the doll games
shelley and pamela jackson


s doll journal

gender of
Dawn, dawn
of gender

Dawn was white trash, even more than Barbie; her name suited her, so we never changed it. The flat drawl of that long vowel sound, diphthonging unpleasantly and for too long. The phony classiness of the name, like Tiffany or Jewel.

We found Dawn somewhere, maybe in the Free Box. Or we stole her. Her hair was already cut short when we found her. Her scalp showed through, it looked raw, scraped. Dawn seemed damaged. Her breasts were a little blue at the tips where the plastic thinned, there was a chilled unhealthy look about them which suited her small hard face, her thin lips, the snippy meanness we read in every line of her body.
"Dainty." Word I was obsessed with, it stood for everything I wasn’t and despised. Dawn was dainty, for sure, which meant prissy, prim. She went on tip-toe (she had those high heel feet) because she didn’t want to touch the ground. It might be dirty.
Her feet and hands were too small, as if they were not to touch with, they had no active function—was that femininity?—they were just the indicators and outposts of a body centered in face, breasts and hips. Dawn was there to be looked at. Her sharp, hard, curved little hands, like brittle chips of some hard material, were like sadistic little tools, their purpose unclear, dental or manicurists’ implements maybe, something to do with poking and paring. Her nasty little feet.
How can I convey how offensive I found her? She goose-stepped around, all leg, like a drum majorette. Little legs kicking.
She was always dressed in something filmy and light blue was her color, and while I’m talking about this, what about the particular offensiveness of filmy things to me then? Particularly that synthetic, shimmering sort of filmy, that felt dry and harsh between the fingers, with its associations of fluorescent light, cotton candy, saccharine falseness and chintziness—the desperate unhealthy hopeless glamour of poor girls in beauty pageants, the rhinestones, blue eyeshadow and hairspray, unhappily offering up their only assets amidst plastic flowers (another thing I despised), perfume (ditto) and that weird combination of scorn and abject worship that these spectacles arouse (but in whom? In me? How did I know what people felt about those "dainty ladies" I loathed?) Light blue, too, like all pastels: pandering colors, ideological colors. I was afraid of them.
Harvey and Dawn are counterparts, but not really comparable; they’re both distorted, too big here (Dawn: boobs, Harvey: head), too small there (feet, in both cases), but Dawn is despicable for conforming too closely to a feminine ideal we loathed and considered unreal and damaging, while Harvey was not despicable, exactly, because powerless to inflict harm, but ludicrous, because he completely failed to measure up to the masculine ideal. (Though part of the joke was that he considered himself a prime cut of beefcake.) As P and I realized, we never created a real counterpart to Dawn, a boy who was despised for his manly build and too-perfect good looks, even though we had a perfect candidate in the humorous Big Josh, who was often a bit of a bumpkin/galoot, but never vain or mean. (The manly dolls were even a little fascinating, at least to me, later on.) I guess this reflects the fact that male stereotypes didn’t seem so bad to us (me?) back then; my prepubescent version of feminism was: I can do anything boys can do. And: girl things are stupid. But all the same, our male ideal was a mirror image of our female ideal (they were even, had originally been, the same doll:both Skipper-types): slender, androgynous, a kid’s body stretched into adulthood. No wonder I was so freaked out when my own body started changing.