February 20 2013
What Age Is Right for Playing with Dolls?
My Aunt Did This But She Was Gaga at the Time:
[Not having or wanting children] led [photographer Rebecca Martinez] to immerse herself for five years in the Reborn subculture, a growing group, almost exclusively women, who collect shockingly lifelike handmade dolls of newborn babies. Many of them treat the dolls as if they were real members of their families — taking them shopping and out to restaurants.
“Many of them have a very, very strong genetic makeup to nurture and they love babies,” Ms. Martinez said. “And many are mothers. A lot of people think these are people who can’t have children. Some are, but many of them have children and love the baby stage of nurturing. They can love a baby, they can nurture it in a permanent way.”
This is from a story in the New York Times. Like Rod Dreher, who introduced me to this strange story, I “find myself in a condition that’s unfamiliar: speechless.” Rod also notes that the Reborn phenomenon will sound “eerily familiar” to those who have read P.D. James’ novel The Children of Men. Dreher comments:
You’ve got to click on that link to see these pictures. It’s unnerving. Check out photo No. 11, of a “baby” in distress, in a hospital incubator. Who would want that? Bizarre. No doubt creating these things requires great skill. But where does the desire among grown women to nurture ultra-realistic plastic baby dolls come from? Trauma? I don’t want to make fun of this, because I’d guess that there’s some seriously deep pain within a lot of these women. Still, it’s incredibly odd.
My childless aunt, who had wanted children but was not so fortunate, went completely off in her rocker in her final years. She bought and treated several porcelain dolls as if they were real children. But we could obviously recognize this as dementia, something to be pitied and handled with gentleness. The Reborn phenomenon is something much worse than an old lady putting her dolls to bed. It was nothing like this:
Everyone has different obsessions, but ultimately, Ms. Martinez’s series “PreTenders” is about people choosing whom — or what — to love.
“It is a personal choice, where we put those emotions,” she said. “People will love people and living creatures, but when people choose something that’s not real, and project all this love into that, I do my best to try to understand it.”
“People are less judging when men choose to love an inanimate object like a racing car,” she added. “Why are people so judging when women choose to love something that looks so real?”
I almost didn’t post on this because—well—it’s just so sad and strange.
But I decided to post because this phenomenon, as portrayed in the New York Times, represents a disturbing tendency in contemporary society: normalizing abnormal behavior. Deciding to love a replica of a human baby, no matter what you say, is really quite different from buying a red sports car to handle a midlife crisis.
But we now normalize all sorts of bahavior. We dole out clean needles for addicts (I am speaking only for myself here—some of my colleagues may well support this as a measure to promote public health), create welfare policies that destroy families, and have even seen mainstream institutions that provide health insurance policies that will pay for sex-change operations.
At the very least, shouldn’t those desiring a sex-change pay for the procedure themselves?