Saudi Arabia/America: The Hidden Face

Most young girls love dolls and at some point in their early years will have a favorite doll that stands out and which they remember.  However, not all Saudi girls or American girls will have a Barbie with the made up face and long flowing hair.

     For many Saudi girls, they will receive a ‘Fulla doll.’  This doll is viewed as the Islamic alternative to Barbie.  Fulla is dressed in an abaya and hijjab specifically for the Saudi market.  In Saudi Arabia, animated commercials display Fulla’s life, such as showing the doll reciting morning prayer, baking a cake to surprise her friend, or reading a book at bedtime. Abidin says that these scenes are “designed to convey Fulla’s values” and show what behaviour Fulla is promoting.

The Barbie doll was actually banned in Saudi Arabia as she was seen as not promoting the values shared in Saudi society by her appearance and clothes.

Not everyone in America is a fan of Barbie dolls either.  The Amish are one.  They have created their own line of dolls called the “Faceless Friends.”  These are dolls which are fully dressed but do not have any kind of a face.

In the Bible, in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, it says you are not supposed to make any thing (to worship) that is in the image or likeness of male or female.  That is why the Amish do not put faces on their dolls.  It is also not uncommon for both the boys and girls to have dolls.


32 Responses

  1. By exhibiting the faceless Amish images, you made the Saudi Mufti the happiest man in the world.

  2. except isn’t he too blind to see them?

    On Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 5:09 PM, American Bedu

  3. Good point, but he has many eyes that see for him and pay him to pretend he can see.

  4. The idea behind barbie and fulla and so on is not values or games, it is business and if it sells in a faceless scary doll then so be it they will make them and sell them. Children are captive to this business with the Ads and massive distribution of these money makers. We lost track of what is important and that is the ability of children to imagine without restricting them or pushing them. We can help them find the great gems in them during their play and that is the duty of parents. The gems are the virtues of truthfullness, honesty, faithfullness and all the other virtues in them. Bahaullah says “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom…. ”
    (“Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh”, Sec.122, pp. 259–60)

  5. except isn’t he too blind to see them?

    Chuckles at Ali 🙂 do a background check before making your usual slanders. Why should an alternative to Barbie be seen as a bad thing. In fact they are great alternatives because personally, i think Barbie dolls pressure girls to conform to particular ways of looking and behaving and that in the end these are destructive. Look at the body she has…it pressures girls to obtain a perfect physique and this could start a chain of health disorders. I love the Fulla doll as its main concept is good moral values (some might disagree as they’ll say its the evil indoctrination of religion, I digress) it doesn’t focuses on the sexuality of a women which i think is absurd to have exposed to young girls. Fulla doll doesn’t have a Ken, also another good aspect to value a girl on her own self-worth. Fulla isn’t only available in Saudi but almost anywhere in the Islamic world. In conclusion, I truly believe our girls need a better alternative to Barbie as the reasons can be seen here

    Love the Amish dolls too.

  6. Compare these two commercials, one of Fulla and one of Barbie.

    Too much emphasis on appearance in the latter video, not really something we should be teaching our girls.

  7. “…usual slanders.” Oops–truth stings.

    Disease related sicknesses and deaths are attributed to obesity in the motherland and in many other Muslim countries.

    It may be a good idea that girls are exposed to a slim, clean and elegantly dressed doll with a smiling face than to bundled images.

    By the way, the Saudi Mufti decreed that using modern technologies to express one’s views are un-Isamic, therefore must not be allowed.

  8. Oops–truth stings

    Not really 🙂 Especially the part about obesity in Islamic country, that is just silly to bring up since the fattest countries in the world are all in the west

    Trust a man to actually even THINK marketing the perfect physical appearance of a girl or woman to young girls is actually a good thing. VEEERY chauvinist of you Ali.

  9. Sorry my mistake (I admit) those list are in the developed world. Here is the list of fattest countries in the world with USA at number 9.

    But seriously Ali, you think pushing girls with a doll that has huge boobs, impossibly tiny waist and an obsession on outer appearance is good? Thank God you are you!

  10. I think both place an emphasis on appearance- barbie on figure and fulla on wearing the “right” clothing. Both are a part of teaching children gender roles for a given society, whether right or wrong. If you really want a “healthy” doll, why not use normal human measurements, make an anatomically correct doll while offering a range of clothing from bikini to burka?! Let the child decide what he/she likes. And even make the dolls in different shapes, sizes, and body fat percentages all within the realm of “healthy”.

  11. Of course, if you did that, it would mean more molds for the plastic, thus increasing costs, so then the anatomically correct doll would sell for significantly more. Still, I’d rather buy an anatomically correct, “healthy” body image doll than a barbie for any future children I may have.

  12. Ali, do you think we, women should look like this? After all, according to you, we should be exposed to the image of a slim doll.

