the doll games
shelley and pamela jackson


interview: babette and bruce jackson

Ba: I remember that, I remember when Lisa was here and you were all in Shelley's room–Shelley would have been in fifth grade–and I realized–

Were we playing a doll game?

Ba: No, you were all back there reading a Judy Blume book.

Oh. [Laughs]

Ba: But that's when I realized that you thought that I didn't know anything about that stuff.

Did you know that we were playing doll sex games?

Ba: No. I would've been just appalled, just appalled!

Shelley remembers you witnessing us playing a game that was very socially conscious, about a Native American and some cattle ranchers, and being very impressed. And she had thought that maybe that made you think that all of our games were serious and high minded.

Ba: [laughs] No, no. I didn't think that. But I was very much aware that you had stereotypical figures in your games, and that you were playing romance sorts of things, and that you were a little bit conflicted about it. That the whole thing was confusing. This was the same point when Shelley was taken to be a boy at school and then someone at your bus stop thought that I was a boy and there were a lot of gender identity issues that were very much in the house.

What did you think we were specifically conflicted about?

Ba: What it meant to be a female. Whether you had to be a dainty lady, whether you had to be a princess, whether you had to be a mother. I don't know whether it came out in the games but I remember Shelley being absolutely horrified at one point because some male dog got in and humped Pippi, and she was afraid Pippi would be a mother, and I thought–

And you were offended.

Ba: I was deeply offended because I thought that meant that you were rejecting me, or she was rejecting me. Which she was!

Well, we were just talking about how we never had any parents in any of our stories, how all of our scenarios involved ways of getting the kids away from their parents. They ran away, they were in an orphanage, they were stolen by pirates–so that we could get them into this social space–

Ba: That's sort of the Pippi Longstocking–

Yeah, the Pippi Longstocking space.

Br: Did things like reading Pippi Longstocking have an effect on you?

Oh definitely. Also–Anthony also remembered this–the Sally Watson books, like Jade, about the pirates. We definitely brought that into the games.

Br: I remember when Shelley read Pope Joan. She was very young. This was a story about this Pope that was actually a woman, who apparently did quite amazing things in the monasteries.

When did she read that?

Br: I think at the same time she read Jane Eyre, which was something like fourth grade.

Ba: And also that Greek book that you all liked.

You mean Darling Pericles? That was scandalous!

Br: There were several scandalous things that were read that we had at Up Haste bookstore. You read them very early.

What was the association you made between Pope Joan and doll games?

Br: I never thought a whole lot about the doll games specifically, but as I think about them in retrospect I sense that they were somehow your way of dealing with all of the pressures around femininity by playing with them and acting out scenarios. And it's not surprising, since these issues were there, and we were talking about this stuff at Up Haste and around the house, and in the whole feminist movement, talking about stereotypes and patriarchy. I assumed that you were working out some version of all of this for yourselves. But I wasn't part of that. I was not only an adult, I was also male.

Ba: I never felt there was an anti-male feature to the doll games.

Br: Well...

Ba: I didn't feel that. I didn't even feel that it was anti, it was more, what's this all about? It was mockery of all of it.

Br: Of both the stereotypes, typical male and female.