, you can take the makeup off (cause it’s theater, etc.) With Bratz dolls, you don’t have that option… someone else has styled them for the consumer (ie kids) instead of the kids making their own choices about how and when to “dress up” their own dolls. I’d rather have a plain doll that I or my kids can dress or undress any way we see fit than have that chosen for me. And it’s easier to add temporary makeup than remove permanent makeup. As a kid, I had Barbies and trolls, and they both got equal time getting makeovers.

    • Hi marydelta, this is another awesome point about how kids will probably experiment and play with the TCDs. Unlike some of the other comments, your suggestion supports the idea that kids should be able to try lots of things out and not be limited by what is presented as “right”. I think that’s great. Thanks for your thoughts 🙂

  56. You are way over thinking the whole idea of the dolls..Tree Change Dolls simply offer a more common look…that said, children appreciate diversity and in an ever-growing nation of TOLERANCE and ACCEPTANCE, it is foreseeable that majority of children will couple and associate the different dolls with an impartial attitude during play and interaction, thus developing an open-minded adult.

  57. While I understand what you’re saying, I would much rather have them all looking the same, while representing the proper age group, than looking the same dressed as trollops! She’s not trying to force this on everybody, but there are a lot of people out there who wish that their daughters had dolls that weren’t supposedly teenagers yet dressed skanky. People are free to buy whichever doll they want, but why should there be only one option for little girls? I applaud what she’s doing.

  58. I appreciate your point of view. I remember playing dress-up and it was so fun! But I also like the TC dolls. Everyone is different. Why not just embrace that fact. That’s what makes the world so interesting.

  59. The dolls just look like they’ve got a healthy diet and self-esteem, happy being who they are and not having to dramatize their looks. It’s alright to dramatize one’s looks, as long as you can tell apart the different personas you paint on your face from your Self. In a way, makeup could be compared with clothes – in society, clothes may make the ‘man’ as far as social influence goes, but we know best when we are alone with ourselves.

  60. This is the most ridiculous posting on this topic I’ve read yet. Whoever read this entirely missed the point of these dolls. It’s most certainly not to create a new “standard” for girls to achieve, it’s to create dolls that more closely resemble the young girls who play with them. They don’t have to do anything–the dolls look just like they do. THAT’s the point. Makeup is fun, and it’s nice to get all made up sometimes. But we live in a society that constantly pressures women and girls to “improve” their looks with make up, elaborate hair styles, and fancy clothes. Young girls, most especially, do NOT need to feel these pressures. It sets them up for insecurities that will last a lifetime. I am still recovering from my own insecurities from childhood and early adulthood. I’m finally wearing less make up and embracing my natural beauty–something every girl and woman possesses, make up be damned.

  61. I have to disagree. I don’t think you need cultural validation as to why you enjoy makeup, and enjoy seeing makeup or glamour as a relevant thing. It’s almost unnecessary to feel offended by creativity with clear positive intentions. The dolls look very diverse as well. I also don’t think this has anything much to do with gender either– perhaps more of self-acceptance. Considering the ideals of makeup, glamour, and etc, it’s clear anyway that “making yourself up” or creating an intentionally natural look is creating your own canvas and expression for yourself or towards others– so I’d hope that would be more freeing than enraging. I can absolutely understand the jump to be a little sensitive about the world of “making up” however. I hear it often enough around other people, “she looks better without makeup on,” and so on. To most, it isn’t always to cover up, it’s to express and have fun. Whoever she is, she uses makeup because it is as I mentioned, her canvas and it’s her own ideals that matter rather than being judged. I do have to say though, it’s such a shot in the dark to directly relate non-makeup wearing individuals to male-oppression. Not every woman has a hyper-religious counterpart or a male-related excuse to not “dress-up” if you will. It sounds very man-hatey and I think it precedes a lot of eye-rolling. I’d rather hear personal anecdotes as to why you personally feel this way instead of stating blanket ideals. -VC

  62. There is nothing wrong with little girls looking like little girls. Tree change dolls look much better than the way they started out and she was never intending to make a political statement so it’s crazy to suggest that’s what it’s all about. There’s no denying Bratz dolls look like whores – not what I want my daughter to aspire to. I was shocked yesterday to see an underweight 14 YO post a photo of herself in a bikini with a comment that she had more curves than a motorcycle track and did anyone want to take her for hot ride. It’s about time Mattell et al woke up and made dolls more like tree change dolls. And btw, Bratz did not morph into Monster High, the Bratzilla dolls are a pale imitation. MH is cool because it says accept your differences, don’t conform to the norm Tree Change Dolls are cool because they say accept the skin you’re in.

  63. I can’t figure out if this post “The Trouble with Natural Beauty” is satire or for real…?? So let me see if I understand it correctly: The author is arguing that the Tree Change dolls that are recycled to represent freshly washed young girls (8-12 years?) are actually pushing another, equally harmful, feminine agenda because they imply that being without make-up is the only way young girls SHOULD look. And furthermore that that is bad because it “fetishizes the domestic, the home-styled, and the real.”

    Really?? And this prompted a rage blackout?

    This is not about YOU as an adult woman. Go ahead and wear all the make-up and drag queen outfits you want or whatever floats your boat. Nobody cares.

    What I (and a lot of others) do care about is that there is nothing realistic looking about the Bratz (and similarly made-up) dolls; and more importantly, they are designed according to what the music and fashion (and porn) industries deem to be the standard for female beauty, and all aimed at stirring sexual desire–consciously or subconsciously. And–here’s the real issue–there is NOTHING about “sex” and “young/little girls” that should ever go together. Ever. (And yes, I would argue that pre-pubescent girls should not wear any make-up in daily life. Upon entering puberty, some lip gloss, mascara and/or minimal eye shadow for special occasions is acceptable, but never approaching the heavy make-up of the Bratz dolls.)

    As for fetishizing the domestic, home-styled, and the real; first of all “fetish” is a poor word choice given its primarily sexual connotation. But be that as it may, the world of young girls IS domestic! That is what play-acting with dolls is all about; using dolls as surrogates to practice relationships with family and friends, and then moving into community roles, and finally the world of work/professions, etc. An older child who wants to “play office” with her doll can certainly create a less homespun look in the doll’s clothing if she chooses.

    The point as I see it isn’t that the made-up look and the natural look are duking it out for the right to brainwash all girls into one particular style or look; the point is that the made-up dolls are being marketed to young children in a manner and at a time in their lives when self-identity is forming, and the highly sexualized appearance of those dolls is flat-out inappropriate for children. The “made under” dolls are simply offering an option that is more natural and appropriate for the age group the dolls are marketed to.

    As for the natural dolls all looking “remarkably similar”, uh yeah, duh! They are recycled from a manufacturer that mass produces them. The Treehouse mom just does what she can to individualize each mass produced doll, but are they are still all made from the same plastic mold! They loosely represent the characteristics of a human. It is not possible to mass produce dolls that are also individually differentiated to the degree that humans are. This is just common sense.

    The whole post seems to be much ado about nothing.

  64. We are talking about dolls for little girls, and (I’m assuming) under 12 years old. The point of the dolls (from my understanding) is that they actually look like the girls who are playing with them. If you have a child in that demographic (12 and under) who dresses and makes her face look like a bratz doll, you’re already failing as a parent. If these dolls were made for older girls, I’d probably agree with you. This isn’t about different standards for young WOMEN, this is about asking why there is a standard for the more garish look for young GIRLS. (And the artist didn’t even post this question, she just happened to like doing what she does and making this type of doll for her own child, who looked to be about 4 or 5.)

    This reminds me of the time I was 10 and out with my mother when a grown man pointed and laughed and said that a child my age shouldn’t be playing with dolls. This was during the 80s and there seemed to be an epidemic of girls as young as 12 getting pregnant (I actually had a pregnant cousin and two pregnant classmates when I was in the seventh grade). My mother walked over to that guy and gave him a cussing out I don’t think he’s forgotten yet, and basically told him I was a child and she was happy that I wasn’t in a rush to grow up.

  65. I think you are missing the point here. And clearly you haven’t really listened to what she had to say about her dolls. She never set out to make a statement or to be well known. She shared the dolls on her Facebook just with her friends, and they went viral from there. She wasn’t originally even putting them out there for sale. She was just sharing a recycling project with people she knew. I appreciate what your point is. However, your thoughts and what you feel are adult concepts that kids don’t fully appreciate. As far as the clothing, that is the style she likes. Again, let me point out she wasn’t making these for the masses, she was finding old dolls that were discarded and needed some TLC and made them for her daughters. Be responsible and don’t sensationalize a small statement that a creative woman made about the unexpected popularity of something she worked hard on. Appreciate it for what it is, and don’t put down a positive thing. She has even said in her own words she wasn’t trying to be negative about the toy industry.

  66. I think your argument is flawed just from your perspective. There is a video out there where the creator of the TCDs and her mom are interviewed. This started as a pure hobby for her and she went viral. To that point massive amounts of people found her creative ideas something that they naturally gravitated to and accepted as a positive thing. That thing being dolls which they felt were more appropriate for their children.
    Children are the entire point of little dolls like this, and I have a hard time believing that they are picking up on 50’s era ‘domestic’ clothing and feeling that is what is expected of their gender norms. The name Tree Change Dolls indicates that the dolls are meant for outdoor adventures that have nothing to even do with the authors opinion on the clothes which is that they are essentially retro, homestyle-housewife.
    If we continue the example where the author paints her face with makeup in a different way than the norm we might as well assume that every kid should play with a bare naked doll with absolutely no face hair and no contures or body shapes, because all of that would logically normalize one certain look. As the author claims makeup can be just as much about creativity as it is recreating the norm. Lets assume that the child receiving this naked doll is creative, sees the world through totally different lenses, and wants to create something. Cool, no harm done they expressed themselves through the doll as they saw fit, radically different and uniquely their own. The problem is, lets say another child receives the doll and simply wants to imagine being the doll or exploring imaginary worlds with the doll. This child is not using the toy in the same way the clothing and makeup could all be considered minor details, not a point at which they can express themselves. However, unfortunately, that child is now expected to create their radically different doll, or play with a naked formless one. The point is simply that we are all unique and while this author sees style points and gender cues as much in a hyper sexualized Bratz doll as in the TCDs not everyone else picks up on the same stuff that deeply, or even cares.
    In and of themselves dolls are supposed to represent something that children can identify with this whole article wasn’t about the Tree Change Dolls being bad its about all dolls and really most toys being bad. The founding story about the TCDs is about someone who started this as a fun hobby with no intentions of anyone else even seeing what she was doing. Society across the west found it to be something that they responded to not a giant corporations like Matel telling society what to be like. So how is it that the Tree Change Dolls which reflect a societal interest could be worse than Bratz which reflect corporate interests?

