Aug. 1, 2014 at 6:49 AM ET
For decades, baby dolls have been famous for their vagueness. Are they girl babies? Are they boy babies? Really, without their pink or blue outfits, who could say?
Well, one new doll on store shelves is leaving little to the imagination. The boy version of Toys “R” Us’ “You & Me Mommy Change My Diaper Doll” cries when it wets its diaper via a body part that some moms and dads didn’t anticipate seeing: a penis.
One New Jersey mother reportedly shared — and later removed — a photo of the diaperless boy doll she had bought for her daughter. “Why??” the mom wrote. “These (are) little girls that don’t need to know the anatomy.” Writer Monica Beyer of SheKnows.com spotted emotional comments in response to the mom’s Facebook post, including one that said, “Little girls should not be shown that on dolls. The company makes me sick.”
The doll’s polarizing effect has sparked a conversation about how parents talk with their children about body parts. Beyer wrote that she just doesn’t think the doll is such a big deal.
“How on earth is it inappropriate for a child to see a naked baby? What about a baby makes a penis or a vulva dirty or sexual?” Beyer wrote. “Because that’s what it sounds like when people say that it’s wrong for little girls to see it. The truth is, when a child points out the body part that she doesn’t have, all a parent is required to do is call it by its name.”
Toys "R" Us released a statement explaining its stores began carrying "both of these dolls in Spring 2013 and have received no significant negative feedback over the course of the past year.
"Also, please note that the current packaging clearly states 'anatomically correct,'" the statement continued.
Parenting experts said it’s important for parents to use the correct names for male and female body parts with their children.
“At ages 3, 4, 5, we should be talking to them with anatomically correct words: penis instead of pee-pee,” Dr. Michele Borba, an educational psychologist and child expert, told TODAY.com. “You don’t do that with other body parts. You don’t call it your ‘elbow-y’ or your ‘toe-toe’ ... We’ve learned that if parents are relaxed about this when kids are younger, then the child will feel comfortable coming to you with harder conversations later.”
New York City psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig told TODAY.com that she doesn’t think the boy doll is offensive or sexualized. Instead, it’s realistic.
“There’s nothing inappropriate, per se, about this doll,” Ludwig said. “Having said that, I don’t know if it’s really necessary. I don’t know if I, as a parent, would need to buy a doll with a realistic-looking penis for my child.
“The company has a right to make it, and parents have a right to make a choice. You may not want this in your home, and that’s OK. Make that choice.”
TODAY anchors had some fun with the doll Friday. At first, Carson Daly laughed when he checked out the toy, joking, "Wow. I'm jealous. Very impressive." But he later described the boy doll as "accurate. It's not offensive."
Matt Lauer agreed. "It's not a wow," he said. "I don't want anybody at home to be thinking, 'They went overboard.'"
Still, Savannah Guthrie said she's glad the dolls "come with a warning label" because it's difficult to change conventional thinking.
"Can we be honest? Most dolls are not anatomically correct," she said.
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