Dolls, doll universes - gender and appeal

Most dolls are gender-specific and they have specific sex roles, functions and appeal.

Years ago, baby dolls were sexless. Resistance to baby dolls with a clear sexual reference (i.e. baby dolls with sexual organs - adult dolls seldom/never have genitalia) originates in an ethical/moral understanding of what children ought or “are allowed” to see! However, all dolls and figures which symbolise an adult bear clear gender-specific marks which also distance and distinguish between the sexes and between other types of figures of the same sex.

The gender-specific appeal is in fact often very stereotyped, sometimes even parodying specific gender-based behaviour and appearance. This is often imperative for the figure’s general integrity in terms of appearance, sex and - in particular - sex function.

Ordinary classic doll and dolls’ house universes

There are four classic doll universes which appeal in different ways to modern users.

Each of the four classic universes contains its own version of the seven ordinary and most general human spheres of life and activity and there are naturally animals - implements - constructions, strategies and models for existence etc. associated with these - which in turn are also related to a specific era (time) and a special environment (space).

  1. The gallery of persons,
  2. characters and
  3. figures in the doll’s universe,
  4. the fictive universes reflected in play with the doll(s).

The person/persons:

  1. describe the sphere(s) in which eventstake place (time)
  2. outline the universal spacein which events take place (space) and
  3. define the types of playthe dolls inspire them to engage in (cause/event).

The model summarises the seven spheres of life and activity:

THE PSEUDO DOLL (fantasy universe)


1. idol or compensation figure (mythical origin)

2. famous people (alive/deceased)

3. Barbie, Elvis or famous models, etc.

4. reflect a world of dreaming and yearning

5. utopia and soap

6. Man’s utopian dream universe

7. supplementary play


THE GUARDIAN DOLL (fantasy universe)


1. goddess/god-like figures

2. devil/monster/witch/elf/troll

3. monster doll

4. reflects the special task of guardian/protector,


5. good and evil

6. spiritual universe

7. classical ceremonies and demonstrations



Border between fantasy and reality



Border between fantasy and reality


THE WAR DOLL (real universe)


1. man/hunter/warrior

2. soldier throughout the ages

3. GI Joe, cowboys/Indians, historical heroes

4. reflects battlefield and arenas

5. battle for life and death

6. the utopian war universes of the soldier

7. aggressive play and games


THE CLASSICAL DOLL (real universe)


1. adult women and men

2. boys/girls - of different ages

3. baby dolls

4. reflect everyday events/functions

5. family and society

6. the ecological and social universe

7. classic “Mummy, Daddy and Baby” games,

    family games


These classical universes form the background for children’s fantasy and dreams and are replicated in the modern universes which all children (boys and girls alike) use as a starting point for their dreams and imaginative pictures of life/existence.

In the following we will describe girls’ and boys’ doll and dream universes respectively.



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