  67. This was a fascinating article. I never thought about how beauty standards in children’s toys might affect transgender children. I will continue to ponder this point of view. I agree with those who welcome dolls who diverge from the trend of sexualizing children, which is repellent, but looking “made-up” should still be a thing that kids can enjoy in their dolls and for themselves. Thanks for the new perspective.

  68. I personally like the undreamed dolls…but there is of course no real reason to remake these type of dolls…you can purchase a doll that really looks exactly like your 8 yr old child (if she is a girl) they are called Ginny dolls. My Mom played with them, I played with them…I liked them better than barbie. I think there is room for Bratz and Monster High (though I find both repulsive) and these tree dolls, because actually, there have been “under made” dolls for generations now. I also think that it is important for kids to have dolls that look like people…to begin with and then they can do whatever they choose with them… I agree with the other poster who mentioned that a 6-8 yr old is not going to have the life experience that you have currently to look at the broader topics. You are past 20 and I think that you are seeing this from a different perspective. But, you know, there is nothing wrong with a Ginny doll. She looks like she is 6-8 yrs old, and does a lot of the same fun things that Barbie does…but yeah, she doesn’t date Ken… or Barbie yet.

  69. Both Bratz and TCD, are for children. Children don’t care about whether something is oppressive or progressive or feminist etc, they care about having fun. Dolls are toys, and nothing more. TCD is a different sort of doll to play with and you can bet that kids will play with them alongside their Barbies and Bratz and Monster Highs, their dinosaurs, animals, and legos.

    A child doesn’t want to become the doll, they might dress up as it every now and then for fun, but honestly I really don’t think a child grows up wanting Barbie’s body and developing eating disorders because of that – more like another kid at school called her fat or ugly. It’s not dolls’ fault, or magazines or tv or the fashion industry. It’s other kids being mean and cruel, as they can be, because they know what they like and if they don’t like another kid, the express it.

    The best thing to ensure more kids don’t grows up with issues is to be the best mum you can be and teach them that they can be whatever they want.

    I’m actually not a mum, but I remember how I was brought up – I had Barbies, quite a few of them, and they all lived in a backpack together. I didn’t think they were sexy, I didn’t even know what sexy was until I was about 14, and then it was about boys (or rather – some celebrity who’s face/persona I liked, because I went to an all-girls school at the same time as living in the middle of the countryside so actually had no male friends until I went to college) being sexy rather than me trying to imitate any sort of look. At the time I wasn’t even really that aware of my body particularly, other than “ok so I’m getting boobs, now the other girls at school won’t make fun of me anymore! Yay!”.

    Basically my point is this: kids don’t see any sort of “message” in the way a doll looks, they just see a doll as something to play with, to build a house for, to imagine up a story to put the doll in along with other toys.

    When I have kids, they will be allowed to play with any toy they want. I will not be the one to stifle any kind of imagination.

    What I would really like to see is this: kits of blank-faced dolls with skin coloured plasticine, detachable hair in all sorts of colors and washable paints, so that kids can make their own dolls, and reinvent them whenever they like. Natural/glammed up/blue/rainbow, expect totally weird looking dolls. But how fun is that!

    People should stop getting in such a tizzy over what message a doll sends and concentrate on what is more fun for a child.

  70. I think the Tree Change Dolls are wonderful. I am a mother of two grown young men. I am 57 years old. I am very disturbed by our media that sexualizes women to an unprecedented level.
    Hamburgers are now being eaten by scantily clad blowup doll-like women who appear to be having some sort of sexual experience with the food. Women are bombarded 24/7 with images of ideal feminine beauty that are unattainable for the majority of women. It is a tragedy to make little girls be aware of the unattainable standard of beauty we grownups are bludgeoned with. These images are powerful. Reebok, a sponsor of Crossfit Games, a few years ago, ran an ad showing traditional “hot” female bodies and stated, Crossfit, we turn 7s into 10s. The Crossfit womens nation, of which I am a proud member rose up against this sexist beauty driven standard of female athletes and threatened to boycott Reebock and unleashed a fury of consumer anger never before seen. They instantly pulled the ad and have never gone there again. The TC Dolls are a first step in women speaking out against sexualizing women and worse little girls in order to sell them products to make them feel like they measure up. We as women need to let marketers know they are hurting women and men with this garbage. Thanks for listening.

  71. The whole point of the make under dolls is to make them like look like how dolls were made prier to 1990 etc. they look like dolls now and a lot of girls can identify with the dolls with out the need to feel rushed into doing nails make up and to early of an age after how else are you to rebel if your mom allows you to wear make up.

  72. It’s not about making a ‘new normal’ for dolls. It’s about making dolls that look more like their target audience than a 20 year old at a costume party. As a mom of four, I’d prefer my children playing with dolls that look like them rather than sexualized dolls. I always preferred my porcelain and Cabbage Patch dolls to my Barbies, because they actually looked like every day girls that I knew. The Barbies were always rich, movie starts, models, glamorous, etc in my and my sister’s play. The other dolls were our sisters, best friends, students when we played school. The Barbies only “interacted” with each other in their own little worlds. Our other dolls “interacted” with US. If I’d had Barbie dolls that looked more like me, they’d have been my constant companions. But that spot was reserved for Cabbage Patch and Holly Hobby dolls.

  73. I’d have to say I agree with the countless others who already said it first and probably better. This “article” is kind of ridiculous. I feel like you must not have done any research on this before writing about it, which is never a good idea, because you’re presenting her as a woman out to make a statement and affect change. She’s just a mother who had a little extra free time and decided to use it to give her daughter some dolls she could relate to, some dolls that looked like actual children rather than what most look like. Stop looking for reasons to be offended and opportunities to debate.

  74. Umm. Yeah. She does realize that you can still lead a full, productive and happy life without painting up your face like a clown, right? (Oh, I’m sorry, was that not P.C. enough? “Expressing your feelings in the form of temporary facial artistry.” Better?) This is what we call in my household a “First World Problem.” Ugh.

  75. I am 42 years old my mother never let me play with Barbies because she thought they made you grow up too fast. She thought little girls should play mother to baby dolls. She also did not allow video games. Storytelling games were also taboo, as well as cartoons past the age of 8. When different types of creativity and self expression are denied as a child, you do not go into adulthood with those experiences. My mother like many women here did not want dolls to teach me to be a whore. If you want to empower your child keep that word out of your vocabulary. Keep prude out of your vocabulary as well. Stop teaching your children shame for whoever they decide to be, or choices they make. I raised my own daughter in a home full of cartoons, video games, bratz, barbies, and ponies. She decided for herself when she out grew them and at 18 she is a well balanced young lady. I attribute her well being on one thing that I did not mention that I gave her; unconditional acceptance. If you are a good role model for your kid, none of this crap matters.

  76. These are childrens dolls, and I think you missed the important points that the children themselves made “This one looks like my friend” these are dolls they can identify with, they look like an average person.

    As for your “No skin flaws” children tend not to either. Neither my 8 year old nor my 2 year old girl has ANY blemishes on their face (obviously with the 8 year old it’s only a couple of years away before the ravages of puberty hit)

    I wouldn’t put fake eyelashes, eye liner, lip liner on my girls, most people wouldn’t.

    If you’re after “help me find my identity dolls” that would be your teenage market.

    Ther eis nothing wrong with women dressing up, but dolls for little girls? Should be kept pretty clean so they can identify with their dolls.

  77. I think the point that got completely overlooked by both your critique and the initial video about the Tree Change dolls is that all it took to change and create a whole new identity for them was a dab of acetone, (nail varnish remover) and a bit of acrylic paint. So the biggest point is you, the consumer, are not limited to whatever someone else came up with as a persona for your (or your child’s) doll. You are only limited by your own imagination. It’s really not that hard and it doesn’t have to be ‘professional’ looking. Anyone can do this and create and recreate and recreate whatever persona they want. We have been stunted and spoon-fed what we have and what our kids can play with by some bizarre collective marketing plan. We have been told we don’t have to do anything for ourselves so long, we don’t think we CAN do / make things for ourselves anymore.
    When I was a kid, the most fun playing with Barbie was stripping off her store-bought clothes and making her my own out of scraps, (I learned to hand-sew by doing this), even just winding dish-cloths around her like a toga. Before she had that plastic pink dream-house, my cousins and I made kleenex-box couches and chairs for her. She also had a Hobbit-house in the garden. Once I taped leaves around her legs and put her in the paddling pool like a mermaid, (she could hold her breath a very very long time! 🙂 ) My (male) cousin had to out-do this so he strapped some cardboard wings to her and sailed her off of the roof like a paper-airplane-faerie, (the wings weren’t big enough to hold her weight. The wings need to be very big, and yes, he got in trouble for climbing onto the roof – maybe find some other high place to launch her).

    She was a gateway to infinite possibilities – as, IMHO, a doll should be.

    So: I agree with your point: A kid’s toy should be what they want it to be, not locked into some standardized role, regardless of what that standardized role is. My point is: don’t let the marketers, whether they are a simple, well meaning mom in NZ or a multi-million dollar toy company dictate to you how to do this. DIY!! It’s not that hard. You can do it!

  78. i find it hilarious that all you moms think that if you shelter your daughters from make-up and sexuality and ‘skankiness’ that they’re somehow going to be so much better adjusted when puberty and peer pressure rush out to punch them in the face in their teens.

    maybe, as the author of this article is saying, you’re part of the problem when you teach them that there’s something inherently wrong with sexuality, that there’s just one correct way to be a ‘real’ and ‘natural’ woman instead of a no good slut. they’re isn’t not saying here that bratz dolls are the perfect toy for little girls, just that this make-under idea isn’t the holy grail like all the mommy blogs are making it out to be. they’re trying to unpack how problematic the concept of ‘natural beauty’ is, not to convince y’all to slather your toddlers with makeup and shove them out on a street corner to help make rent.

    look, i know you’re all panicked about how hard your daughters are gonna have it as they grow up. it blows. misogyny and rape culture are terrible things. but trying to shelter young girls in a pathetic fantasy of yesteryear natural wholesomeness isn’t going to help. not wearing makeup r tight clothes isn’t going to stop them from being harassed, assaulted, discriminated against, sexually exploited, or worse. i only wish it was that easy.

