The story of punk rock girls and dolls.
Gender and Race conditioning. Rebellion. DIY.
How it Started
I'm not the first person to make punk rock dolls. As far as I know it's a long standing tradition. I have a friend who used to punk out her Strawberry Shortcake dolls, and I once lost a friendship because I cut the hair of an elementary school friend's Barbie and colored it orange with a Mr. Sketch marker. An omen of times to come.
About six years ago, we decided to have a Punk Rock BBQ. I put a bunch of pictures up in our backyard of popular and lesser known punk figures and told people if they could name a minimum number, they would win a punk rock doll. I made six or seven of them. They were really minimal. Sharpie, tape, hacked highlighter hair, staples, whatever I could find. Everyone loved them. I even got a few pictures from some of the winners with their dolls engaged in rebellious or nefarious activities once they got them home.
Fast forward to 2013. I had played a show and decided to make more punk rock dolls to give away as prizes. These were more involved with handmade clothing. A little girl was there with her mom and didn't win one. She asked me if she could buy one and I told her she could get a doll and make one herself. I think I was trying to install a sense of DIY in the younger generations, but she looked at me with disappointment and I think I saw tears in her eyes.
I posted a few pics on social media, and people started asking if they could order them. So Punk Rock Dolls was born. And if you too are inspired to make a punk rock doll, by all means do it. We are liberating the dolls of the world one at a time.
Style & Quality
All of my Punk Rock Dolls have been reclaimed, and most of their clothing as well. I try to reuse and alter existing clothing or make new outfits out of vintage fabric and trim if their original ensemble SUCKS really BAD. Do It Yourself is the name of the game. There are no two dolls exactly alike. Why not? Because a doll that copies another doll is a POSER, and we don't need that. It's part of what's wrong with the world--that cool things are copied and mass produced, co-opted and diluted by mainstream society without any knowledge or respect for their origins, people lose their sense of creativity, and you have a bunch of automatons walking around wearing the same stuff because they saw it in a magazine--even if it looks WACK. Like goofy celebrities wearing Ramones t shirts that have never listened to the band.
I will use anything I find that I think will enhance the finished doll, and this includes everything from fabric to tape, hair products, studs, belt buckles, safety pins, you name it. When I was a teenage punk, I couldn't afford fancy designer clothing, nor did I want to. I went right to the thrift stores and altered clothing like plaid men's pants and house dresses to look cool. My first idea of punk fashion was a pair of my brother's shorts cinched up with a belt, $10 army boots from the surplus store, a man's tank top with safety pins closing up the arm holes, and my dad's Post Office jacket. We endured threats and verbal assault, got picked on by cops, had bottles thrown at us from cars, were sexually harassed by men, and kicked out of stores. We tricked our hair out with peroxide and food coloring, pierced our ears after numbing them with ice cubes, and gave ourselves tattooes with sewing needles and black ink. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say.
I personally have used tape, aluminum foil and black garbage bags on outfits before, so I don't see anything weird about the dolls doing that too. if you want perfect ass dolls that are all ready for a prom, these may not be for you. They are pUnK rOcK and that's they way they like it. They have been liberated and they will wear whatever the FCK they WANT. No one is gonna tell them how to dress anymore.
A portion of all sales go to Youth UPrising in East Oakland CA and Social Advocates for Youth in Santa Rosa CA.
Every doll comes with free stickers!
Note: the dolls are meant to wear the outfits I've designed for them. Some clothing is removable and some is not meant to be changed. I'm not going to tell you NOT to play with them, but they are art pieces with vintage fabric and delicate ornamentation. Please play gently. Taking their shoes off is fine, however. All studs by my homies at Studs and Spikes dot com.
Dolls and Girls
When I was a girl, my mama was really protective of what kinds of dolls I had. That meant that Barbies were OUT--for reasons which are largely obvious to many, but just in case:
Many dolls, especially Barbies, presented a set beauty standard for girls to absorb through play which didn't celebrate ethnic diversity, in which Black, Latina and Asian dolls were largely invisible, which objectified their displayed sexuality, and which presented a body image that just about no one could expect to achieve. In short, giving young girls these dolls was pretty much like forcing a Cosmopolitan indoctrination on them, Clockwork Orange style, 24-7.
I mean come on, their feet are FORCED into a high heel shoe shape, it's been remarked upon that their extreme shape and lack of body fat would not even allow them to menstruate if they were real, and there is the wonder of the 1992 Teen Talk Barbie saying awesome things to girls like "Will we ever have enough clothes?", "I love shopping!", and "Math class is tough!" Face. Palm.
I remember going to my cousins' house and playing with their dolls (who were all white), and wrapping our heads in towels and swinging them around to simulate the long blonde hair they lavished upon our hungry eyes. My mama saw that and just said, "Oh HELL no."
This whole thing has been studied of course, the most famous probably being the Clark Doll Experiments in 1939-1940, in which black children are asked to choose which doll is better and always choose the white ones. This powerful evidence contributed strongly to the legal defense of desegregation in Brown v Board of Education, Sadly NBC did a more recent test in 2009 in which the results were pretty much the SAME. We still have a LOT of work to do around the images we are fed about ourselves and others.
Fortunately there are some amazing dolls out there now with natural black hair, little or no makeup, flatter feet so they don't have to wear high heels, etc. We're still waiting for diversity of body shapes though. The dolls are still way too skinny. And how about some queer and trans dolls?
I am a musician, mama, activist and DIY Punk to the end. Kill your TV.