A few nights ago, my husband was listening to a podcast and said, “Hey, Google ‘breastfeeding doll’ for me.” The first hit was a UK news article on el Bebé Glotón, the world’s first breastfeeding doll.
Scrolling down, I was surprised— but not that surprised— to see the doll referred to on a handful of American blogs as “the creepy breastfeeding doll.” FOXNews.com covered the story as well, offering the following from its managing health editor:
Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing health editor of FOXNews.com, said although he supports the idea of breast-feeding, he sees how his own daughter plays with dolls and wonders if Bebé Glotón might speed up maternal urges in the little girls who play it.
“Pregnancy has to entail maturity and understanding,” Alvarez said. “It’s like introducing sex education in first grade instead of seventh or eighth grade. Or, it could inadvertently lead little girls to become traumatized. You never know the effects this could have until she’s older.”
Fox News, along with many other English-speaking reports have translated the name Bebé Glotón literally as “Baby Glutton” without examining its cultural context, which in turn incited comment furor such as “Breastfeeding is not gluttony!” In Spain, a bebé glotón is a non-judgmental term for a ravenous baby and it probably safe to assume that Spanish toy maker Berjuan did not name its product with the intention of implying that this is a mortal sin-committing doll designed to mimic Bacchus or Caligula.
The Spanish media coverage of the doll describes the doll and the accompanying halter top that the child playing with the doll must wear to activate the sucking motion, the companies that helped develop the doll and that the doll is endorsed by FEDALMA, the Federación Española de Asociaciones pro-Lactancia Materna.
In snooping around on a few Spanish lactation forums, it appears that the main complaints with the doll are that it comes with a pacifier, is not available until October and that the halter top comes with flowers instead of nipples or breasts. Several moms have had their kids ask if the Reyes Magos will bring them one for Christmas.
Not everyone in Spain is as excited about the doll as the parents on the lactation forums. The kindest of the comments following this television news story include calling the doll sexist and a gilipollez. The cries of sexism were echoed abroad as well. I suppose that this doll is considered extra-super-sexist because it connects its users with their biology, as opposed to the thousands and thousands of dolls that come with bottles. Young children are not really playing mother or parent to baby dolls with bottles; rather, they are BABYSITTING while the doll’s powerful corporate attorney mother works outside of the home.
My husband and I, having lived in Spain, always get a kick out of Americans freaking out over breasts and, as you know, white people like to study abroad so that they can regale everyone they meet with unsolicited stories of their exotic experiences. Topless beaches are normal in Spain, which was totally shocking to both of us at the time. I’ll never forget how hard I laughed after watching a commercial for breath mints at a friend’s house. The ad was simply a shot of a toned and tanned female torso slowly put something in her mouth, which was out of the view of the camera. A similarly toned and tanned male torso did the same. When we realized the commercial was for breath mints, we all laughed and yelled, “What the hell?!”
Spanish company Flex recently produced a commercial for its mattresses by featuring an actual birth on one of its mattresses.
The dominant American culture clearly sexualizes the breast. At the same time, the underlying belief that actual female sexuality is terrifying and dirty seems to cloud breast-related discussions. I wonder if it is time for those who think a breastfeeding doll with an accompanying halter top is immoral to get honest with themselves, take a look at their daughters, nieces, granddaughters, et cetera, and admit that they are scared that they will grow up too soon. Maybe it comes from fearing that they will become sexually active at an age they consider too young, which may lead to pregnancy, which in turn may lead to financial difficulties and perceived loss of opportunities. Maybe it comes from a belief that women need to remain pure and non-sexual until marriage. Perhaps it comes from personally feeling ashamed of or trapped by ones own biology and projecting those feelings onto the little girls in their life.
And maybe we should save the rage over hypersexualization and commercialization of children for things like this. Can we really put a breastfeeding doll at the top of a slippery slope that leads to teen pregnancy (read: teen sex) or undefined trauma in later life?
Fox News topped its own story on the doll. This clip from the show “Red Eye” makes me wonder if these people go home and feel ashamed at the hateful show they have to put on to keep on job on television.
So, Fox News, did you set out to call a baby doll too-hot-for-five-year-old-boys because it will make them horny? Did you intend to insult your female viewers by telling them the first purpose of their breasts is to entice men to sleep with them? Did you have “denigrate people with dwarfism” and “compare extended breastfeeding to porn” on your to-do list today? Then good work! You succeeded.