  79. You know what? When I was a little girl I played with toy horses. I had Barbies, and my Barbies spent most of their time tending the stables. So I would have loved a doll that looked and dressed like a girl working a stable rather than like she was about to go to the ball.

    I didn’t like girly stuff. I hated pink and avoided “The Pink Aisle” of the toy store like the plague. Why is it such a terrible thing to give girls a choice of what they can play with? Offer both. When they want to pretend they’re princesses they can play with the fancy dolls. When they want to go adventuring they can play with the dolls that aren’t all made up. This isn’t a problem, it’s a chance at variety. And isn’t that what we wanted in the first place? The right to choose what we play with?

  80. You lost me at “The Trouble with “Natural Beauty”. The point is: There is no trouble with natural beauty. Natural beauty being defined as someone who hasn’t taken a spackling knife and paint brush to their face; reference your own photo above. You are clearly more connected with feminism extremity than you are about the development of healthy young female perspectives. And what is all the talk about gender? This is simple. Young female dolls who have been painted to look like…I don’t know what, turned to young female dolls who have been re-painted to look like they are very comfortable in their own skin, sans the face cake. Someone mentioned fake feminism and I believe this is an accurate description. I’m sorry but if you are a woman who feels like less of a woman without a two hour session with Maybelline, you have sorely missed the mark of celebrating individualism and the rite of being a woman content with the imperfect perfection in her own natural skin.

  81. Wow. I think a lot of people missed the point. I know I’m way late to the party, but I gotta tell you, I totally agree with you. But I’m already a fluid gender-inside, archetypal looking-side man (outside, I’m the friendly professor type; inside I’m Tallulah Bankhead–or sometimes Erma Bombeck) who is frightened by anything too normative making. People don’t see the silos they’re dropped in until they are absolutely stuck in them, and then it is too late. As a gay man with a big foot in the poly community, I’m even disturbed by this rush to “marriage legitimacy.” I don’t want my life and relationships de-legitimized just cuz the rich queens who want better tax deductions jumped on the hetero-normative bandwagon! Yes, yes, I know it’s about acceptability and equal access….blah, blah, blah, but you know that part it *has* to be about just wanting to walk down the aisle like Mommy, especially after she called you trash and threw you out when you were 17.

    Anyway, thanks for this. Good writing. Following you now.

  82. So you’re too stupid and lazy to do more research to see that one woman makes these dolls by buying old worn out broken dolls from flea markets to restore them. And shared their pictures with friends and that went viral. There was none of this attempt at anything of this sort. Just you whining and ranting about something you have no clue about. She doesn’t have a manufacturing company to make clothes or anything else for them. She covers missing hands and feet with some substance she makes look like some shoes or something. But you just continue on with your hate based on ignorance and lazy research on the subject.

  83. Your article is a discussion of art and expression, not about what humans look like. Yes, of course the Lady Gagas of the world are strong women and men choosing exactly what image they would like to design for themselves, and it’s an empowering choice. Kids do not have this kind of agency. They are looking for examples to follow.

    I would also like to point out your error in understanding the Tree Change makeunder— the artist specifically *does* put freckles and other unique physical features on the faces. I do agree that the eyes etc are a bit cookie cutter in appearance, but it’s her hobby, not a politic statement. The politics come in when this simple hobby reaches thousands of social media hits– this can only happen when something strikes a chord of society’s desire for change.

  84. I agree with most of your points, but not your conclusion about the dolls. They are supposed to represent children. Children of that age rarely use makeup and the type of clothes Bratz dolls usually have. They are not to show 5 – 10 year olds how they should look like when they grow up, the dolls themselves ARE 5 – 10 years olds!
    Many of these dolls brings me back to my own childhood, because they wear clothes that resemble the clothes I wore. The clothes most of my friends wore. (And this was the 90’s, not the 50’s, so it’s not like we were very conservative.) She uses a style of clothing that she herself is familiar with. I haven’t seen the maker behind them say anything about “real girls” being this or that, nor “real boys”.

    I love putting on makeup and dressing nice, and I do it all for me. We used to play dress up a lot as children, and we put on makeup for fun – but we didn’t put on makeup for going out to climb trees or hiking. And it’s nice to have something to choose between. There are a heap of dolls to choose from if you want “glammed up” dolls, but not too many like these..

  85. Valid point. Social policing is so rampant when it comes to female identity, it doesn’t matter if one is made up or under — all it really takes is being alive to be a subject of scrutiny. Makeup can be a lot of fun, it’s under-regulated toxicity contents notwithstanding. The expectation that one should wear it to appear passably feminine is the bigger problem, and likewise the idea that painting your face makes you any less real or valuable is just another facet of that problem. That said, if anything, it just seems like maybe it would be worth expanding into transitioning dolls that have been cast aside into other mediums, rather than only making them look “more natural” as female queued chunks of plastic. For instance, make them into little boys or third gender categories. Make them senior citizens. Make them less white. Make their features more distinct. Make their bodies different shapes. In other words, these dolls indicate need, so why not find ways of addressing that need that also bring these sorts of issues into the fore? If I had had a fisher-woman barbie with a farting feature and a great shade of lipstick on her teeth when I was a little girl, I would have been completely overjoyed. Adults who make toys aren’t making toys for the kids, a lot of the time. They’re making the toys to please the adult demographics buying them, and competing amongst themselves for distinction that kids recognize. Kids usually value honesty. Honesty doesn’t necessarily mean a 2 dimensional view of what natural beauty is.

  86. I understand your point that it’s exchanging one norm for another. However, what I don’t see being addressed here is that these are dolls that *children* are playing with. You are writing from the PoV of an adult who still enjoys experiencing this aspect of life (dolls, dress up, and all the considerations that come with it) but ultimately this is about kids.

  87. Pingback: The Trouble with “Natural Beauty” | Virgínia Wolffenbüttel

  88. You expressed your opinion really clearly and well. And you thought about it a lot. Which is always good. In my opinion (and it’s just mine), you may have overthought the cultural aspect. The woman who changes dolls did it because she got laid off from her job, and always loved dolls. She re-made some of them to simpler times. She never intended to make a big cultural statement. Her work went viral, which is a popularity wave, and others created the undertow of overthinking. She now has another job, doing what she loves. We should all have such heart-satisfying jobs that involve recycling and joy.

  89. I’m a 62 year old woman. I get up in the morning, shower, run a brush through my hair, put on casual work appropriate clothes, and go to work. I don’t blow dry my hair, put on make-up, buy designer clothes, or expensive shoes. I am starting to have some grey hair, but have decided not to cover it up with hair coloring. Until my husband’s sudden death last year, I was happily married. I have lots of friends, and a good relationship with all of my co-workers. I don’t skip the ‘beauty routine’ because I am naturally gorgeous and can get by without it. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I have simply learned after all my years of living that the beauty that draws people in and keeps them in your life is the beauty within. I don’t love my looks, but I’m confident in who I am and I will not line the pockets of those companies that tell me I must buy their beauty-enhancing products to have love in my life or feel good about myself. If these TCD’s give even one little girl the confidence to be herself….or if they help a little boy see that a woman doesn’t have to be all ‘dolled up’ (pun intended) to be attractive….then I think they are a great alternative to those dolls that convey the opposite message. When you think of all the money people spend on trying to LOOK GOOD to each other and how little time they spend trying to BE GOOD to each other, I find these dolls to be a refreshing new direction.

  90. “the worst thing we could do is try and offer a “stripped-back” look that returns us to some kind of original “natural” point. Sometimes the natural might actually be the most fake of all.”

    Maybe you can explain how while you are talking all about diversity, having a singular representation out in the world of a woman without makeup for a child to play with squashes all diversity? Also, what would you call it when you wake up in the morning without makeup on your face? You are a blank slate, you are in your natural state. Do animals cover themselves in makeup? No, they are in their natural state and yes, it would be unnatural for them to do so.

    Definition of natural in English:
    1Existing in or derived from nature; not made or caused by humankind:

    And, just to be clear- wear make up all you want. I have no particular objections to makeup. I do have an objection to your statements that the worst thing we could do to little girls is give them a doll that isn’t covered in make up. When the idea that the unnatural things in this world should be revered and the natural ones should be hidden away takes precedence, we are in real trouble.

    Not to mention, if you have a doll with no makeup to start, doesn’t that open you up to the exact kind of opportunity you are talking about to re create? If I had a doll like that, I’d have the option of changing her clothes, putting makeup on her and taking it off, changing it and making her a realistic interpretation of a human person. Free to express her self, free to express myself through starting at a natural state. So what exactly are you upset about again?

  91. I totally get where you’re coming from. It’s a fine line between saying, “Girls, you don’t have to ascribe to an unnatural, unattainable standard of beauty” and simply makeup shaming and slut shaming.

    In this case, though, the original Bratz dolls have huge, cartoonish eyes and lips that are hyper-stylized. She repaints them to more normal, realistic proportions. She could easily do these re-paints and give them all the glitz makeup back, but you’d still see the same difference between the cartoony originals and the more realistic repaints.

    I also just watched a video of the artist behind these, and it’s not like she started out trying to make some big cultural statement. She just did it for fun, and it happened to go viral. So I don’t think the artist intended to makeup-shame girls, she was just repainting them in a way that she liked.

  92. Did you ever think about the fact that not the creator, but her mother knits and makes the clothes? Do you know how hard it is to make the tiny waist and necklines of barbie doll style clothes? and that it’s a million times easier to make a skirt than a pair of pants? Many of those things are a matter of convenience (I’m sure) to the elderly knitter who is making the clothes.

