After the success of a post back in August where I revisited Club Penguin, it only felt right to endorse my nostalgia further by revisiting another childhood site: Stardoll. The harmless dressing up game aimed at tweenagers. I know what you’re thinking because I’m thinking the same, Jess it’s half term you should be writing that essay about 1848 Revolutions in Germany, revising how to draw an alpha glucose molecule and reading Tess of the D’urbervilles, instead of spending three hours deciding which hair colour looks best on a virtual doll, but I’m sure it’ll be fine. It’s not like Tess is 60 chapters or anything…
Quite possibly the most tragic part of this experience was before I’d even really begun- the part where I realised Stardoll have deleted my original doll due to inacitivity. RIP Laceilee (in my head this scene is happening to the When She Loved Me music from Toy Story 2 and involves lots tears as her Bonjour Bizou clothes are donated to dolls which a) aren’t premium members and b) don’t appreciate the amount of denim needed to duplicate French couture). Crying over, I made a new Stardoll and gradually began to notice elements of the site that massively encouraged the stereotypical woman- regardless of whether this stereotype is good or not, the problem seemed to be the lack of alternative. It got me thinking, is Stardoll a feminist site?
When you begin you’re given a white, skinny, blonde doll as the default model, which seems strange because surely you could just be given a completely blank mannequin? For a site that encourages creativity, giving you what is essentially an Ellie Goulding stunt double doesn’t make sense. Plus you’re given open toe shoes which is just gross- put your feet away gal.
But I’ll ignore it, I’m sure it’s just a small slip up that can be rectified when I go shopping- Clearly ‘slip up’ was the wrong word because Stardoll have gone to every effort to avoid any kind of unsightly bra straps showing or fat bulges by promoting body suits and sheer underwear. This is a new addition since I was logged on back in 2k10 so I can’t help thinking if this is really the message we want to be selling to little babs who just want to dress up Gwen Stefani- your boobs aren’t going to spontaneously combust if you don’t wear a strapless top. The emphasis seems unnecessary, especially with such a young demographic.
In the excitement of the moment (omg mam! Mam! Stop swooning over Phil Spencer and listen! I’m back on Stardoll!!!) it’s easy to forget the concept of the game: you have a doll, you dress it up, you buy it makeup, you design some clothes, you compete for prizes- and there we have it. The structural plans for the typical girl. Obviously, boys are welcome to join the site too but the body shapes of their dolls are so different that the clothing is far from universal, even the shoes only fit one sex or the other- the female doll’s feet are angled so awkwardly that it looks like they’re waiting for Eddie the Eagle to ski right off. You’re never going to fit anything under 5 and a half inches on them.
Upon revisiting, the bit that shocked me the most was this page: the competitions. This was around when I was younger and I never thought anything of it (except why aren’t I the Covergirl) but now you realise the competitive nature this creates, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie flawlessly said
We raise girls to see each other as competitors
and you don’t really ever see how right she was until it’s presented as visually as this. Little girls competing over who’s the prettiest with the belief that that’ll make them the best and then judging how unworthy the winners are when they lose. I’m trying to think of the equivalent aimed at boys, but all their competitions e.g. football, racing cars, could I sound any less down with the kids, are all based on skill opposed to somebody’s face value. Why are we treating girls differently? When you have to buy at least two makeup products to get past the second level (should I really be confessing my commitment here I’m not sure) surely that’s making girls think of makeup, clothes, furniture as necessities, the things that will make them better- how can we say these games are harmless when they only actually promote a superficial purpose? I mean, at least Barbie was a pilot for a bit so she did a bit more than just be pretty. Where does Stardoll let you get a job?
Don’t get me wrong, the site holds a super spesh place in my heart but looking back it seems so outdated. Teamales what are your thoughts: is this a website maintaining an unfair stereotype or am I unfairly judging the website?