  13. Wish you showed the faceless muslim dolls that available

  14. Marketing? Chauvinistic? Can you tell us your name or what do you do?

  15. No i am not marketing. Just wanted people to know that there are muslims who have dolls for there children without faces. As there is a hadeeth Narrated Abul-Hayyaaj al-Asadee who said: ((‘Alee ibn Aboo Taalib (radiyAllaahu ‘anhu) said to me: “Shall I not send you on the
    same mission as Allaah’s Messenger (ا􏰭 􏰰􏰫􏰯􏰮 و􏰲􏰫􏰱 􏰪􏰫􏰬) sent
    me? Do not leave a picture without obliterating/effacing it, nor a grave which is raised above the ground without levelling it to the ground.”)). Narrated by Muslim 2/459, no. 2115

  16. I am one who finds the barbie image a bit wierd, but almost all the women I know played with them as children and they are not wierd or obsessed with their image. From what I can read about it the Fulla doll is probably not a ridiculously proportioned as Barbie is. Still it is the Barbie doll that is the problem it is the world we live in (in the US) is which children are obessesively marketted too.

  17. I”m not so sure Barbie is banned- though I’ve heard that alot. Over the years I’ve often been able to find them.

    I think Strangeone was exactly right in what she said.

  18. Interesting topic. Barbie started out as a gift from a men’s magazine, ”Lilly” was a sexy cartoon character made into a sexy doll. That’s why she has these impossible measurements; she’s a three dimensional sexy cartoon.
    The wife of an American business man saw them in Germany or Switzerland and decided to steal the idea and make them in America and call her Barbie. (which is funny considering Mattel’s aggression whenever anybody uses anything they consider ”Barbie”, the stole the whole concept themselves)
    Children love Barbies because they want to play grown-up. Children never like to get ”childish” toys.

    I have always found Baries obnoxious, with all the pink, girly, sweety, nit-witty role-model emphasis, I had a Skipper (normal body) and a Cindy, Cindy had supercool clothes designed by a major fashion desiger and was a cool woman with a career. But I mostly played with my Breyer horses. I never liked dolls anyway.

    If I had children they would get neither doll, I find both disturbing, I find both commercials disturbing (thanks for sharing mrs B). Both are trying to limit girl’s minds, whether by trying to push them into a vacuous fashionista consumer, or the perfect little housewife cooking, cleaning and wearing a ton of make-up, false eyelashes an inch long and the neurotic hiding of one’s God-given hair.
    The Amish dolls are creepy, but you can easily draw a face on those scary empty spaces.

  19. Or, if they insisted, they would get CEO Barbie, or Jet pilot Barbie, Or doctor Barbie, or President Barbie, or professional artist Barbie.
    And they wouldn’t get the pinky princess castle to live in, but a modern design apartment.

    I wonder though, can one really indoctrinate children like that, good try, but will children really let themselves be pushed into a role if it isn’t in their mental make up? Can you really damage children by giving them dolls?

    I read children’s books which tried to do push me, very subtly, into the secondary weak woman role, these old children’s books, just expect girls and women to take a step back, they are always supposed to be the weak ones, the ones who need rescuing, the ones who do the drudging work, Chronicles of Narnia for example. I enjoyed the old stories and it never bothered me (never noticed it) until I was grown up.
    I went to a really backwards Christian school which tried to push girls into the little housewife mold, and I never even noticed it!
    I never felt I had to be a perfect little princess housewife, my plan when I was 4 was to become a dragon slayer. Or when I grew a bit older, a fighter pilot.
    In the end I decided on becoming an artist with a horse.
    And guess what?
    I am an artist, I have a horse, and I spend some of my spare time slaying the dragon of misogyny and evil religion online 😈
    Actually, I am an excellent role model! 😈

  20. Carol, I actually like the Barbie you put on top, that’s a professional barbie. 🙂

  21. Look what I found:
    An African American Astronaut barbie…

  22. Astronaut and rocket scientist Barbie
    What’s not to love?

  23. Didn’t know that Barbie’s life began from a men’s magazine. But not surprising given her blondeness and appearance.

    I’m glad thought there is an alternative for Saudi little girls, even though we all know it’s another way for someone to make enough money.

    How do stuffed animals do in Saudi Arabia? Are there favourite types of stuff animal toys? As you know the teddy bear is favourite or has been. So many animals to choose now. I doubt the moose, bison or muskox animal is even known much among Saudi children!

  24. @ mrsB, on November 15, 2012 at 10:27 pm said:

    “Ali, do you think we, women should look like this? After all, according to you, we should be exposed to the image of a slim doll.“–IF THAT’S YOUR CHOICE, YES.