  93. Wow not a bad response from an idea that a woman had to be able to give her daughter some dolls which were more natural, as that was her choice. After watching the video that was done on her, she doesn’t stand against anyone, the clothes which you’ve stated are from the 50’s well guess who they are made by .. the child’s grandmother .. so of course they have that old fashion styling .. personally I believe that all doll manufacturers should take hold of the market which has emerged from what this lady has done .. If there are hundreds of thousands of people going hey this is cool, there is obviously a market for it .. to sit there and do a massive rant from your own perspective just shows that your narrow minded and naive .. almost like this woman has turned a personal vendetta against you .. I take my hat off to her .. did you know that she has only made 12 of these dolls .. and I don’t think that she is going to be turning that into hundreds .. I was appalled at the comments which were underneath the video I watched of lazy people trying to offload their children’s old dolls onto her to make under .. I would have been far happier to see a bunch of people going hey .. wait up .. if she can do that .. what other styles can be done .. where can this go .. you could have the executive range .. or the clubbing range .. or anything else .. where the make up and styling of the hair matches the event that is wanting to be displayed .. why don’t you do something similar and do a bunch of dolls which match the style of how you want to display a doll .. as that ultimately is all this mother did .. then reluctantly through the encouragement of her partner posted them online. Get an understanding of the full story before you get on your high horse next time .. and if you’ve got the talent do it .. you never know you might make a new range of transgender dolls .. or something like that .. get creative .. it will always take you further than non constructive criticism

  94. Anyone who is still playing dress up and make overs at 18 years old should not have an opinion .
    I’m Glad to see dolls out there that don’t look like whores. Children see this and think this is proper . Runway models ect… do this because the lights wash you out and you look like you don’t have a face and that’s is understandable . But not everyday makeup wear.

    • If the link your friend sent you truly caused you to have a “rage blackout” I would consider anger management. It’s obvious from the start that melodrama and narrow-mindedness are on the menu! If you are this offended over a soft spoken woman that enjoys taking old dolls and giving them a softer more realistic appearance, who then has her elderly mother knit their clothes, I honestly don’t know how you make it out the front door and into the real world on a daily basis. I would recommend you try (even if you just take baby steps) to open your mind to other ways of thinking. If you enjoy writing, which you seen to have a knack for, focus on some real issues. This world is a great big crazy place and this is extremely petty. I would have to agree with the person who posted earlier that there is plenty of room for all of these dolls. Let it go!

    • Wow! So refreshing to see someone with common sense. Someone wipes off the equivalent of 5 pounds of makeup off a doll and makes something cute an innocent for young girls to adore and connect with…and that is a problem? Women shouldn’t have to have arts and crafts time in order to be seen as beautiful. These dolls are a testament to that.

    • I completely agree! I kept reading waiting to find at least one good point, but there was not a single good point made in the entire thing. Those dolls are made up to look like whores or drag queens and dressed like prostitutes! The Tree Change Dolls are beautiful in a way that isn’t going to make a little girl feel bad about herself. They help to teach them that you don’t have to dress like a whore and wear a pound of make-up to be beautiful. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that!!

    • Excuse me? Who are you to say who can and cannot have an opinion? There is nothing wrong with makeup, as long as one doesn’t feel they are required to wear it. Shaming somebody for choosing to wear makeup is just as bad as shaming somebody for choosing a more natural look. Personally, I genuinely enjoy the process of putting on makeup. I find it both fun and even relaxing. It doesn’t make me a bad person and it certainly doesn’t make me a whore.

    • As ever most people aren’t listening to the children.Adults imposing their perspectives of toys and play as consumers with still unmet emotional/psychological needs. Children need tools by which to practise developing cognitive life skills.Toys should provide a way for them to act out endless the possibilities of their imaginations unimpeded by our projections-particularly when they are carrying subliminal images of propaganda.

    • “Anyone who is still playing dress up and make overs at 18 years old should not have an opinion.” I find that comment very judgmental and uncalled for. I’m 17 years old, and sometimes I play dress up games with friends. I don’t think that’s weird or strange. It’s simply an interesting way to have fun every once in a while.
      Also, I grew up with dolls that did look like whores. It didn’t affect my childhood in the slightest. In fact, I dress very conservatively (jeans and t shirts/sweatshirts) and I wear almost no make up. I never thought dressing like my dolls was considered normal.

    • The fact that you equate hyper-feminised looks to being a “whore” is exactly the problem with the core idea of dressing down a doll to look more natural. You’re saying that you think the way people look determines their value as a human being, that dressing one way will make you more superior than another. You think earthy tones and knitwear will stop you being a superficial bigot? Check again.

      • Very much agree with your point. Which is also the point in part of the blog post. By following the “good girl” versus “bad girl” dichotomy, girls are left with little knowledge on how to embrace all parts of their personality. It’s literally just one standard exchange for another. And using the “whore” dynamic shows a very narrow-world view since beauty enhancements are not new to society, including those we consider women of great power.

    • Exactly. I think the important thing is that people have options. Everything is hyper-sexualised now, and I just wish they would let kids be kids. If the author wants to play with make-up – there is nothing wrong at all with this. I think having a doll with a blank natural face allows for more creative expression than one which is already made up. For me it’s the same as LEGO now (where you by a set to build a star wars object), versus LEGO in the past, where it gave kids more freedom to be themselves and be creative.

    • That’s a little harsh. What should she be doing instead of “playing dress up?” Sitting on a fat ass, watching TV all night, maybe? My point is, you have no right to knock her hobbies. What do you do, knit? She has a valid point, under-made dolls that look like girls from little house on the prairie seems to me to push a puritanical view of femininity. Also, I can say first hand, as a child, I had tons of Barbie- old style, big boobed, little footed Barbie- and I never internalized that it was how I was “supposed” to look. They are doll, for crying out loud. If you parent your child at all, you can have a discussion if the need ever arises. While I admit some of the clothing for today’s dolls is…scanty, I think the best course of action might be an ARRAY of different dolls in all ranges of “glitz” and “natural” beauty so the girls can choose!

    • Holly Blocker says, “Anyone who is still playing dress up and make overs at 18 years old should not have an opinion.” Really? This piece is carefully thought out and well presented… And it makes excellent points. Holly’s anti-Brats/Barbie post doesn’t even address those points.

    • I also like TCD dolls, but I really don’t understand your comment about anyone who plays dress up or makeovers at 18 isn’t entitled to an opinion? Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Could you clarify your comment, please?

    • I’m sorry that you feel so threatened by people who like to express themselves through makeup and clothing. I hope you find a way to make peace with yourself soon. I know it can be a difficult journey.

  95. Thanks for this. I’m not sure I totally agree but I appreciate your perspective. You’ve challenged my assumptions about these make-unders being a totally positive thing and I agree that diversity is important. I just discovered your blog and look forward to reading more!

  96. I’m reading the comments and I find it interesting that people seem to be missing one of the major points of your argument. If all the Bratz dolls look alike under the makeup and sexualization, the TCD are simply exchanging one “right” way for another in culture norm. Instead, the Monster High dolls are a better representative since they show diversity in both binary and cultural normals.

    I presented on research I found at a conference (a paper that I need to write) about the Bratz dolls demographics and the hypersexualization of little and young girls. I understand the need for “make unders” but those should also represent different genders, ethnicities, races, and queerness. There’s more than Donna Reed versus Madonna in the world. Or in today’s comparisons: Miley versus Dakota Fanning.

    If the dolls only show one “normal” look, then those who don’t fit in are still underrepresented by unconscious and conscious corporate bias.

      • Calling a doll a whore says a lot about your own gender narrative than mine.

      • I never said she was. But the point is that “human looking” is a pretty catch all term since humans come in a variety of ethnicities, races, and genders. Not everyone is Western European. So it’s disingenuous to say “human looking style” when a large majority are not in fact “human looking” in different cultures.

    • It’s difficult for tree change dolls to cover the diversity when she is using existing dolls which have a single gender and ethnicity. It’s not like she’s going out and creating a new range

      • But that’s the whole point. The Tree Dolls are still showing a single narrative, just one without make up. There’s no diversity and that’s why the Monster High dolls are so different. They’re literally different colors, which can be used to showcase some diversity. Versus the made unders, which still all look very Western European-centric.

    • I agree with your wish for more diversification. The problem is that the over-whelming majority of dolls that are available to make-over or make-under are female. So what you are asking goes beyond the scope of what is the available population of dolls.

      • But that’s the whole point of the argument. That there’s not enough diversity in the scope, so the make under dolls are still the same representation–only instead are “good girl” type dolls that play into the madonna/whore complex of sexism and misogyny. It’s not an either/or dynamic in gender expression.

  97. I have to agree with you here. Honestly, there is room in the world for Tree Change Dolls and Bratz. They serve different purposes and little girls (AND little boys, ahem) may value them uniquely. To be honest, I suspect the Tree Change dolls will be more popular with moms than kids- kids LIKE the weird and unusual, they like to test boundaries and explore the world around them. In a Tree Change household, a Bratz doll (though tasteless and tacky) is a window into a whole other world, a fantasy object… in other words, a toy, and possibly a more interesting toy than a Tree Change doll.
    Most of the kids I’ve known and worked with would very likely have a space in their make believe time for both dolls, and both those dolls would be dressed in all kinds of different clothes (including each others) and play all kinds of different roles, in a little town built out of mud and legos. Kids make room for all kinds- why shouldn’t we?

    • I agree little girls need to play with dolls that look like them. I as a mother of a 8 year old girl feel like someone finally gets it. that little girls need time to just be kids, The way the world is today they have to grow up so fast with so many things that we as kids never had to deal with. they have plenty of time to be pushed into all the fashion, makeup and everything else society pushes at them later.

    • The author’s argument is based on the idea that girls should be attempting to look like a doll AT ALL.

      I find something really weird about a girl trying to be like a doll, no matter what it looks like.

      I never looked at my dolls as something to aspire to – they just were my little friend that hung out with me and we played together, or they existed so that I could pretend to take care of them and be like my mom, who was a real-life woman whom I aspired to be.

  98. This is one person who has made a dozen dolls look like really little girls, because she was made redundant & needed something to fill her time. She’s also a mother of a young child, who wants her little girl to have options other than overtly sexualised dolls. She’s not planning to out-market Bratz dolls, although the manufacturing companies should look at how many thousands of women support dolls like this.
    When I was a little girl in the 70’s I longed for a Superstar Barbie & when I got her at 10, I loved playing out her going to work & pool parties & mostly I liked making new clothes for her. Real clothes, like jeans & pinafores, because you can’t always wear a bright pink ball gown & tulle boa. The doll I really played with all the time we my Matilda, a doll that looked like a little girl & my baby doll that I could pretend to be a Mummy with.
    Well done to this highly creative women, who has taken dolls from the trash & given them a new lease on life.

