the doll games
shelley and pamela jackson


interviews: vladislava gordic

Shelley: did you play with dolls when you were little?

Vladislava: sure i did!

i did not have 'branded' dolls with numberless accessories like barbie or lisa simpson's malibu melissa. my dolls were plain females with their names (usually sounding very exotic) written a) over their stomach, b)on their back, just a little above the ass, c) at the base of the neck (which i found most romantic - you just had to look under their hair...if my dolls had no names, i would write the name myself on their neck)

I was always mostly intrigued by the fact that my dolls had nothing between their legs - much later I read that in the Elizabethan England "nothing" referred to female genitals, since, from the male point of view, women had nothing between their legs!. So, my dolls were perfect females, and I was impressed to see that they were the exact, but still a bit twisted, replica of my body. Twisted in the sense that they differed from my own imperfect shape: I nourished a secret ideal of having a perfect and faultless body of dolls, manequins and those girls Rip Kirby and other comics heroes constantly ran into and fell in love with.

I did not think of my dolls as personalities - they were bodies, the extention and variation of my body. I spent much more time doing their hair than making their clothes - also when I grew up, I dedicated myself more to my hair than to my clothes. The dolls were just a shell of an identity, possessing no mind or humour of their own. They had names, but not one of them stuck. They were not a projection of a role model, they were a body model.

Playing with dolls, I learnt what it is like to be a woman, that is, to have a body to care for and enjoy in. The dolls were images of women who had the sex of their own, the desire and female instinct. On the other hand, they represented a happy escape from the mother. Being a woman meant, at least for me, being independent and free from one's mother, free to choose your hairstyle, dress and makeup for yourself. Being a woman also meant being free from maternal committment: that nothing between the doll's legs meant that there is no constraint of motherhood, no hole to get the child out of. So, the doll was the perfect image of my future womanhood: to enjoy, be free, not to suffer and not to be a slave to anyone or anything.

Vladislava Gordic, who has a PhD in american literature, teaches english and american literature at the university of novi sad, yugoslavia; she has written two book-length studies in serbian (one on raymond carver's, the other on hemingway's short fiction) and one book of essays on cyberpunk, generation x, postfeminism and avant-pop. She is 33 years old.