“A Bad Hair Day for GI Joe,” by Karen Klugman is an essay illustrated with photos in the anthology, “Girls, Boys, Books, Toys: Gender in Children’s Literature and Culture”, edited by Clark and Higganum, Hopkins Press, 1999.
In spite of contemporary commentary that plays down differences between the genders, dolls — our earliest symbolic role models — continue to be manufactured, marketed, and purchased along gender lines.
More than twenty years ago, John Berger suggested a simple but powerful exercise — to imagine men replacing the figure in familiar paintings and photographs of nude women. In the same way, imagine a collection of girls’ dolls that differ in their body shapes — some are fat like Goro or Boss Man, some are short, and all are incredibly muscular. Their jointed construction permits them to operate their own accessories and they can transform into multiple personalities. Then imagine a collection of immobile boys’ figures that differ only by the colors of their outfits, their alliterative names (Football Frank, Sleepover Sam, Beach Party Bob), and their hair, which is stranded and styleable.