    • Jayne Coney…I think you hit the nail on the head…It is one person who did this in her spare time because that was what SHE wanted to do…her reason for wanting to do it is no ones business…she is entitled to share what ever she wants on her Facebook page and if a couple hundred thousand people wanna like it, more power to her…She did not do this expecting to make money but if she did make money from it AGAIN more Power to her…I tried to find the author of “The trouble with “Natural Beauty” article and was unable to find a name I wanted to tell him/her that in my opinion There is NO TROUBLE with Natural Beauty for ANY ONE regardless of Gender, Race Etc.. Unless, someone with to much time on their hands chooses to try to get the Pot Stirring with such a minuscule issue as dolls…They are toys like everything else if it offends you don’t buy it or look at it…I really don’t care to debate this issue I am just agreeing with Jayne and stating my opinion…I am off to take the make up off my Mr. Potato Head!

  99. So I am going to probably sound like an ass and I am ok with that. Oh, and pardon the language, it is not directed at any one person and may be affected by a pounding migraine so pardon me please.

    On to the gender neutrality thing… I think TCD’s make it a lot easier for gender neutrality. If the artist did male dolls as well you would be totally set. Now I say make both so a child can CHOOSE. Male dolls may not wear makeup but they do get over done as well and it can be, well, creepy. Seeing male and female dolls in handmade awesome clothes that don’t show off boobs or fake abs is a start. Some of the made up female dolls can get made-under to look more gender neutral, same as some of the male ones. After that… its all about the clothes! Use your imaginations people!

    I have seen this pointed out so many times in comments and to those that pointed it out, thank you. The dolls are for kids. Bratz,Monster High and Barbie are 3 of the biggest names for dolls for kids. (I say for kids because little boys should be able to play with them if they want.) They are all way over done makeup and clothing wise. Holy crap on a cracker Batman! Most little girls, nay, kids in this generation have ever even SEEN a natural looking doll that isn’t a soft bodied, floppy thing or a Cabbage Patch doll. Those ones imitate smaller children like toddlers.

    But to kind of get back to my point. What is so wrong about “natural”? Why do grown women sit around and bitch about themselves wearing makeup and shiny over blinged crap? I don’t have a problem with it mind you but this topic is about CHILDREN and what is, or should be, considered as a wholesome option. Tree Change Dolls are fucking awesome. I wish I had more choices in natural dolls that weren’t just American Girls (those fuckers are extremely expensive) as a kid. Here I sit at 26 years old and and mother to a son that turns 5 in April. If he wanted a doll, he would get one. But it would not be a doll that looks like she is hanging on the Las Vegas strip.

    Any questions for me? I will be happy to answer. I have this set to get emails about new comments. So call me out, debate me or whatever. I would love to hear from you. I really hate when something about kids becomes a big shit storm. We are all grownups here so lets talk about the kids and not ourselves.

    • I agree with you.

      We bitch because dolls are oversexualized.

      Now we’re bitching because someone made dolls’ faces look more like real people?

      For some reason, I think some people always have to be bitching about something and I read this blog and feel this person just has to have something to bitch about. If you watch the story of the creator of TCD’s, she’s just a normal person with a hobby and the girls that played with her repurposed dolls like them because they are more realistic. I purposely stopped wearing makeup 2 years ago, though I don’t have a problem with people using makeup for art. Are you going to come at me like I’m part of the gender equality problem too?

    • Awesome. I think the woman who re-made these dolls is on to a great idea. Let’s hope the toy companies can look past SEXING our children up. They have enough issues already.

    • I agree…..the dolls are for children; at what age does a child get their first “Barbie”? 2-4? They even came out with Barbie’s younger sister – Skipper to appeal to the younger set but she is smaller and so are her clothes. I like the make up free dolls as our children should NOT be going out and about with Make-up…Make up free dolls are more natural…. as for the 50’s style clothes – really have you ever tried making clothes for a Barbie doll?!!! This style is probably easier to make for a child to put on and take off a Barbie by them self! As a parent I may have unfortunately been too busy to be continually dressing and undressing a Barbie for my daughter and some of them even I had trouble with. I would definitely prefer a TCD over a Bratz or Barbie for my granddaughter. And would probably make clothes similar to the styles the TCD’s are wearing – something she could change herself! As for Gender Neutrality – I’m sure her two brothers would play with her – be it with made-under Barbies or Ken’s and change their clothes if they were styled so they could do it themselves.

    • “What is so wrong about “natural”? Why do grown women sit around and bitch about themselves wearing makeup and shiny over blinged crap?”

      This is what the author (I think) is trying to answer. Your assumption is that “makeup” and “shiny over blinged” stuff is crappy by nature. What the author is trying to say is that there is nothing evil about makeup and extraneous material belongings, and her concern is that TCD’s is sending this message – that there is something inherently non-feminine about adding these things to your life.

      Personally, I think she is a little too critical of TCD’s. Her claim that TCD’s encourage traditionally gender-normative domestic roles for women seems a bit far-fetched. I see TCD’s as sending a message along these lines: makeup and snazzy clothes are not necessarily required for you to fulfill your own vision of what it is to be a woman. TCD’s are simply offering an alternate view. This is because there is nothing natural about masculinity and femininity – they are socially constructed and enforced gender roles. With this in mind, I do appreciate the author’s perspective that dolls should be dismantling gender roles rather than enforcing them, even if it under the innocent guise of “natural” femininity.

    • Thank you for your reply! I totally agree. Our children are growing up to be very accepting of different sexual orientations and transgender. I applaud that, but please don’t force them all to want a doll that looks like a drag queen. Most young girls want a doll that looks more like themselves or their older sisters.

    • I agree with you. My daughter likes the tree change dolls and MH and dolls generally, but has always disliked Bratz. I think I read somewhere that the average age for Barbie owners is 40!

    • Completely agree with you. Too many children of this up coming generation know all the designers of the clothes, but don’t know how to do essential things around the house. they are too busy looking at their phones and crying because a band member quit their favorite group. Kids today, need dolls that don’t have to aspiire to be a hollywood star, just themselves and they are creating themself as they go.

    • YES. i wish i could “like” your comment because it is ON POINT. i am a 24 year old gay male and as a kid i loved playing with barbies and dolls (and the expensive as fuck american girl dolls my sister had lmao). that being said, when the bratz dolls came out, i thought instantly they looked craycray! i thought the barbies were more realistic than these dolls with bigass heads, gigantic eyes with horrid makeup, and ENORMOUS lips…with barely any nose. so i didn’t fuck around with bratz. hahaha also i hated that you had to snap off their feet to change their shoes, but that is a sidenote.
      basically i don’t know what delusional world the author of this article lives in, where an appropriately dressed and non-made-up doll is a THREAT to gender expression and binary…as youstated

    • I totally agree. The author is out of her mind to think that little girls should imitate Barbie and dress up like drag queens. If you ask me her made up picture is a bit scary nonetheless. I have a son, but if I ever have a daughter she won’t be getting a Barbie or a horrendous Bratz doll. Nope, I will be first in line for the Tree Change Dolls if they ever make it.

  100. Pingback: Too wonderful not to share: Dolls Repainted into “Real Life” & the Counter Argument against “Normal” Beauty | A Twirly Life

  101. Think of the “make-unders” as un-photoshopping. The dolls being re-made were manufactured and aimed squarely at pre-teens; right at a cruxial point in their development of self-image and self-worth. Bratz dolls peddle the same unrealistic ideals as the heavily photoshopped images in magazines and advertising and have thee potential to have a huge impact on a child’s self-worth.
    Rather than rail against the stripping back of the layers, why not give some serious thought to how gender-coercive Bratz dolls and their ilk are and the extent to which they reinforce gender stereotypes.
    I’m sorry that you – a grown woman – feels personally threatened and disempowered by the removal of paint from a nursery toy. Perhaps you could look into what developmental factors made you feel that way?

    • Well put Juliette! We all get that “playing” with dolls and “playing dress-up” is about “play” and expanding the imagination but when the “made-up” version of the face is permanently painted on the doll rather than part of the “let’s play dress-up” phase of playing, than to the preteen it can easily become the norm or the the expected normal look.

  102. Pingback: Sunday Round-Up – The Best of What I’ve Read this Week | Alpha Female, Mainstream Cat

  103. Not gonna lie, it is incredibly irritating that the only dolls you can buy really feed into this gender binary and the gender roles imposed by society. I would LOVE to see gender nonconforming dolls available for children. I am glad, however, that these ‘made-under’ dolls exist, because they do provide another option for children who possibly do feel more comfortable with the natural look. I would have, as a kid. I hated barbies and actually preferred a cloth Bart Simpson doll, (obviously not an appearance roll model, but whatever). But I really do agree with the author that makeup should not be some sort of evil thing, it really can be fun and a great means of self expression. There really should be more options for dolls though. Girl’s dolls with masculine aspects or boy’s dolls with feminine aspects, rather than the pervasive and rigid gender rolls that we push on children.

    • “gender nonconforming dolls available for children. ” Yeah.. all the same, no gender anymore, no girls, no boys, that disgusting role imposed by society that makes a minority of us who have an issue to feel comfortable in their gender feel like a piece of S… ! All the same ! Let’s abolish diversity so we are all the same, equal, and no frustrated mind will ever suffer again… nasty mother nature !

      If only your communist mindset would maje the world a better place, and everyone happy… but instead your utopia is creating even more confusion in a world already confused.

    • AS far as the whole “gender-binary” issue, children can dress and stage the dolls any way they want. Dress Ken in girl’s clothes and butch Barbie up as much as you like – they both look the same naked (well, except for the boobs). Put a bra on Ken, stuff it, and play away little trans-doll!

  104. the target audience for the Bratz line is age 4 to 8… even if the characters themselves are supposed to be teenagers how is a 4-8 year old child supposed to relate to the highly sexualized characters? This woman has redesigned the faces, feet and clothing of the dolls to be more suitable to 4-8 year old children. I think she’s done a wonderful job, if I had a child interested in playing with dolls I would most certainly buy the remade dolls… I would NEVER buy the Bratz dolls nor would I allow anyone else to buy them for my children.

  105. Phuleeze. These are how all dolls look about two weeks after kids get them out of the boxes. This is a repainter hobbyist (it’s a huge trend nowadays) who simply isn’t very good at it. Very good at marketing though. Google “OOAK Monster High” (or other popular doll) and you’ll see tons of truly excellent repaints from one end of the costume spectrum to the next.

  106. What a silly, ill-thought-out article by an oddball fake feminist. The Tree Change Dolls are delightful. I can only assume the author of this piece has a large chip on her shoulder and is generally a fool. I mean, okay, so they’re not to your taste as an ADULT but having a “rage blackout” over them – you’re a numpty of the highest order. Get yourself a boyfriend and stop moaning.

