Super skinny dolls spark anger among parents

Illawarra parents are being urged this Christmas to steer clear of scantily-clad dolls with impossible proportions, short-short skirts and excessive make-up.

The skinny Monster High Dolls with their long legs and oversized heads are available in Wollongong stores and online, causing concern among health experts and people with eating disorders.

Chloe Swinfield, who has anorexia, said yesterday that she was horrified at the sight of the Mattel dolls.

"I'm just past the age of buying them but I don't get it. If they are going to make anorexic dolls, they might as well just make them as skeletons, not pretty with make-up. There's nothing pretty about it," the 16-year-old from Lake Illawarra said.

"They shouldn't sell them at all. If they do, they should put a booklet with them telling people what it's really like to get to that point, not just for them, but for everyone around them.

"Now these girls, aged six to about 13, will be carrying these dolls everywhere, wanting to look like that."

Dr Vivienne Lewis, clinical psychologist at the University of Canberra, said Monster High Dolls, just like Barbie, were completely out of proportion to what a "real" woman or girl's body looked like.

"Which is fine for us as adults as we realise this, but for children, they may not be able to see these dolls realistically," Dr Lewis said yesterday.

"They may compare themselves to these dolls, see a difference, become dissatisfied with their bodies as a result and, in extreme cases, may try things like dieting to try and bring their body in line with what they think their body should look like, using these dolls as role models. They may think that what society thinks is attractive is only tall, long hair and skinny."

Dr Lewis said parents had a choice over the influences, and things they bought for their children.

"It's important as a parent not to feel pressured into buying the latest fads just because all other parents seem to be doing it," she said.

"It's your family and your child and you as an adult don't have to follow the crowd or succumb to peer pressure."

Fed Up NSW Health - an eating disorder lobby group - urged parents to buy toys that promoted good body image and didn't encourage the thin ideal.

"We know this is unrealistic and incongruent with how the majority of society actually looks," spokeswoman Ella Graham said.

"There is nothing wrong with giving children dolls, as long as the focus isn't that a child will only get through school if they dress a certain way, look a certain way or weigh a certain amount - which for most of the population is unattainably small."

Ms Graham said the holiday season was a good time to encourage open and honest discussion with children around body image.

Mattel did not respond to the Mercury's calls yesterday but has previously answered critics, saying the doll "positively promotes the acceptance of all individuals".

Dr Lewis has written a book, Positive Bodies: Loving The Skin You're In, aimed at parents wanting to promote positive body image and prevent and treat eating disorders. Go to www.aapbooks.com.

The Butterfly Foundation: 1800 334 673.

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