Parents express concern about 'abominable' message behind FailFix makeover dolls

Marie Claire Dorking
·6-min read
Parents have raised concerns about a doll being widely sold after it was shared on a Facebook page from a campaign group tackling gender stereotypes. (Image posed by model, Getty Images)
Parents have raised concerns about a doll being widely sold after it was shared on a Facebook page from a campaign group tackling gender stereotypes. (Image posed by model, Getty Images)

Parents have raised concerns about a doll marketed to children after a photo of it was shared on Facebook. 

Let Toys Be Toys, a campaign group that aims to encourage toy manufacturers and retailers to drop gender stereotyping of children's toys, shared an image of a FailFix doll being sold in a branch of Sainsbury's on its Facebook page. 

The pictured FailFix doll comes with a removable "failed face" and encourages kids to "take over the makeover" to "help to fix that beauty fail".

The aim is to transform the doll's appearance by "fixing" a beauty "fail", but the Facebook post raises some concerns about the message the doll is sending to children. 

"I came across this in Sainsbury's in Oxford Heyford Hill store and it stopped me in my tracks," the post begins. 

"There are so many layers of wrong in the messaging here."

The post goes on to share disbelief that the supermarket would champion the product which is "so blind to the concerns of many parents. This product sends an abominable message".

Read more: Pink for a girl, blue for a boy: Is it time to break down kids' toy gender stereotypes?

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Commenting on their Facebook page post a spokesperson for Let Toys Be Toys told Yahoo UK: "At Let Toys Be Toys we're asking retailers and manufacturers to market toys inclusively to all children, steering clear of the gender stereotypes in the advertising or packaging that might tell a child that a toy is not for them.  

"In our years of research and campaigning, we have found that toys marketed to girls are more focused on themes of beauty, imagination, caring, cooking and cleaning, and feature more passive play. 

"Toys marketed to boys mainly have themes of action, adventure, science, space and transport, and are missing themes around caring and creativity. Those marketing messages mean children are learning there is only one (stereotyped) way to be a boy, and one way to be a girl.

"We mainly flag concerns around the marketing of these items, and not the products themselves, but a few followers had contacted us with concerns about this doll," the spokesperson continues. 

"The FailFix doll, with its name and its emphasis on appearance and make-up, reinforces how girls are told they are most valued for their attractiveness, and need to always be pretty and well-turned out. If they don’t look pretty, they are failing.  

"The most recent Girls' Attitude Survey from Girl Guiding found that 39% of girls and young women aged 11-21 feel unhappy that they can't look the way they look online, and 92% of girls and young women aged 11-21 think they shouldn't feel pressured to change the way they look.

"At Let Toys Be Toys we believe all children should be able to play with any toy, and not be told what they ‘ought’ to play with. 15 UK retailers and 11 children's book publishers have taken down the signs and labels that say toys and books are ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’."

Equality campaigning organisation the Fawcett Society recently set up an 18-month commission into the effects of gender stereotyping in early childhood, in order to examine the harm it could potentially cause.

Commenting on the Let Toys Be Toys post, Felicia Willow, Fawcett Society chief executive, says: "Research has proved that stereotyping in early years is harmful to our children, impacts future outcomes and perpetuates gender inequality in our society.

"We'd much prefer to see toys like the brilliant Lottie Dolls on the shelves, which show children that they can be anything they want - regardless of the state of their hair and make-up."

Since the post was shared on Let Toys Be Toys page, other parents have also expressed their concerns about the product in the comments section. 

"These are merch from a game that's regularly advertised to my kids," one wrote. "It gets worse, in the game you have to 'fix her up' so she gets a date".

"I am utterly speechless," agrees another. "This is an abhorrent message for children."

"I saw these on store shelves in the toy department during the Christmas season, and my thought was this; after decades of telling us that we need to instill [sic] in our children that they are worthy and loveable as they are - then a toy company brings this onto the shelves?" wrote another Facebook user. 

"These toys make me so angry," another commented. "My six-year-old granddaughter now always draws females with extravagant eyelashes - even me. Not how we thought things would pan out in the 60s."

Watch: Hasbro announces Mr Potato Head will now be gender neutral. 

But though many comments raised concerns about the message the doll might send to children, some Facebook users stepped in to offer an alternative viewpoint. 

"Honestly I feel like in this case it's a bit of an overreaction from people here," one wrote. "Nowhere do they say the doll needs to be prettier, the whole point is she messed up her ambitious home makeover NOT that she's trying to improve herself or anything. 

"I mean for goodness sake their 'fail face' has smeared makeup all over it. I really don't see these as being misogynistic at all, and I'm usually a very firm supporter of your page's message."

"Sorry to say but teenagers seem to LOVE the make-up trends and fashion dolls have ALWAYS leaned into what's trendy and hip with teenagers," another person commented.

Read more: Emma Willis praises son Ace for 'individual' style: 'Why would I want to suppress that?'

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While this particular doll is being sold for £20 in Sainsbury's, the FailFix dolls are also widely available at other supermarkets and toy stores including Tesco, Smyths and online at Amazon.  

Yahoo UK has contacted Sainsbury's, Tesco, Smyths and Amazon for comment as well as Moose Toys, the manufacturer of the dolls. 

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “Customer feedback is really important to us and we’re reviewing the comments.”

Moose Toys said in a statement shared via the Smyths customer care team: "As a company, Moose Toys strives to create the best play experience for all children - regardless of race, gender, or social labels.

​"Moose Toys most certainly do not create toys with a view to discriminate against or stereotype anyone, and it is our intention that all our toys bring happiness to all children.

"FailFix is all about the transformation of a failed makeover not a failed person. We have been inspired by the trend of sharing funny fashion and beauty fails online.

​"It is not about being or looking perfect, rather, embraces a light-hearted outlook to beauty, encouraging kids to laugh at themselves and not take fashion or beauty mishaps too seriously.

​"The fun is rooted in the fact that the doll is about transforming and experimenting with a failed makeover that happens to everyone – not a flawed person."

Read more: Is there a gender size gap for children's clothing?

This isn't the first time parents have expressed their concerns about the FailFix doll collection. 

Last year, parents called out the message behind the toy after a snap of one of the dolls was shared online. 

The doll is advertised as a makeover experience, but parents weren't sure about the heavy use of the word "fail" and "transformation". 

Watch: Ban on 'harmful gender stereotypes' in adverts. 

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