    • You lost me on “get yourself a boyfriend and stop moaning”. I don’t really agree with the article, and I do agree that the author’s “rage blackout” was a bit of an extreme reaction to not liking a thing. However, it is quite possible to voice your position without resorting to name calling, generally, and I’m not even sure where to begin unpacking the “get a boyfriend…” line. Though, I am amused that such a quip would be used within a paragraph calling out someone else as being a fake feminist.

  107. Change “hyperfeminine” to “sexualized.” As a mom, I do not want my daughter playing with dolls that are sexualized. Little girls want to imitate..and I never want my little girl to want to imitate a highly sexualized style.

  108. I think everyone is reading far too much into this. I doubt the owner of Tree Change Dolls is looking to start a whole new trend or anything like it. That being said, I have two little girls, and I don’t allow them to watch Bratz or buy the dolls. I think they glorify a way of life I don’t want my daughters involved in. When they first came out, they were far too “thuggish:; I don’t know what they’re like now, but they’re supposed to be teenagers. I can’t speak for any other women here, but I know as a teen, if I had tried to walk out of my house dressed like those dolls and wearing that much makeup, my mother would have knocked me to Kingdom Come, and I don’t allow my girls to dress that way either, or wear makeup. I think as a teen, you can wear some eyeliner and some lip gloss and be happy with that. If you want to paint yourself up like a clown, then you can do it when you move out of my house and pay your own way in the world. I love the natural look of the Tree Change dolls. I would be happy to see more dealmakers adopt that look. I would like girls to know that they don’t have to plaster makeup on to be pretty, that they are beautiful without it. What a refreshing change!!!

    • I totally agree- while YES we are trying to exchange one beauty standard for another, that’s perfectly alright. It would take a lot of work for natural beauty to win out over the excessive amounts of faked photoshop beauty out there. One line of dolls won’t do a whole lot overall, but rotating the over-sexualization of little girls and teaching them that they should be all made up like a circus clown is not okay. Makeup is not evil of course and is tons of fun to play with, but the point is that we have a responsibility as mothers to teach our children (both boys and girls) that any woman is just as beautiful the way she rolls out of bed as she is after hours in a salon chair. The point to these dolls is to balance your kid’s doll collection with some that look like real people so that they don’t think the norm is caked on makeup and ridiculous clothes. I want to reinforce to my kids that beauty does NOT equal effort necessarily, but that beauty DOES equal health. Then, you can put makeup and fun fashion on top of that foundation, just for fun, but it’s not always necessary.

      • I agree, in part. My primary problem with the dolls with the ridiculous clothes and caked on makeup is that I see too many girls emulating that, from the ages of eight on up through the teens, and there is nothing more horrific to me than seeing a little girl dressed like an adult going to a nightclub on her way to school. Little girls don’t need to dress like they’re adults. In all honesty, there are some adults that still dress that way long past the age when they can get away with it as the foibles of youth, and that’s the other end of the spectrum. You don’t dress like a twenty something going to a nightclub when you’re in your 40s!

  109. I’m not reading all the comments so I’m sure someone has said this better, but that’s never stopped me:

    As a parent to a child who was “dolly aged” when Bratz were popular, this is fan freaking tastic. I don’t care about the “artistic integrity” of the project, except insofar as these photos make me feel like I just saw someone rescue a group of 12 year olds from sexual predators and photographed them living happier, normal childhoods. I know they’re dolls, but if the point of art is to move and tell a story…she’s succeeded with me. I hope every mom who lets her kid play with these dolls sees this story and can finally understand how awful it is that they were successfully marketed in the first place.

    I can see the changes the post mentions, and that may bug me more if I were an artist. As a mother and a woman though, I love it.

  110. As a queer-friendly feminist who loves her makeup, heels, etc – who also works closely with very young girls, I can appreciate the impulse to be protective of the glam lifestyle, but I also think you need to save your rage blackout for the stuff that’s actually oppressing people.
    The doll maker never uses any shaming language on her site. She never accuses the Bratz dolls of looking like sluts or freaks… She’s simply making dolls that look like the little girls they are made for, so that those little girls can see that they are enough. Those girls are BOMBARDED with messages that their natural bodies, not to mention their personalities, are insufficient and that they need to strive for a standard that is literally not natural and requires a surgeon’s knife to attain.
    And don’t get me wrong, if a grown woman wants makeup or surgery or spanks or whatever! More power to her. Go for it. But while children are still children, let’s encourage play that isn’t about sex appeal. They will get their share of that in the years to come.

    • That’s exactly what I was thinking, they will get bombarded by the sexual innuendo fast enough by the time they hit Middle School / Junior High School. Grade School / Elementary School / Primary School / Pre-School age children shouldn’t have to deal with it. As for the comments about parents being too “rigid” or whatever… Uh… it’s a parents JOB to watch out for their very young ones, isn’t it? Peace Out.

    • I totally agree with your point of view. I think this article is just a great example of poutrage. It has no real-world perspective on the age group Bratz are marketed to or the pressures little girls are under from such a young age, because of things like Bratz dolls and other hypersexualized images of women. It’s also short on the facts – the women who made the dolls made a dozen for her kids and friends. Nothing to do with marketing. This is very clear on the video, which the author clearly didn’t bother to watch before becoming so enraged. And on that topic – rage over a freakin’ doll when there is poverty, hunger and wars all over the world? Give me a break. Talk about lost perspective.

  111. The original dolls are still available, though. I like the fact that kids can have access to BOTH the made-up “glam” dolls AND the Tree Change sort.

    Also: Doll customizers have been repainting faces for YEARS. Some make the dolls look even more fantastically made-up than the original; some give them a more “natural” look, complete with things like freckles. So why is it a problem now? And what’s wrong with taking naked dolls and clothing them, so that kids can have a doll who’s wearing something? This is just another form of customization and renewal of a used doll. Again: doll customizers have been doing this for YEARS. So why is it a problem now that it’s being used for charity instead of for art’s sake?

    Some people prefer one look for their dolls; some people prefer another. As I’ve said about TCD on my Facebook, glam is fun, but nobody dresses like that all the time–so why not have dolls with this look too?

  112. I think you’re overthinking it. The point is that ALL of these dolls look like this ALL the time. Combined with their clothes, they really do look like hookers. Maybe they could include a makeup kit with the tree-hugger (I mean, Tree Change) dolls so girls can still apply their own makeup? Either way, I prefer the Tree Change dolls.

  113. I read this response to TreeChange Dolls thinking that this person really has no argument. The upcycled dolls now look like real people, no longer hyper-sexualised. How liberating to finally take the sex out of young girls’ toys. I’m not sure any reasonable person would argue with this.

  114. I echo Janeti’s sentiments. If we are true to ourselves, it’s the idea of stripping away what Bratz’s idea of girlhood is about and return to what is as close as possible to how childhood looks like, that Tree Change Dolls is getting at.

    It’s not “Natural Beauty” vs “Artificial Beauty”, but what *normal* little girls look like.

    To have a “rage blackout”, I think is an overreaction. For girls to look like girls as a foundation is where we ought to begin, and if our little girls project different fantasies on their dolls – to be astronauts, teachers, IT engineers, business owners – that’s up to them. But to present a doll like Bratz and have our kids build a storyline around them narrows down the story pretty quickly and significantly.

    True, at the moment, TCD could be modernised with little iPads, books, bikes, and a more modern t-shirts and jeans get-up, or perhaps more reflective of the different cultures they may be from, but I tend to see those as an issue of the crafting/dressmaking, than the intent of TCD. For me, that facial change is hugely transformative, and a powerful message in itself of what’s worth celebrating about girlhood, regardless of race, language, or culture.

  115. A “rage blackout”? Really?? Because someone repainted dolls? You have some serious issues and are looking for a fight where there is none to be had. As a self-professed feminist, shouldn’t you be glad girls would be given the chance to CHOOSE the sort of style they want and the girl they want to be? Shouldn’t diversity be celebrated? Shouldn’t femininity in all it’s forms and shades be celebrated? “Insidious gender norms”? I hate to break it to you but ‘norms’ exist because a majority have the same taste. This doesn’t mean everyone who likes the ‘norm’ is brainwashed or a robot… they like what they like. Same as you. And that should be allowed and tolerated just as much as someone who colors outside the lines. Don’t try to force people to conform to your preferences while crying about the injustice that your preference isn’t the most popular (i.e. the ‘norm’). You’re sitting there, thinking you’re so superior, passing judgement on others and trying to seem like an intellectual. Instead you look ignorant and foolish.

    • Thank you for expressing my thoughts so concisely. I am not sure if the person who wrote the article has serious issues or not, so I would not likely say something along those lines.

      All these dolls are marketed to LITTLE girls, I didn’t dress my 6yr old up like a bratz doll and so, why not dolls that look more like her. Teenagers don’t typically play with dolls, but she still can’t go out looking like a bratz doll.

  116. “New trend” yeah right. One crafty person in Tasmania who buys second hand dolls from tip shops and op shops. This article reads like someone trying to get cheap points by creating controversy where none exists.

  117. “…the now popular ‘Monster High Dolls’, which, though shiny and long-haired and ‘pretty’*, adopt quirky, strange, monstrous stylings, transforming previous limits around normal looks.”

    Where’s the fat one and the one in a wheelchair, then?

    Looks to me more like cashing in on the fashionable goth/emo market – the ones they didn’t get first time round with the pretty-in-pink approach.

    Too cynical..?

    • Eh, it’s not really that “goth.” Each monster has a different clothing style and theme (instead of ALL being preppy, now there’s a preppy look, a goth look, a “nerd” look, a sporty look, etc.) so that ALL girls can find a character with a similar style and personality to themselves. I agree that the look of the dolls is basically “Barbie in different styles and with monster-y shapes,” but that’s hardly a surprise in a teen fashion doll. They’re not going to change all that drastically from what’s been making them money for decades.

      Also, Bratz and Monster High are made by 2 different companies. 😉 Monster High is Mattel (like Barbie and American Girl); Bratz is MGA. Not something most people look up, though, so I can understand the common confusion there.

  118. I don’t know. I get what you’re saying and it certainly makes a great sociological essay, however, as a mother of two little girls I adopt a very pragmatic view. I have nothing against make up and won’t mind my girls wearing it when they’re older. BUT I would much prefer them taking the Tree dolls as a makeup and image example than any Bratz or Barbie dolls.

    I don’t think the Tree dolls lady is intending to make a statement of the depth you’re reading into it but is simply saying that less can be more. Makeup to enhance a face rather than to hide it. Is that wrong??!!

