Plastic baby dolls are constructed repositories for the acts and affects of parenting, however how these care practices are established are heavily mediated. As an object plastic baby dolls determine the semiotics of mothering and babying within specific social concepts and norms. Young children, particularly girls are guided in their play and relationship building with baby dolls through the cultural texts they encounter (peer modelling, advertising, stories, film) which present distinct, gendered expectations around maternal and nurturing skills. Adults (who are not necessarily parents) are responsible for the design, marketing and mass production of plastic dolls, this effectively creates specific constructs of what a baby is. Furthermore, not only is this baby a mediated version of a human baby, its visual and physical manifestation firmly situates it within a cultural ideal of beauty, ability, physicality, and gender.
Similarly, home-sewn dolls manifest the acts and affects of parenting although the mediations that determine their appearance shift from mass profit to the labour involved in sourcing materials, coupled with crafting skills. The recent surge in dolls for charity to send to sick and needy children highlights how the home-sewn doll is considered more authentic than the mass manufactured plastic doll in its ability to convey and generate the acts and affects of care.
These intergenerational collaborative drawings experiment and speculate on gendered, mediated and normalised mother/daughter relationships and feminist interventions into materiality, care, and nurturing contest these stereotypes. The drawings critique the ethics of producing ‘babies’ from non-compostable plastics and fabrics which cause environmental harm and damage.
The drawings, produced by a mother and young daughter, of plastic and fabric dolls that look like babies uphold enculturated, patriarchal representations of mother and daughter. The intergenerational drawings dismantle and re-imagine these representations and examine our intersubjective parent and child identities and the materiality of baby dolls in prompting surrogate mothering and diverse acts and affects of parenting.