    I only advocate freedom of choice mrsB and in countries where such practice happens developed to be superior to those where individual liberty to choose is CONSIDERED anti culture and religion.

    With due respect, you are emphasizing or implying that women are less capable of deciding for themselves and choose the lifestyle and path in life they want to pursue.

    We never bought a Barbie or pink dresses for our daughter, but when she got little older she insisted on having some because some of her best friends do. We never tried to convince her not to have a Barbie or pink rain coat.

    Now she never wears pink, imitates Barbie or listens to daddy man. She chose the schools and fields she wanted and interested in. She grew up to be a brilliant person and capable lawyer, today. This is in spite of the fact that she had a Barbie and wore unsightly pink rain coat.

    On the other hand, I grew up with almost no cloth. Now I have more than enough and some of the colors are considered unmanly. Do I care? No. That’s freedom of choice.

    Freedom of choice, mrsB, freedom of choice is what I have dedicated my life to work for. I know this un-Islamic, but…well, that’s what free people do in free lands.

  25. Ali, wise decision, and anyway, there is a plethora of career barbies to choose from just to give a little nudge in the less pink direction. I have been reading up and reconsidered, I have no problem with children (boys and girls) wanting Barbies. or Barbie like dolls. They are just toys. The influence of parents and family is greater than a mere doll, Children know dolls are dolls.
    You can give a girl a pink Barbie or Fullah, with the right parents she will still want to, and be able to, be an intelligent independent rocket scientist. It doesn’t matter.

    Ali, PS in the Netherlands a lot of men wear pink shirts and it is not considered unmanly, I say go for whatever color makes you happy and look good! 🙂

  26. My daughters favority doll was a riding girl ( oh yeah aafke dream doll i’m sure 🙂 )
    It was a big doll 2 ft tall decked in riding clothes and helmet and was cute as can be, definetly not barbie sized but softer .
    THE main reason i hate barbies is it’s plasticky and heaven forbit you sit on one it pokes with it’s skinny arms and legs…

    I played with plenty of dolls – no standard and not entirely role models , but i survived 🙂 it’s a doll. makes someone money. i have nothng against barbie or fulla. i bought my niece both , she ripped the clothes off both and dresses then up and down with whatever she feels like. i think the fun for her was the dressing up , she has a ton of barbie clothes ranging from skimpy to fully covered. at that age it’s just a dress up play thing…
    her little brother willingly sits by her and hands out pieces of accesories for her to put on ..
    in all it keeps them quiet for my sister to do her work 🙂 i doubt they are going to be influenced by a silly toy, my son built star wars legos ALL the time — even tilla fe wyrs back and hasn’t taken to flying in space or movie making or anything like such…
    It’s just a doll, if it makes parents feel better to give their child a praying doll rather then a dancing one, hey go for it. I’d be more worried about the effect and influence of society on my daughter if i were in saudi rather than a silly doll.

  27. Between my two daughters and I…we had exactly zero Barbies in our possession. I never cared for dolls myself and they never seemed interested in a Barbie and I never pushed her on them. I never cared for the Cabbage Patch dolls either..which did not have big boobs, tiny waist etc. but everyone went nuts over them as well. No accounting for taste.

    btw since there is a properly hijabed “Barbie” (Fulla) is there a properly thobed “Ken” (Ahmed) for her to engage in a hilal marriage with?

  28. Radha, No, I would have wanted the horse! 🙂

  29. It’s interesting that people think that the Barbie doll represents a bad image to Saudis when you think about the billboards that are advocating different kinds of cosmetic surgery for women. I’m sure those billboards did not come into being because of Barbie! I’m sure it was men wanting blond, blue-eyed skinny but busty women. LOL!!!

    I don’t like Barbie but I wouldn’t want an abaya-covered praying doll or a faceless one either.

  30. Wondering if any chance my answer was too heavy to handle as none of it is appearing including my answer to Ali.

  31. Yes, Barbie is available here in Saudi, I just recently bought one for my girl. She was a bit pricey though! There are also tons of stuffed animals too. There is “Toys-R-US” here, so you can find a lot of the same toys you would find in the US.

    I have no real problems with either doll, as Radha said, the girls always dress them up any way they choose, that’s part of the fun.

    My daughter has many dolls and she enjoys them all in different ways. I love to watch her play and enjoy her childhood.

    I dislike how people can make something so simple, complicated.

    I enjoyed learning how the Amish have faceless dolls, I wasn’t aware that they held a similar belief of covering images as Muslims do…interesting.

    By the way, have any of you seen the breastfeeding doll? I’ve heard some people were offended by this doll but personally I think it’s cute! My daughter always pretended to breastfeed her dolls anyway so someone just thought to market a doll catering to this…good on them!

    I’m not sure if this doll is available in Saudi yet or not, I’ve not seen it around.

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