  119. Pingback: Bratz Dolls With Make-Unders Are Still Sending the Wrong Message - news from

  120. In my humble opinion, the tree change dolls are all about taking something that is cast aside and making it into something else. It has far more to do with recycling than it does what this blogger is trying to say it does. I made dolls clothes for years, for the American Girl doll sized dolls. And sexy didn’t sell. Not to the kids coming to my table at craft fairs or to their parents who ordered special items. AG dolls are meant to be a mini-me and even children know they are not sexual beings at that age. Now having said that, should my granddaughter want a Bratz or a Monster High doll, sure thing! If she wants to dress up like that at Halloween, go for it! If there is one thing I have learned through my 36 years as a teacher and 32 years as a parent, the one surefired way to make an item hyper-attractive to a child is to ban it… whether it be candy, screen time or grotesque make-up adorned dolls like Bratz!

  121. I would imagine that if you start with a collection of bratz dolls…and undermake then, then OF COURSE they are all going to look strangely similar – sans eye color, skin tone, hair color, of course. Don’t the bratz dolls all have the same face shape? The same would happen if you made under-made a bunch of barbies. The issue may lie not with the ‘under made’ dolls but the molded plastic of the original toys they are made from. After all someone designed those particular dimensions and features into the toy for a reason (‘it sells’ and that ‘makes our compnay money’).
    If the dolls are being dressed in hand made clothes it makes some sense to me that they are dressed simply and in skirts. Doll skirts are a ton easier to make than doll pants. Assuming this company isn’t a non profit, then they have a bottom line to consider as well and thus they might choose less time consuming clothing options? Have you asked the company about it?
    I actually really liked the original and post pictures shown next to each other. What great reminder that oh. yeah. the Bratz dolls really are that….strange. How fake and empty looking they are next to the under made doll. (but then again, I read “Sarah Plain and Tall” growing up and was convinced that I wanted that kind of beauty – not outer, but that which comes from within. and I am not an overly big fan of make up but for special occasions. SO I certainly have my own biases)
    I’m not sure exactly how to react when someone seems equally horrified by the ‘threat’ of an obviously unnatural doll that promotes a false body image AND the opposite of that. I think if you’re feeling oppressed no matter what you find on the toy market, you may need to address the root of your feelings. Good luck to you!

  122. Nothing you have written here makes any sense. Are you saying the Bratz dolls are transgender or something?? Give me a “made-under” doll over one that resembles a blow-up sex doll any day. If you are so “deeply concerned” over natural looking dolls, I think you need to find a new hobby. The new dolls are gorgeous.

  123. Hey, you’re a grown-up, there’re other kinds of dolls for you to play with… What a small child sees first leaves a life-long impression on them.. Intelligence is very feminine, you know.. I see the remade dolls’ facial expressions as smarter, more self assured and independent then the originals.. That’s a lesson I want my daughter to learn – you’re a a human being, strong, graceful, independent.. I started using make up when i was 11 years old and have loved it dearly my whole life… I painted my dolls’ faces they way i liked it (read: crazy excessive make-up) no one forced me into it.. But here i see some adults; sex fantasies imprinted of kid’s toys, pushing the idea of a certain specific kind of attractiveness… it’s important for kids to grow up without thinking that “sex sells” idea being the main priority. Make up is a beautiful hobby, but you don’t have to have your face painted or be sexually suggestive to feel worthy and happy..

  124. I absolutely love the fact that tree change dolls have stood up and is trying to make a change. TBH I always thought bratz were a little creepy to look at and to imagine handing on of those eerie looking dolls for little girls as young as 4.. argh not ideal. Anyways, the point is I can’t wait to see tree change dolls go mainstream in our stores real soon!!

  125. Pretty weak argument for natural beauty being more artificial than… artificial beauty. Natural beauty might be the “most fake of all”?? What could you have been thinking to justify this stance? Perhaps if we were assessing models in women’s magazines or portraits in a museum, you might have an inch of ground to stand on. Dolls are for children, and the young girl who is giving these dolls “make-unders” has unique spirit and a totally non-controversial approach to what she is doing. No one says make-up isn’t fun, but feminine dolls representing natural and yes, maybe traditional, beauty are on the whole way more appealing to parents and teach little girls significantly better lessons about self-worth!

    • I think he’s referring to the fact that the TCD all have “perfectly clear skin,” instead of having freckles, acne, scars, rosacea, etc. painted on some of them. He’s clearly never painted a doll before–just the simple paint job being done on the TCD right now takes a fair bit of practice, patience, and lots of wee brushes to make look good. Making “imperfections” look realistic is much, much harder and takes a LOT more time to do no matter how skilled you are at it.

      • If you watch the TCD video of the artist painting the dolls, you can see her adding small freckles and blemishes to some of them…

        This blogger is trying to convince us he/she is offering a valid alternative point of view, when in reality he/she is incredibly opinionated and biased. Drag queen parties? The blogger probably took the TCD make-under as a slight against themselves. He/she clearly does not have a young daughter. This posting makes literally no sense. I’m actually amazed I’m still wasting time commenting on it.

  126. I absolutely LOVE what she’s done with the dolls! But just to make sure I wasn’t putting my own adult bias on this, I called my daughters (aged 4, 6, 8, & 12 – and who have all played with Barbies and Bratz dolls on many occasions) to have a look. I asked them which dolls they’d prefer. It was an unanimous vote for the tree change dolls. I guess that says it all huh! 😉

  127. I absolutely agree with joanne there. This lady is simply giving people options and this is not a bad thing at all. You might like make up and good for you. But not all of us do and I really really doubt that the purpose is be restrictive and oppressive. As if any girl playing with these will never be allowed to play with make up and be creative. Honestly, by only having one available ‘look’ on the market are we not telling girls there is one way to be feminine and one way to be beautiful. There are many ways in which beauty can be expressed and we should applaud someone willing to offer a different idea of feminine beauty to girls.

  128. The point is that dolls such as Bratz are overly sexualised for the young girls they are marketed at. There is no reason at all why adults or teenagers can’t wear and love make up and being feminine. There are plenty of reasons why trying to look like a sexy adult is not fin for children who are around 7 to 12 which is where the Bratz dolls are marketed.

  129. Wow, way to completely over think things. I agree with the previous poster who said “I don’t find anything you have said here particularly relevant.”
    I think it’s great that the average little girl, who does not, on a daily basis, wear garish makeup, have a doll that represents her. I, like most little girls, enjoyed playing with makeup, but as I said before, heavy, garish makeup like that the Bratz dolls wear, was not something I would have ever left the house in. Way to fly off the handle about nothing. Let the kids have some variety.

  130. I find this article to be a poor attempt at justifying hypersexualizing girls just because it is the cultural norm. Teaching our daughters that they are valuable without makeup is far more progressive than jumping on the glam is best bandwagon that magazines promote. I would purchase these normal looking dolls over those with whorish makeup anyday. It takes far more courage as a woman to be natural looking than to follow what society expects from women.

    • I was going to post this (see below), but actually I think you expressed my sentiments much better, so let’s go with:

      “^What she said!”
      “Couldn’t agree more. This article seems to fixate around the non-issue of grown women wearing make-up (or not), completely missing the real issue of our complicity in passing on the damaging female stereotypes our patriarchal society sadly still expects to our daughters to conform to. It’s not about the ‘slap’, it’s about girls’ expectations for themselves. ”

      As long as a woman has the independence of mind and spirit to be her own person, I couldn’t care less how much make-up she wears or how she dresses. While little girls are still growing-up and trying to work out this unjust world for themselves, isn’t it incumbent on the rest of us to widen their aspirations, not to (metaphorically) hand them a lippy instead of a pen, and get them a boob job for their 16th birthday?

  131. The clothes that that dolls are wearing are HAND MADE. Obviously they are going to look more homey and ’50’s. Have you ever hand knit a sexy dress? Probably not.
    Frankly, I think that you wrote this just to complain about something. The dolls look sweet and innocent and there is nothing wrong with representing those things to a young child.
    You post a picture of yourself playing drag ‘in your 20’s’ YOU WERE IN YOUR 20’S!! You weren’t 10. My parents let me play with make up, but I was NEVER allowed to look like a Bratz doll.
    I am not one of those domestic women. I wear mini skirts and makeup almost daily, but I am a grownup. I am disgusted when I see young girls dressed the same way. As a culture we have sexualized young girls. It’s disturbing. These dolls are not sexualized. They are dressed in play clothes and are shown playing outside. Like kids should be.

  132. You are missing the entire point…..dolls are for kids! Why do the dolls who also represent kids need to have 5 lbs of makeup caked on, and dress in tight fitting clothes or short dresses in order to be fun to play with? These overly done dolls teach girls at a very young age that they are to be valued for their looks. I think the monster high dolls send a good message about not following “norms” or trends, but they could tame down the makeup as well and wear more kid friendly outfits. Toys do not need to be sexualized, they are for kids!

    • Some of the monsters do have a less-made-up look, but I agree that there aren’t a lot of them.
      And it is a bit annoying that Mattel only makes dolls with short skirts nowadays–but longer skirts (and even pants!) are, thankfully, super-easy to make. Frankly, the thing about MH that makes them less “kid-friendly” is the sheer number of joints and tiny pieces! Great for kids around 8-9+. Horrible for younger children who are going to end up breaking knee joints, losing all the jewelry, etc. (There are some really sad-looking used dolls on Ebay all the time, and most of the ones with actual broken places are Monster High dolls. Some collectors buy the badly-broken ones on purpose–either for extra pieces, or to do a dramatic “makeover” to make the doll lovely again.)

      As for teenaged doll characters: they experiment with makeup, and often wear a lot more than an adult would. But there’s no excuse for dolls that represent young children to have painted-on eyeshadow! That’s why this is my favorite TCD so far:

  133. Lets face it, these dolls are called BRATZ. Do I want my daughter to become a BRATZ? Absolutely not. We will purchase the version more suitable for a 4 year old, thank you for the link. I absolutely LOVE what she’s done to those ugly ugly dolls. Its one thing to let a child have their own creativity and imagination as to what they can look like and its another thing to push an over-made up, under dressed, sexualized doll into their play zone. I’d rather have a doll come with make up and hair color so she can do what she wants herself… I guarantee it would look better than that Bratz doll.

  134. Interesting questions raised for those of us interested in academic approaches to culture/feminism. However, as a mom, I’d much prefer to have my child (incidentally, mine are male, but this goes for any young child, regardless of sex) playing with dolls that are not hyper-sexed, rather than thinking the baseline for “femininity” is uber-sexual, made up, stripper-glam. Experimentation and boundary-pushing with appearance will certainly come in time.

  135. “the worst thing we could do is try and offer a “stripped-back” look that returns us to some kind of original “natural” point.”

    Really? That’s the worst thing?

    I might be in the minority here, but my brand of feminism is to MMOB. Women are perfectly capable of making choices that suit themselves and I’m not going to sit back and wave my finger at them. If this artist doesn’t like the make-up look and prefers something else, who cares?

    I wouldn’t tell someone to put on makeup any more than I would tell someone to take it off. Not a man, not a woman, no one, just I wouldn’t tell someone with curly hair to straighten it and I wouldn’t tell someone to “show some skin” or “cover up, skank.”

    All of this snarking about what is good or bad… jeez, just relax. Not everyone has the same aesthetic preferences, either for their own look or what they prefer to look at. I also fail to understand why the choice of one or another has any moral weight like “good” or “bad”.

    If feminism is (at least partly) about free choice and expression, then be happy for more of it.

  136. You missed it entirely. This isn’t about toys for adults, or even teens. These are dolls that were marketed to little girls – LITTLE girls, meaning 4-8 years old, at the oldest. They didn’t look “hyper-feminine;” they looked utterly fake. NO one has eyes that big. NO one has lips that big. NO one. The message isn’t “fixing your hair & makeup & clothes up to look glam is bad;” it’s “little girls shouldn’t feel pressured to look like vaguely humanoid cartoons, and let’s support an active outdoor lifestyle while we’re at it.”

  137. Good points. It’s important not to oppress with ANY version of “femininity”. What I think makes these dolls relevant is the choice they offer. As artistic expression, they are just as stylized as the original version, true, but given that retailers aren’t offering their particular style (to the extent they market/stock the other), having the option to choose a more “natural” looking doll is important. And what about the kids who don’t go for one extreme or the other? Where are their choices? We’ve been telling young girls since Barbie’s debut that they have to let their beauty and appearance be dictated by what’s currently available and/or popular on the market. What making under (or over, or just different) dolls shows them is that they aren’t necessarily held to that manufactured standard. Just the process of changing the doll is a necessary conversation. Ultimately, I think the lesson to be taken from Tree Change Dolls is that if you don’t like what you’re presented with by the market – make your own. I’d love to see what the next generation does with that.

  138. I don’t find anything yoi have said here particularly relevant. The dolls are just fine. there are other dolls on the market with different looks. The more different dolls available the better.

    • Spot on Joanne. Nothing that has been said in this blog is particularly relevant, and I see no validation for the “rage blackout” that she experienced on reading about these dolls. The point is, that this mum who performs the ‘make-unders’ obviously doesn’t want her kids playing with a doll who wears excessive makeup/adult fashion. Probably, there are other parents who think the same way, so she’s simply filling a void in the market. Sometimes the natural might just be… the natural

  139. Given that most dolls are played with by girls under 10 I think a makeup-free doll is a lot more approachable.
    If you are the type of mother that wears heavy makeup then presumably you will enjoy the Bratz doll look and let your kids play with them. Whereas if you are the type of mother who thinks heavy makeup on a person makes them look slutty and whorish, you will probably not let your girls play with the full make up version, for fear of encouraging that look in your impressionable daughter’s mind. And you will probably love the version that this artist has re-created.
    BTW You lost me at “oppressive gender norms “.

    • Thanks, Rose. My granddaughters will receive the Tree Change dolls from me when the Etsy shop opens for such. I like the idea of them have natural friends to play with. Good for them to have a variety and make their own choices.

  140. I was thinking about this, exactly, when seeing that tumblr and thanks a lot for putting it all here so eloquently. I mean, yeah, natural beauty is great, we are all beautiful as we are, blahblah, but hello? Can’t I love make-up? Can’t I do crazy shit with my face? Should I look like a good, natural housewife, all feminine, gentle, subtle and soft? HELL NO, if I don’t want to 😉

    Actually, I mostly wear quite a little make-up, but for me as a woman, wearing it is fun and I wear it for myself rather than for any men. When I was small, I used to paint my face like a crazy geisha (as a play theme) and that also had nothing to do with ‘geishas in Japanese society’, I just really enjoyed exploring the aesthetics of this look just because. 🙂

    On the other hand, one my friend’s Catholic husband ‘prefers her without make-up’ and another (also Catholic) friend’s Catholic husband even tells her ‘not to wear dangly earrings because it’s too sexy’. No make-up is given. If these kind of natural look rules are not oppression from males, then I don’t know what is…

    • It’s not about you ladies.. It is about the 5-10 year olds who play with the dolls and get the impression that that’s how they should look like when they grow up. Make-under means anything that brings our looks closer to what they really are underneath all make-up and plastic surgery. As the author said it herself – the after version is stripped down from unrealistically big eyes lips and make-up is removed It’s all about setting unrealistic standards for the little girls.

      It is great to question everything and challenge perceptions and “norms” but there are some things out there that simply are better than others and sorry to say this but you really have no ground for this article and you even contradict yourself at times..

      By the way these dolls remind me of those beauty pageant shows with little girls, which to me are the sickest thing ever.

      P.S. I love make-up and I wear it almost every day.

      • I agree with Janeti, I was going to write the same thing but she already said it! Well done.

      • This! Thank you. The issue is that most little girls don’t have the life experience and ability to see how skewed things are and know the difference. There’s nothing wrong with liking makeup and glitz and glam, but to understand the context in which that is appropriate, and what exactly you as a person are expressing by doing so, and *understanding* how it can be perceived in society is beyond their capacity.

      • Thank you…. and as the one to purchase the toys…. I won’t buy a brats doll, but would buy a ‘made under’ doll… just saying!

    • I 100% agree with Janeti. These dolls are not about the adult woman they are for young girls who are still developing their own self worth and self confidence. Studies have shown that by the time a girl turns 11 she has already developed her sense of self. A young girl needs to develop her love for her natural self before exploring the world of adding on. I personally wear make-up, love dressing up, wearing heels, and I see nothing wrong with that. I would say I am fairly natural even in my style and make-up but I still love wearing make-up to work and looking good.

      When I was a girl I loved watching my mom put on make-up and do her hair. Every so often she would let me wear her make-up and yes, I felt a different kind of pretty that again, I don’t think was bad.

      In regards to the comments about clothes. Let’s keep in mind that likely the creator of these dolls identifies with this styling of clothing. Likely, she doesn’t think that dressing up in punk, gothic, altra-fem, etc are bad but she is creating something that is close to her heart. She is not trying to suppress women by dressing dolls in crocheted sweaters, overall jeans (look at the site), rompers, and yes a fifties style dress. She is dressing these dolls in clothes that can be wore outside.

      Let’s not be so quick to judge other’s intentions just because they are different than yours. I think as women we can all agree that in a world that is so closely tied to outer beauty yet we all know that it is really about our inner beauty it would be nice to have dolls for the future generation that look a little bit more like us. We are business women, farmers, teachers, stay at home mom’s, coffee baristas, tellers, and CEO’s. We are powerful not because we are beautiful but because of who we are. Outer beauty is not bad but I believe that if young boys and girls can develop their self worth early on not as clouded by outer beauty we may be able to build a society less concerned about what we look like and more concerned with caring for each other and our world.

    • I don’t see the moralizing on the TCD site that I’m getting here. What I’m seeing is, “dolls in stores are almost exclusively ‘glammed up,’ so I’m making a less-glam alternative available for kids to choose.” It’s not about shaming MGA for making Bratz or Mattel for making Monster High. It’s about giving kids a greater variety of choices. That dramatically-altered Bratz doll doesn’t mean there won’t still be Bratz. Indeed, some of my custom dolls are MORE made-up-looking, and some are LESS.

      Plus, no kid wants their doll to come from the store–even the thrift store–naked. She’s giving them clothes that are quick and easy to make, so that she can clothe more naked dolls faster. No kid wants their “new” doll to already look frizzy. She’s conditioning their hair to make it easy to brush again. She’s not doing fancy updos because those take more time, and because kids WILL take them down and re-style the dolls’ hair over and over anyway. She’s not giving them freckles, because they’re hard to do convincingly. She’s not adding blush or scars, because those take time. It’s one person remaking lots of dolls–she’s going to cut a few corners.

      • Exactly! I have made many dolls and doll clothes and kids want clothes that are easy to dress/undress. And it’s so hard to make easy doll clothes at home that don’t look “homey”. This isn’t a factory with people working their fingers off for low pay, it’s for donations and fun.

        And anyone with kids who have American Girl dolls knows those fancy hair styles are gone in an instant-brushed out, sprayed, braided, ratted. It makes no sense to make or buy a doll with an updo! LOL I’ve spent so much time getting doll hair knots out.

        And again as someone who makes dolls (painted wood and cloth), it’s hard to get specialty features on there. My freckled kids (and freckled self) would love to do that, but it’s sooooo hard. How about since these are handmade, you can make your own with the features you want? Maybe then people would appreciate the skill more.

        I’m not speaking directly to you, Laura S., I agree with you. But a “you” in general.

        And as someone who enjoys makeup and fun hair colors, I find this entire article bunk. I had homely handmade dolls and the punk Barbies growing up and played with both. It’s about CHOICE which is something kids don’t always have in dolls. You really have to search for natural looking ones of either gender.

    • I was born the same year as Barbie, and I never had a problem with her. Actually I only had one Barbie and her teen sister, Skipper. I also had a “Penny Brite”, which I LOVED! My daughters had all the Barbies they desired. Bless Barbie’s heart she got several “not so attractive” make-overs at their hands. When the Bratz Dolls came out, the publicity was that they could possibly knock Barbie off her pedestal. I think they did out sell Barbie that one year–but the old girl is back. As for the “Tree Change Dolls”, the artist said that she did not “under-make” the dolls to make a statement, nor did she desire to be a doll manufactor. She just saw these tossed aside dolls as a canvas for her artistic expression. And why not? Every artist chooses his/her canvas, dolls just happen to be hers. If your face is yours…so what? I don’t know the goal of the creator of the Bratz Dolls, but these dolls, “made-under”, remind me of other dolls I had as a child, (Penny Brite), dolls that look like children in their everyday attire and fresh scrubbed faces.

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